Mind Body Relationship In Human Person Philosophy Essay

The mind-body problem has been a much discussed issue in the Philosophy of Mind. All those who undertake any study in consciousness, necessarily need to touch upon this subject. One of the unsettled puzzles is about whether consciousness is part of material or mental realm. It has challenged the scientists as well as philosophers to look for some solutions. They have proposed several theories to address the issue. Among several theories dualism and physicalism were the most discussed. There are some crucial questions regarding mind-body problem: such as; how do they interact, whether the mind and body differ not only in degree and nature but also in kind? The arrival of neuroscience with its several scientific experiments has radically challenged the understanding of relationship between mind and body and forced us to rethink our positions about it. Thus, there is a renewed vigour in studying about consciousness in modern times and it has thrown open several other ways of settling this issue. This chapter will briefly discuss on how different philosophers perceived the relationship between mind and body in a person and critically analyse various theories of dualism and physicalism in detail and present their difficulties. The concluding part of the chapter will show the need to go beyond dualism and physicalism with the help of neuroscience. We begin our discussion with mind-body relationship in a person.

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1.1 Mind-Body Relationship in a Person

For many centuries, we have been trying to understand the mind-body relationship in a person. The difficulty behind explaining the relationship between mind-body in a person is that s/he is a dynamic entity. [1] Thus, one is in a continued mode of knowing oneself. There are several thinkers who hold the view that a person is composed of body and mind. At the same time there are also some thinkers who oppose this idea. Now we shall discuss the views of some philosophers.

There are several ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle who expressed their views on mind-body relationship in a person. For Plato, human being is composed of body and soul. Body is nothing but a prison house into which his/her soul has been locked. His understanding of person is different from our understanding of human being. [2] For Plato, person belongs to intelligible world and human being belongs to sensible world. Secondly person can be transformed whereas human being cannot be because human being belongs to physical level of being. [3] Thus he says “that a person, the subject of interest, is not a human being but rather a soul, an entity distinct from that of human being.” [4] Here we can see a clear-cut distinction of soul and body in Plato’s thinking.

Aristotle, on the contrary, saw the mind-body relationship from a completely different angle. He says that a person is “a composite not of body and soul but of prime matter and the human soul which as a substantial form.” [5] He does not perceive the distinction between mind and body; instead he makes the distinction between matter and form. Therefore, Aristotle understands body and soul as not of two complete beings in conflict with each other but complimenting each other because matter and form are inseparable in a primary substance.

There are also modern philosophers like Hegel, Immanuel Kant and John Locke who understand the mind-body relationship quite differently. For Hegel, an individual is part of the larger life of the Mind. He says that, “Mind or spirit, passes through dialectical stages of evolution, revealing itself as subjective mind, objective mind and absolute mind. The subjective mind expresses itself as soul, consciousness and spirit.” [6] From the above statements it is very clear that he gives importance to mind alone. He has absorbed totally the body into mind; for he says, “It (mind) embodies itself, creates a body for itself, and becomes a particular, individual soul.” [7] Therefore what truly exists for him is mind and not body.

However Immanuel Kant speaks about metaphysical dualism rather than substance dualism of the person. He sees person as a Transcendental Self because there is a level of self-awareness that is over and above the categories of normal philosophies. Human being is alone a rational being who has a will and a free choice of action. So Kant postulates person as a transcendental free being, an idea that the inner self is not bound by the laws of nature. [8] However, John Locke, being a modern philosopher understands human person as that of ancient philosophers. For him mind is the real person and body is only a possession. [9] He separates mind from body and shows that body is only a material reality. He says that, “Every man has a property in his own person. This no Body has any Right to but himself.” [10] For him mind is the real person and in the real person the body aspect is integrated totally into it. [11]

The philosophers have changed their focus in the recent years. They give more stress on the purpose of human life. They ask; what does it mean to be a human person? However, with the growing interest in neuroscience, the ontological question bounced back with new a quest. One of the forerunners and pioneers of this movement is Philip Clayton who brought back the same question with a new focus. Now we shall discus the extreme positions of mind-body relationship and their solutions.

1.2 Extreme Positions

The Mind-Body relationship has been an unsettled question both for science and philosophy. It has been a herculean task for both scientists and philosophers, who were greatly involved in unlocking the issue of the relationship between mind and body. There are two sets of opposing ideologies proposed; namely dualism and physicalism. Most of the philosophers are divided on their opinions hence this issue seeks our utmost attentions. Here we shall examine these two positions in detail and see why we need to go beyond these divisions. As part of this session, 1.3 deals with substance dualism and property dualism and 1.4 tries to examine the critical appraisal of the mind body relationship. The second part begins in 1.5 which deals with physicalism. Let us begin with dualism.

1.3 Dualism

Dualism simply means a condition of being double. It comes from the Latin word duo meaning two which denotes a state of two parts. [12] It was originally coined to highlight the co-eternal binary position; for example good and evil, body and mind, mental and material, dark and light etc. It is supported by several arguments. [13] In philosophy it is a world view that the world consists of or is explicable as two fundamental entities, such as body and mind, the condition of being double or duality. [14] From the point of theology, it speaks about that human being having two basic natures, the physical and spiritual. There are two kinds of dualism- substance dualism and property dualism.

1.3.1 Substance Dualism

The substance dualism sees mind and body as two distinct and separate substances. [15] Several philosophers like Plato, Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes too held a similar view. They see mind as something that is diametrically opposing body. The attribute of body is extension but at the same time they see that the body is passive; whereas the mind is thinking, active and free. The two substances are absolutely distinct and mind is without extension. Those who hold dualism say that they have a clear and distinct idea of themselves in so far as they are only a thinking and un-extended thing. [16] The distinction between body as material and mind as immaterial substance becomes a crucial point of discussion in substance dualism because they differ not only in kind but also in nature and degree. However it is a compelling concept because it gives us a hope of personal survival after death and also many religions hold this theory very dear to them. [17] We can see this distinction in Indian philosophy too. The Sankhaya philosophy holds that there are two entities; namely Purusha [18] and Prakrti [19] which are the two constitutive elements of the world. However dualism is more clearly and intelligibly spelled by the western thinkers. Now we shall discuss briefly about two predominant philosophers: Plato, from the ancient schools and Rene Descartes, from the modern thinkers, who represent the rest of the dualistic thinkers of their time. Platonic Dualism

Platonic Dualism can be seen very clear in Phaedo, one of his dialogues. In the dialogue, Plato accepts the two ultimate principles; namely body and mind. Here his dualism is metaphysical in nature because he deals with immortality of mind or soul. [20] He calls mind as soul. [21] For him, the mind is immortal and body is mortal. [22] The mind is the one which differentiates the living from the dead. He sees the body as a prison in which the soul is confined. In the imprisoned life, the mind is compelled to investigate the truth by means of the organs of perception of the body. Forms are universals and represent the essences of sensible particulars. Plato says that we do not see reality as a whole. We perceive equal things, but not equality itself. We perceive beautiful things but not beauty itself. To have insights into the pure essences of things, the mind must struggle to disassociate itself from the body as far as possible and turn its attention towards the contemplation of not only to intelligible things but also to invisible things. Plato defines “death as the separation of soul and body, and the state of being dead as state in which soul and body exist separately from one another.” [23] Thus for Plato, the dualism of mind and body are opposite in nature. He establishes the distinction of mind and body by establishing the distinction between the immortality of mind and mortality of body. He proves the immortality of soul through Argument from Opposites, Argument from Recollection and the Argument from Affinity. [24] These three arguments are keys to establish his dualism.

Plato defends his immortality of soul from the Argument from Opposites. He says that things that have an opposite come to be from their opposite. For example, if something comes to be taller, it must come to be taller from having been shorter; if something comes to be heavier, it must come to be so by first having been lighter. These processes can go in either direction. Similarly he says that dying comes from living, living must come from dying. Thus, we must come to life again after we die. During the interim between death and rebirth the soul exists apart from the body and has the opportunity to glimpse the Forms unmingled with matter in their pure and undiluted fullness. Thus the cycle of life goes on.

The second defence for his immortality of soul is the Argument from Recollection. For Plato, soul must exist prior to birth because we can recollect things that could not have been learned in this life. According to Plato, we recognize unequal things and strive for equality. To notice inequality, we must comprehend what equality is. In order to know what equality is, we must have the prior knowledge so that we can understand the form of equality. Hence, the soul must have existed prior to birth to the form of equality. [25]

The third defence for his immortality of soul is the Argument from Affinity. Plato claims that composite things are more liable to be destroyed than things that are simple. The forms [26] are true unities and therefore least likely ever to be annihilated. Further Plato says that invisible things such as forms are not apt to be disintegrated, whereas visible things are susceptible to decay and corruption. Since the body is visible and composite, it is subjected to decomposition. As against to body, the soul is invisible part of forms and purifies itself by having no more association with the body than necessary. Since the invisible things are the durable things, the soul, being invisible, must outlast the body. Further, soul becomes form-like immortal and survives the death of the body. [27] Through these three arguments Plato proves the immortality of soul or mind whereby he makes the distinction between body and mind; thus he proves the dualism.

However Plato’s arguments are highly challenged even by his own disciple Aristotle. Firstly, the Argument from Opposites applies only to things that have an opposite and, as Aristotle notes, substances have no contraries. [28] Further, even if life comes from what is itself not alive, it does not follow that the living human comes from the union of a dead (i.e. separated) soul and a body. The principle that everything comes to be from its opposite via a two-directional process cannot hold up to critical scrutiny. Secondly, one becomes older from having been younger, there is no corresponding reverse process leading the older to become younger. If aging is a uni-directional process, perhaps dying is as well. The Arguments from Recollection and Affinity, on the other hand, presuppose the existence of forms and are therefore no more secure than the forms themselves. Thus these criticisms show that we cannot simply take the prior existence of soul as it is true. Therefore Plato’s understanding is more of metaphysical and bit of vague because there are several unanswered questions like things which have two different natures interact. At the same time we acknowledge, he has brought certain clarity in understanding dualism with clear proofs. Now we shall discuss the dualism proposed by Descartes. Cartesian Dualism.

Rene Descartes is one of the modern Philosophers who has extensively dealt with dualism. For Descartes, body and mind are distinct substances and the immaterial mind is somehow associated with the material body. [29] Substance dualism gets more predominance in Cartesian dualism. [30] He says “substance dualism goes along with the view that the identity of a person over time is constituted by the identity overtime of this substance, and in versions of the doctrine that countenance life after death, it is survival of this substance, often called ‘soul’ perhaps along with certain memory and psychological continuities, that constitutes the survival of the person.” [31] The idea that there is a fundamental difference in kind between the mind and body can be spelled out in two broadly different ways. [32] Descartes held that “minds and bodies are substances of distinct kind that, in the case of living human beings, happen to be intimately related.” [33] The distinction between the body and mind is: the body is spacial, public and has material qualities; and mind is non-spacial, private and has distinctively mental qualities. By spacial, he means that it occupies some space and time for its existence. It is public which means it is visible and we can experience it. When he says that the body has material qualities, he means that it has several qualities by which the substance expresses itself and reveals it to others and through which we come to know the things. [34] Firstly, in contrast to body, the mind occupies no space therefore it can be anywhere at any time. In short it is beyond space and time. Secondly it possesses mental qualities of life feeling, perceiving, experience joys and sorrows of life etc. Thirdly the mind is private because we cannot perceive it. [35] Descartes believes that the world is made up of substances. A substance is not a thing as we think like water or coal, or paint. For Descartes substance is an individual thing or an entity. He says that substances are different; they are complex. He gives importance to human being and his/her rationality. He claimed that, “human rationality could not be a physical process.” [36]

The dualism of Descartes sounds good; however, there are certain conceptual difficulties and seemingly insurmountable problems. One of the crucial issues is the interaction of mind-body which is totally opposing each other in nature and kind. If minds are as distinct from material things as Descartes claims, it seems at least paradoxical: how can then the two sorts of substances interact. In this case property dualism seems to solve some of the problems which substance dualism cannot.

1.3.2 Property Dualism

Property dualism maintains that mind is not only one kind of physical substance, having physical or behavioral-material-functional properties but also nonphysical behaviorally-materially-functionally in-eliminable and irreducible properties. [37] The advantage of property dualism over substance dualism is that it avoids the casual interaction problem because “this theory has no need to countenance causal interaction between material and immaterial or spatial and non-spatial substance, since it admits only that there is only material substance.” [38] It also need not appeal to God’s divine abilities in order to account for mind-body interaction or the objectivity of the perceived world. It has an edge over materialism that it provides for the intuitive distinction between body and mind by positing a difference in their properties, and especially in the metaphysical categories of their properties. Property dualism holds that without both properties, we cannot satisfactorily explain the psychological phenomena. The in-eliminable and irreducible properties are said to be essential to mind because they are responsible for experience, feeling, object directionality and intentionality of psychological states. [39] This property dualism could be understood in three ways; namely Theory of Attribute, Anomalous Monism and Non-reductive materialism. Theory of Attribute

The first way of understanding the property dualism is through Spinoza’s theory of attribute. Attributes are part of Spinoza’s metaphysics. [40] For Spinoza God is the only Substance since God’s essence involves existence. He says that, “God exists and, moreover, only God can fulfill the conditions for substance, therefore there can be only one substance.” [41] It is a mistake to assert that mind and body as substances because they are not fully self-subsistent, but are dependent modes or manifestations of God. For him, “A true substance must be that which contains within itself, as part of its essence, the complete explanation of its nature and existence.” [42] This God has infinite attributes. But human being can know only two attributes; they are namely thought and extension. By attribute what Spinoza understands is that the intellect perceives substance as constituting its essence. For him, the attribute of thought is attached to mind and extension to the body. He says that the object of idea constituting the human mind is the body which is certain mode of extension. He says that “Therefore, the mind’s power of understanding extends only as far as that which this idea of the body contains within itself, or which follows there from. Now this idea of the body involves and expresses no other attributes of God than extension and thought.” [43] This attribute enables us to understand and talk about an extended world and a thinking world in terms of which we understand bodies and minds. He partly invented this theory of attribute for the sake of solving an outstanding question raised by Descartes philosophy of mind. If the mind is, or belongs to, a separate substance from that of the body, then how does the body-mind interact? In order to avoid the problem, Spinoza considered that mind and body is one and the same thing under the attribute of extension and thought. Though the Cartesian notion of dualism was logical, it had constant problems. It could not substantially explain the relationship between substance constructed as individual and substance constructed as matter or stuff. But Spinoza’s explanation came very close to a satisfactory theory. [44] Anomalous Monism

Anomalous monism is proposed by Donald Davidson, who is an American pragmatist. Anomalous monism is a philosophical thesis about the mind- body relationship. This theory has twofold divisions; namely mental and physical. [45] It states that mental events are identical with physical events. “Events are causes in virtue of the properties that they instantiate, unless mental properties and physical properties are also identified, questions about the causal redundancy of the mental reappear at the level of properties.” [46] But Davidson says that the mental events are anomalous, that is to say these mental events are not regulated by strict physical laws. Hence, he proposed an identity theory of mind without the reductive bridge laws associated with the type-identity theory. He understands the ontological nature of the relationship of mental events especially propositional attitudes with physical actions. Davidson accepts that there is ontology of events where events, which may seem to be opposed to objects or states of affairs, are the fundamental, irreducible entities of the mental and physical universe. He also believes that event-individuation must be done on the basis of causal powers. He further argues in favour of the individualization of events on the basis of spatio-temporal localization. According to this view, all events are caused by and cause other events and for him this is the defining characteristics of what an event is. The important aspect of Davidson’s ontology of events for anomalous monism is that an event has an indefinite number of properties or aspects. He says that a very simple physical action like switching on a light has a large variety of mental events especially reasoning; for example recognizing the need of light, making a choice to switch on etc. For Davidson, a particular reason causes a particular action. Thus it explains that reasons are causes and actions are effects of the causal efficacy of the mental events. [47]

However there are also people who are highly critical about it. One of the criticisms about the anomalous monism is whether mental events are ever causes of physical events in virtue of their mental properties. Gibb says that “If the mental properties of a mental event do make a causal difference, then unless one admits systematic causal over determination, this is to violate the causal closure principle, for according to it an event’s physical properties are sufficient for the causal effects that event has within the physical domain.” [48] It is otherwise the mental properties of an event make no causal difference to the physical effects that the event has, then mental properties have the status of epiphenomena. He observes that “Consequently, to identify mental events with physical events whilst distinguishing mental properties from physical properties are not to remove but merely to relocate the problem of mental causation.” [49] For this reason, the non-reductive physicalist who identifies token mental events with physical events but maintains a property dualism can plausibly be accused of property epiphenomenalism. Secondly a strict law cannot be formulated in the same terms as the causal claim because causally related events must have descriptions under which they instantiate a strict law. Similarly, the causal claim and the relevant covering law cannot be formulated in purely mental terms because any mental event that causes a physical event must be characterizable in physical terms and therefore be physical. Hence, mental events are physical events. On the other hand, as there are no strict psychophysical laws that would support the reduction of mental concepts to physical concepts, anomalous monism leads to the rejection of any conceptual reduction. [50] Non-reductive Materialism

Non-reductive materialism represents the current orthodoxy in Western Philosophy thinking about the ontological status of the mind. The proponents of non-reductive materialism hold that “the mental is ontologically part of the material world; yet, mental properties are causally efficacious without being reducible to physical properties.” [51] Even though the mind itself is really physical, our mentalist explanatory scheme is not reducible to physics but is instead autonomous. They hold both irreducibility of the mind as well physical nature of the mind as realism. They are also arguing that they are fundamentally unstable combination. The non-reductionist distinguishes mental kinds from physical kinds, where the mental includes sensation and thought, and the physical is roughly the domain of the physical sciences, including neurophysiology. But those who oppose it say that the whole question of explanatory autonomy became a topical philosophical issue which threatened the reductionism because there was a general acceptance of materialist theories. It was broadly a metaphysical doctrine. It would seem to follow that all phenomena are susceptible to physical explanation, and if this is true then what can the ontological status be of those concepts, categories and theories which fall outside the domain of the physical sciences? [52] Then the non-reductive materialist may have to give up all pretense of having a realist view of mental terms, giving up all talk of real but non-physical mental properties. It seems that you cannot combine Physicalism with realism about the mental and at the same time hold out for the autonomy of the mental. However non-reductive materialism could be still seen as fundamentally a stable position.

1.4 An Appraisal of Mind-Body Relations

Though Descartes argues for the mind-body dualism, [53] the sort of dualism for which he argues, entails certain conceptual difficulties and seemingly insuperable problems. The main difficulty with mental activity is that, as Descartes understands them, how do the mind and matter interact. If minds are as distinct from material things as Descartes claims, it seems at least paradoxical that the two sorts of substances should interact. The question of the relation between the mental and the physical can be posed equivalently as about mental and ph