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Philosophy of Mind, Body and Soul

2631 words (11 pages) Essay in Philosophy

17/07/17 Philosophy Reference this

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Soul, mind and body are three important and core subjects under study when discussing the philosophy of human beings. The understanding of the relationship between soul and body has always been a source of concern among philosophers. The existence of soul and justifying mind as a separate entity from brain is never completely understood. The relationship of mind with the body i.e. how the mind controls the body and how changes in the body affect the mind is always been a main issue in studying philosophy of mind. Mind philosophy is a complex subject. Some of the functions of the mind work independently from body. But others do work in collaboration with the body. Philosophers have accomplished variety of studies to understand the actual role and existence of mind that includes if mind is a physical or non-physical matter, if it’s the part of the body or the soul? And other issues like that. Dualism gives a good explanation of all these problems. Though there are objections to it. But it does address all issues of independent working of mind and body.

Human nature is in turn a complex subject and it is difficult to grasp full knowledge of philosophical explanations of human beings… Descartes used to believe that mind interacts with the brain. Though he used to consider mind as spiritual and immaterial and brain as spatial. This paper discusses why human nature and human being have problematic philosophical explanations and how mind-body relationship makes it complex and difficult to understand.

The philosophy of mind gives a contemporary view of the entity mind or soul. The contemporary views do accept soul as an independent existent. The main concern of the contemporary approach is also to understand the relationship between the physical working of brain and states of mind. My theoretical outlook for the problem stated would be dualism. According to which mind is a non-physical entity and it can exist separately from the body.

In this essay firstly I will explain the phenomenal features of human experience which differentiate them with other living things. The power of intelligence and consciousness produces such features. Then in the light of theories and philosophies presented by renowned philosophers such as Aristotle and Descartes, I will analyze these phenomenal features in the context of soul-body relationship. After this, a brief explanation of the concept of dualism will be presented which will serve as a theoretical outlook for this paper in discussion ahead. With the help of dualism I will explain these features. Then, there will be a brief explanation of a major objection to the concept of dualism and that is how mind and body communicate with each other? I will try to justify my response over this objection in the next part. Then I will conclude the paper having all important points.

There are some features of human beings which differentiate them from other living things. With the thinking power, use of intelligence and intellect and consciousness has give human beings the power to rule the world. These phenomenal features are the most important characteristics of human mind. It’s charismatic that how human mind is capable of producing all these emotions with exceptional brilliance. I will explain some of these phenomenal features.

Reason is one of the phenomenal features of human being through which. With the help of this a person can draw results from the given data or observations and can make hypothesis and assumptions. Moreover, one can support its argument through reasoning. Reflection is a process depending upon thinking; augmenting and analyzing one own self. It’s more of spiritual phenomena where one examines one’s own conduct, feelings and actions. Emotion means the mood, feel, temperament, attitude, state of mind and heart over certain action or happening. It mostly is a part of one’s personality. Motivation is a very important part of emotion. Abstraction (as discussed in the course) is a thought process which includes ideas on a general level. More general and common features or details are put together and specific details and features are left out. It involves a process of classification.

Faith is one of the very strong phenomenal feature of human being. It requires a process of events and mental activity and thought process to finally able to develop faith over a certain phenomena or understanding. Socrates believed in transcendentalism and he believed that each human being is like a spark of the over soul. He also thinks that soul will be separated by the body just in case of death and it is kind of a form. ‘Faith’ was the head start of the discussion of our course. Understanding and wondering which reasons and miracles had made us believe in God? The example of two places which had a bridge in between them is great in emphasizing faith. A person will cross even an unbalanced bridge if he has faith in his constructor, but he will never cross the bridge if it’s perfectly fine and has no belied a faith in its constructor. So we see that courage is the outcome of faith. And faith is achieved by different reasons. In fact every human being has his own reasons for faith. The idea of Skinner on PFHE is hopeless; it is not deliberately true that we do everything by aiming at some benefit. It’s not verified in every case. We see that naturalism has been derived from metaphysical realism. Moral valuation is a study of approach, direction and way in which or through which human beings believe and develop some kind of values or beliefs. Human beings does compare things and make a choice, this behavior is valuation. The techniques to inquire investigate and acquire new aspects, information and knowledge by gathering observations, collecting evidences, making hypothesis and then proving certain hypothesis is called scientific inquiry. The emotion, urge of human being to explore, investigate, inquire and learn more about a certain thing is called curiosity. It’s the driving force of advancement in science and technology.

Many philosophers explained unique features of human beings through different concepts and tried to develop a connection between these features and working of the body. Aquinas used the natural theology; I still recall the long debate on natural and revealed theology. But I think Aquinas was true to some extent on proving the existence of God by the means of the natural processes and nature itself. The “First Mover” theory can be taken into account too. While if we see St. Thomas we will come to know that being a Christian he declined Aristotle points of views. He thought that God is actually a cause for all the natural things that had happened.

Aristotle gave the philosophy of Hylomorphism, according to which soul is something which makes a body alive. Soul is a set of properties; a form….such as glass is the form of water in it. According to Aristotle soul is related to body as a form of matter. So whatever phenomenal features of human being are that are the characteristic of body because soul is the part of the body which is accomplishing all these phenomenal features. Aristotle explained the unity of soul and body, both needs each other to work.

Descartes gave the philosophy of dualism, according to which mind is a separate existence from brain and is a non-physical entity. All these phenomenal features are part of mind. He was first to identify mind with consciousness, awareness and intelligence. According to him brain is a material substance which is a part of body but mind exists separately from the body. The mind according to Descartes was a non-material entity. And he considered body as an extended and non-thinking thing. He argued that mind can exist apart from its extended body. And therefore mind is not a part of the body, it’s a different substance. Because the essence of mind is in the power of thinking. the actual idea behind his philosophy is that mind and body can interact. He argued that only humans have minds. Animals do not have minds. They lack the feature of self-consciousness. Living things can have three grades of sensation: physical, conscious, self-conscious. According to Descartes animals and human have only first sensation in common and that is physical. For example if an animal has felt a sensation e.g., the only possible reactions would be physical like dancing, screaming etc. But they will not consciously feel anything because they lack understanding of mind.

Jean- Paul Sartre presented the philosophy of Existentialism. According to this philosophy an individual is responsible for its existence and for the standard/quality of life he is living. Sartre did justice with his opinion about the individuality of human beings. Sartre’s example of animal and plant was the most amazing of all. He distinguishes animals and plants from human beings by saying them unconscious and more mechanically operated things. It supports the phenomena of Atheism. This philosophy justifies that human being is responsible for its own actions despite of the obstacles in life.

Now, I will explain the phenomenal features of human beings in the light of dualism.

Dualism is an approach which basic idea resides upon the fact that mind is a non-physical matter i.e. it is not a part of the brain. It is non-physical. Many philosophers worked on dualism but a more famous version of dualism was given by Rene Descartes who maintained that mind is a non-physical thing. According to this mind is not a part of brain. According to Descartes mind is a thinking thing. We can take the example of container to elaborate it. Consider human being as a container which has body and brain in it along with a SEPARATE non-physical mind. Mind thinks, hopes, believes and have the consciousness and intelligence to deal with situations. Moreover Descartes argued that mind is a separate non-physical entity which can exist without the body.

Phenomenal features of human beings can be well explained through Dualism.

All the phenomenal features explained above are states of mind which are attributes of a non-physical matter. A physical matter cannot think, reason, and argue. These feelings of curiosity, believes, enquiring, emotion and reflection are the products of mind. Mind is the force which pushes the body to work to learn more about a certain thing. For example a person read something, it always has some effects on his/her mind. Mind will ponder about that subject and ideas are built through it, which as a result produces curiosity to learn more. And scientific inquiry takes place to reach to a certain solution. And the mind develops values and believes on the basis of the observations and results around it. And all these features of human being which are related to awareness, consciousness and intelligence are the products of mind. Mind is the one producing and operating them. If dualism is not true then mind is only the physical brain. Then in this situation we cannot think of a material substance to possess the qualities of consciousness which is the central ingredient for possessing phenomenal features. We cannot then expect features like consciousness, emotions, curiosity, sensations, desires, beliefs etc. So there has to be something which is responsible for these behaviors, and that is mind which is not material and which is a non-physical substance.

Interactionism is a view of dualists, which can explain well these phenomenal features which occur as an interaction of mind and body. Thomas is said to be the symbolic founder of interactionism. Thomas thought that people were not exclusively controlled by the socialism and social pressures. Mental states always have this link with physical states. When we see something, we use our eyes and eyes send message to mind which invokes some kind of emotion, action or feeling.

If a person has got an injury, he will feel pain and he will cry for help. And if somebody hears him, he will experience an emotion to reach for help. So the process continues with the series of interactions. And we can see the example of a sailor and a ship. The sailor can feel the bruise he has on his hands but he can’t actually feel the pain when the ship is damaged or broken.

There is also some objection for this school of philosophy. One of the major objections is casual interaction. A major objection to this view is that how mind interacts with the body i.e. how physical states interact or send a message to mental states and vice versa. If mind is a non-physical matter then how it is interacting with a physical matter. There is no explanation to this.

When a person is injured, how the message is transferred toward mind which as a results cause the state of pain. When mind is not a part of body then how this communication is working? Obviously, we assume there will be a series of events which will finally let this pain feeling happen. There will be nerves playing around sending the message finally to the brain. But then how brain (a physical matter) will send or transfer this message to mind (a non-physical matter). That is a very big question mark?

Descartes himself did not have a proper answer to this problem. His meditations which we have elaborately studied in this course have revealed to us many of his point of views. He says that we can doubt all the things and he considers mind as indivisible and body as divisible. He was of the view that this interaction of soul and body or mind and body is through PINEAL GLAND, which is a gland in human brain. He says how the idea of a ruling absolute power exists in our minds? Thus he says that we distinctly perceive. All he was trying to do was to prove the immortality of the soul. He maintained that casual interaction is taking place through pineal gland. But this is not a very good explanation. Again the problem is same, how a non-material mind is interacting with pineal gland (which obviously is a physical matter). Some of Descartes’ students, ef Arnold Geulincx adopted a different frame of mind for this problem. And I find that solution very satisfactory. According to Arnold that all these mind-body interactions are a result of direct intervention of God. So, when God wants, these interactions happen otherwise not. These interactions are not because of a certain mechanism or through some medium; they happen and occur when there is God’s will. Only God knows how it works, he is responsible for this stimulation.

Human body and human nature is a very complex subject. The human nature cannot be understood easily. There are phenomenal features of human beings which differs them from other living things and those phenomenal features have convinced us that there is something non-physical in human body which is responsible for these phenomenal features. Dualism answers some of such questions and consider mind a non-physical entity responsible for such features and it is a separate entity from brain. But a major objection to dualism is that how mind interacts with the body? What is the medium of communication between a physical and non-physical matter? And a satisfactory answer would be that God is above all. The interaction between mind and body is dependent on God. And may be only he knows and he is responsible for such bizarre communication.

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