The Mind Body Problem
Mind - Body
Mind Body Problem
Beginning with Aristotle’s belief of a separation between mind and body the question of whether the mind and brain exist separately and where exactly does the brain fit into the equation has plagued scientists and psychologists. The topic encompasses the discussion of the independent mind. The mind-body problem is one of the most deep seated problems in psychology because modern psychologists are still researching the topic.
Aristotle defined the soul as the first certainty of a living organism. The soul or mind according to this theory contained the ability to perceive or think. The soul was the life of the organism, upon death of the organism the soul also died because it relied on the body for its functions. This began the debate of the mind-body problem, most easily defined as how consciousness and the physical brain interconnect (Goodwin, 2005). The mind is comprised of the functions of thought, memory, reasoning and learning; consciousness is one’s awareness of oneself and one’s environment.
Descartes believed in dualism, defining a separation between the mind and the body. The argument states that humans possess the ability to reason as well as language while animals do not. According to this belief animals have bodies but no brain or soul (citation). 20th-century brought with it Husserlian phenomenology self-consciousness, stating that the transcendental ego, maintains the purpose of serving as the basis of emotional and cognitive experiences also known as Erlebnisse (Goodwin, 2005, page #). John Locke further clarified the mind-body problem by defining it and rejecting the use of physical standards to identify personhood and connecting self consciousness and consciousness (Goodwin, 2005).
Gottfried Leibniz proposed that mind-body work side by side. Leibniz compared mind-body to two synchronized clocks working at the same rate but independent of each other (Goodwin, 2005).
As recent as 2005 Antonio Damasio of University of Iowa, in his book Descartes’ Error “Descartes’ Error,” presents the argument that the mind is created by the brain. He states that the consciousness may be nothing more than a physical process. He compared it to the rainbow after the rain. Damasio’s understanding is that the senses and body chemicals play a part and are experienced as emotions. Agreeing with previous theories, he also states that memory and language play an important part (Lemonick, 1995).
Functions of the Mind and Consciousness
The mind is complex set of functions needed for mental, knowledge-generating activity. Kant referred to the functions of the mind as synthesis. His model remains the basis for most thinking about cognition (Brook, 2004). Kant believed that the mind uses cause and effect (Goodwin, 2005,).
Damasio’s research also discovered that the phenomenon of mind, of consciousness, is more intricate than previously suspected. He credits Descartes for the findings that the mind is not a physical object. The brain can be injured and the mind will be altered but will not be destroyed. Similarly, computer science refers to the mind much like that of Leibniz, comparing it to a parallel-processing computer. According to them, the consciousness is the signal-processing of the computer programs (Lemonick, 1995).
Damasio suspects that thousands of convergence zones responsible for the consciousness exist in the cortex, processing language and coordinating memory and emotion. He defined the consciousness as the concept of self, to include body image, life story and future dreams. When one part is missing the consciousness is lessened but not completely negated. According to
Damasios, consciousness is not located inside the brain (Lemonick, 1995).
The function of the mind includes attention, intellect, awareness, reason, intention, willpower, responsibility and memory. The mind also includes awareness, concentration imagination as well as inattention and attention (These are functions of consciousness, not the mind). The mind is our essence. The mind’s functions include the things that cannot be touched or readily understood (Zimmer, 1999). The mind is our soul; current belief is that consciousness is more directly correlated to the concept of soul.
The Mind, Consciousness and Physical Body
During times of stress, the fight or flight response is triggered. The hypothalamus doesn’t know if the stress is that of physical danger or thoughts and feelings. Unnecessary worrying causes the release of stress hormones into the bloodstream. Hans Selye determined a link between heart disease and other stress-related mind-body diseases (Keegan, 2001).
Bischoff thoroughly tested humans after being beheaded and came to the conclusion that consciousness ends the moment the head is separated from the body. He performed several tests including talking to the head and making sudden movements, after getting no response. It was determined to reinforce the belief that the consciousness is in the brain. The muscles that move were determined to be involuntary actions not at all related to consciousness (Goodwin, 2005).
Independent Mind Transcends the Physical Functions of the Body
The mind, consciousness and the brain are not all connected. Therefore, making possible opportunity for the independent mind to transcend the physical functions of the body through the central nervous system. When a person is determined to be brain dead they do not cease to live. The brain is the physical element that supports the functions of the mind, which are thought, reasoning, memory, and learning. Consciousness observes and propels these mental functions as well as one’s environment. Without the physical (neurological) properties of the brain, stimuli cannot be received by one’s consciousness, and cannot be perceived by the mind. Therefore, one is not able to hear or feel emotions if the brain is dead. It is also important to recognize the difference between the term “brain dead” and comatose. People who are comatose have some degree of brain function (activity), so are capable of having some degree of consciousness (awareness) and, perhaps, mental function. People who are brain dead, by definition, have no brain activity, and therefore no brain function. Therefore, if one is brain dead, the functions of the mind cannot be performed.
The mind-body problem has existed since Aristotle’s time and continues to be a topic worthy of research. Modern research has determined through testing unavailable to previous theorists such as Damasio’s presentation that the mind is created by the brain, stating that the consciousness may be nothing more than a physical process. In the end it is now believed that the mind, brain and consciousness are not connected as demonstrated by brain dead patients that experience emotions. Brain dead people do not have the neurological function to experience emotions; people in comatose states do. Nonetheless, it still stands that, the mind-body problem is one of the most deep seated problems in psychology because modern psychologists are still researching the topic.
Brinkmann, K. (2005). Consciousness, self-consciousness, and the modern self . History of the Human Sciences , 27-48.
Brook, A. (2004, July 26). Kant's View of the Mind and Consciousness of Self. Retrieved September 5, 2008, from Stanford encylopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-mind/
Goodwin, J. C. (2005). History of Modern Psychology, 2e. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Keegan, L. (2001). Healing with Complementary& Alternative therapies. Delmar: Thompson Learning.
Lemonick, M. D. (1995, July 17). Glimpses of the mind. Retrieved September 6, 2008, from General OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library: http://find.galegroup.com/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS
Zimmer, G. (1999). The Definition of «Psychology». Retrieved September 7, 2008, from Psychology it's Definition and actual Meaning: http://www.sntp.net/psychology_definition.htm
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