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Does the Mind Exist?

Updated on September 21, 2009

When answering the question "does the mind exist" it is very important to first understand what is meant by the word "mind". According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary, there are approximately nineteen different definitions given for the word "mind". To answer this question appropriately, I will be using one of the nineteen definitions that best suites the meaning that I have in mind. The definition that best suites is the sixth definition, which states that the mind is the "seat of consciousness, thought, volition, and feeling" (from The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1984).

"Mind" is a word we use in many different ways, depending on the linguistic context. Like all other words, it is essential that it be used correctly according to the rules of language that are already set. So, according to the definition given above, does it follow that if consciousness, thought, volition, and feeling are all existent things then we can be sure that the mind exists as the "seat" of these things? Perhaps it does, but first we will approach the question from a scientific standpoint.

According to the modern philosophy of science, it is essential to provide empirical evidence for something to be considered real. Empirical evidence is considered to be tangible or publicly observable. This creates some difficulty in trying to determine the existence of the mind. We cannot touch the mind, nor can we see/observe it. So does this mean that according to science we should conclude that the mind does not exist because it cannot be touched or seen? This is certainly not the case. By looking deeper into the logic that relates to the concept of the mind, it is possible to find an explanation for the mind's existence, despite the fact that a mind cannot be touched or seen.

We can use the word "mind" in the same or similar way to the definition that was cited previously from the dictionary. If we do, then we are including with it all mentalistic phenomena. For instance, how could we use the term "mind" in this context without implying that such things as consciousness, thoughts, volition, feelings, and other mentalistic qualities do indeed exist? Thus, if we can prove that mental events are real then we will also know that the mind is real.

Let us consider the mentalistic concept of "pain". If a person takes a hammer and strikes another person's hand with the hammer, the person who was struck will most likely elicit a response. The person might yell out abruptly "ouch!" Perhaps after their exclamation, they might begin crying and rolling around on the floor. When they are rolling on the floor they might say to the person who struck them, "that really hurt me, and now I am experiencing so much pain!" By observing the responses of the individual who was struck, the person who struck them has logical and conceptual grounds for believing that this individual is indeed experiencing pain. The mentalistic concept of pain can be successfully applied to this context based on the situational factors that have occurred.

Now lets take the mentalistic concept of "thinking". If two people are sitting outside playing a game of chess, it is very easy to notice the way their eyes move about the board in a way that is related to the moves they make. Sometimes a player may begin to move a chess piece in one direction then quickly move the piece back to its original position. It would seem as though there is some sort of invisible process that is guiding their decisions, in which the chess player is the only one who is aware of what is happening during this process. In this scenario, there are logical and conceptual grounds to apply the concept of "thinking" to the chess players.

Using the concepts of "pain" and "thinking" as examples, we now know that there is a conceptual logic that permits the use of these words as referring to real events. If it is certain that mental events are indeed existent things, then it follows that there is also a conceptual logic that permits the use of the word "mind" as a "seat" of these mental events (just as given in the cited definition). Thus, by using conceptual logic based on the rules of language we know that both mental events and the mind do exist.

Image of the Brain... but not an image of the mind!


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      “What I call the void is where nothing exists. It is about things outside man's knowledge. Of course the void does not exist. By knowing what exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.”

      Just because the thing does not exist in your world does not mean it does not exist it just means you have no knowledge of it.

    • profile image

      maximo hudson 

      4 years ago

      The are the objects of perception. There are the sense organs which are "stimulated" by the objects of perception. Then there are the various cognitive attributes of the brain which process the "effects" of the stimulated sense organs. Combined, this interaction between 1) The objects of perception; 2) The sense organs; and 3) The cognitive attributes of the mind; results in what we term "perception." Some folks then go on to imbue perception with concepts like, "self," and fancy that it is possessed with non-discernible attributes like, "mind," "consciousness" and "soul."

    • profile image

      Rajesh Bhutkar 

      4 years ago

      Qualia is a property of mind to prove its existence . The difference in sweetness between two delicious items is characterized by the brain but understood and expressed by the mind. Thus the qualitative difference is a function of mind only and not that of the brain. Brain would just create different signals through different chemical secretions. Conclusion will be drawn by the mind only.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I think you, Lugwig W may have misunderstood a few points:

      "first of all and most importantly, a 'scientist' requires proof or empirical data to support their claims."

      I will tell you right now that I am not a scientist, and I am completely unqualified to speak on the issue, but that I also never said that I was: this is but my two pence on the issue. You seem to suggest that I did, when you said "I would like the so called 'scientist'...".

      Second of all, no evidence is needed to show that a thing does not exist, when there is no evidence to say that it does exist in the first place: people just need to point out the lack of evidence (this is the burden of evidence or proof or something right?) This is exactly what I meant when I said that as far as I was aware, the idea of a mind does not predict anything: to provide evidence for a mind, as we cannot see it (and everyone agrees here), all that would need to be done to provide evidence of a mind, is to show that the idea of a mind predicts *anything*, be it some aspect of the way that we learn, or the way that we behave, or feel, or solve problems, etc, that is not predicted in models which do not acknowledge a mind.

      "The last commenter wrote that 'thoughts and feelings are actions of the brain' which shows they missed the point of the brief article.

      The writer has stated the importance of definition whilst discussing these 'concepts' is essential. "

      I agree: it is pretty important, which is why I said that I took issue with the given definition, and then referenced a second definition: often cognitive psychologists define the mind as "what the brain does".

      "However, the notion that a 'thought' or a 'feeling' is something located in a brain is ludicrous."

      "And where are these thoughts. I would like the so called 'scientist' who made the last comment to take a picture of the 'feeling' or 'thought' inside of the brain, and then post a picture for all of us to finally understand this breakthrough he's revealed to us... I have never seen one, maybe its somewhere hiding between the lobes?"

      Also, agreed: I said that a thought was an action; a thing that was done, not a thing which does things: I never said that you would find or locate a thing called "a thought" in a brain. I meant that the "actions" of thinking and feeling was something done by the brain. In reality, the view that thoughts are things, or objects, as opposed to actions, is a view I have always considered kinda dodgy (for the reason you gave; if they are objects, you should be able to cut open the head, and point to them).

      Looking for a thought, as if it is an object, is like asking someone to jump, and then looking for an object called "a jump".

      "It's a person that thinks or feels, not a brain... If you take a brain out of a body, does it think? "

      Very good point, but you misunderstand me; if you damage person A's brain, and break person B's left knee, which person will experience memory loss, or changes in mood, or other psychological problems, and which person will be unable to jump? Of course, a person thinks or jumps, but different parts of the person are involved in the action.

    • profile image

      Ludwig W ;) 

      6 years ago

      The last comment is too narrow for me to not rebuttal... first of all and most importantly, a 'scientist' requires proof or empirical data to support their claims. The last commenter wrote that 'thoughts and feelings are actions of the brain' which shows they missed the point of the brief article.

      The writer has stated the importance of definition whilst discussing these 'concepts' is essential. However, the notion that a 'thought' or a 'feeling' is something located in a brain is ludicrous. It's a person that thinks or feels, not a brain... If you take a brain out of a body, does it think? And where are these thoughts. I would like the so called 'scientist' who made the last comment to take a picture of the 'feeling' or 'thought' inside of the brain, and then post a picture for all of us to finally understand this breakthrough he's revealed to us... I have never seen one, maybe its somewhere hiding between the lobes?

      Common man, you think you have this topic figured out? It is awfully complicated, and your 'red herring' argument to take it out of context should be embarrassing to you... if you are a real scientist. For all I know you're some university kid who is regurgitating something form lecture this week that you might not remember correctly from being a little too hung over.

      I recommend all the 'scientists' who claim the mind does not exist should consider that this is an article discussing concepts, which are defined as pretense. I appreciate that the writer took this approach because it really does hint at another 'big fish' lurking beneath - this language problem.

      - A real scientist presents proofs, not opinions.

      Seriously, at least stop claiming to be scientific because you folks who claim it doesn't exist are not presenting proof that it doesn't, you have merely found no observable proof that it does... Science requires observable proof (not logical proofs) and data, and certainly not an opinion when measurements are not [yet] available.

      I think the article is brief and incomplete on the topic, there is much more to be said, and I don't totally agree with it entirely, however it is presented well and contextualized appropriately.

      The writer contextualized the argument, and then these so called 'Scientists' who offer no empirical data or proofs or evidence for their claims, negate the contextualization... It's obvious that these wanna be scientists just see what they want to see, kind of like a dogmatic religious person... not so different in my opinion. If the mind does exist, they might not be able to sleep at night (because of the mentalistic phenomena being experienced, which of course happens when there is no 'mind' present).

      I respect real science (method) and scientists (people), don't get me wrong. But context people! Why are the acclaimed scientists missing something so obvious?

      And yes, this is an opinion and perspective, I am not claiming to be making a scientific point, simply because I didn't present any empirical evidence.

      Good luck being a Scientist without a Mind! Ha!

      Read about Ludwig Wittgenstein's ideas about this topic, it is a category error based on the rules of language. Mr. Noam Chomsky also discusses these problems that are rooted in language errors.

      To the writer: It's good enough, but keep going deeper if you really care about the topic ;)

      Oh, one last statement to wrap it up... there was a scientific study that was able to measure the presence of the boogeyman in a person's brain. Typically it was children that would have the boogeyman in their brains (but only measurable at night), usually ages ranging from 4 to 7. It was a longitudinal study actually, and later they concluded that the boogeyman was no longer located in the brain once the child reached the age of 8.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I take issue with your chosen definition: there is no seat in the brain, ergo, this "seat" must be a metaphorical one, but what it actually means is unclear.

      If by "seat" you mean "WHERE thoughts and feelings occur", then, well, that's the brain. Thoughts and feelings are the actions of the brain: ergo "mind" is a superfluous concept, and because (as far as I am aware) the idea of it doesn't itself predict anything, thus Occam's razor advises that it is cut away from out hypothesises then, and I shall go as far as to claim that the mind doesn't exist.

    • profile image

      maximo hudson 

      6 years ago

      We can easily observe and define awareness, however, when it comes to "mind," "exists"/"existence" and "consciousness," not so much. All the qualities that folks imbue the ineffable CONCEPT of mind with can be explained by awareness and the cognitive functions of the human brain, both of which can be easily defined and observed. Basically the term "mind" is a primitive anachronism left over from a time before brain imaging using CAT scans and the electroencephalogram (EEG).

      It is of interest to note that even plants demonstrate awareness (think of a dandelion tracking the sun), so it appears to be a basic function of life. The fact that the author of this post had to wade through nineteen different definitions to begin his musings on this topic, in my mind, sends up a series of red flags. What we are basically talking about here is a concept similar in many aspects to another difficult-to-define faith-based belief, namely, "the soul."

      So, in conclusion, awareness and the cognitive functions of the human brain are easy to observe and define. As for terms like mind, soul, existence and consciousness, I would suggest here that these ineffable terms belong not so much to the rational world of observation and logic (aka science), but to the contemplative soapbox of those given over philosophical musings (the realm of mumbo-jumbo).

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      The mind is the energy of the body,hence does energy exist without mass,lets ask Einstein;Energy is matter or mass in motion therefore the mind being energy is mass or matter in motion-electrochemical in nature.What is the composition of an electrochemical reaction,and can the reaction be perpetuated indipendant of a container as an electromagnetic propagation hence the mind is an elctrochemical reaction converted to electromagnetic propagation.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      If mind exists, then, does it exist only in human beings? Do other animals have minds? Do plants have minds? Do all lifeforms have minds? Do non-life entities such as electrons have mind? All these things react with the external world and respond in certain manners, why?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Um, even if you could clone two animals and set them in identical environments down to the smallest detail, it doesn't mean that they should behave exactly the same. Brains aren't mere pre-set machines, their chemicals are constantly changing ever so slightly, thus one clone's brain chemicals will go one way while the other might go another.

      The mind is an abstract concept for a process of the brain, but it's not something that actually manifests in reality

    • profile image

      Brian Chong 

      9 years ago

      The Brain is like the hardware and the Mind is like the software.

      The whole body is connect. Even down to the smallest cell, there is a mind. It is just whether you are consciously aware of it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      A thought for Djuan (comments welcome):

      Rather than trying to prove that the mind exist using a definition that was created by a race that has not yet schientifically proven of its existance, think about what the real question here is, which is, is there an aspect of the a being that is not physical, that is, cannot be touched, heard, tasted,seen or smelled. Jpcrusino argument says that the pain felt by the person is required the presence of the mind, however the opposition can arugue pain is a chemical produced in the body and therefore is physical. Here is an idea for potentially proving existance of a non physical component, but I personally wish that noone will attempt this - clone two animals, from the same animal, in two identical environments. By definition of cloning, physically, the two aniamals will be exactly identical. Therefore in the presence of nothing else, the two animals must behave exactly identically, in response to external objects. Oserve the behaviour of the two animals. Any difference (if any) can be explained by those aspects of the animals that are not physcially, thereby proving the existance of an aspect to the being that is not physcially.

    • jpcrusino profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      You can send me an email at if you like. My response times may not be too reliable, but I'm willing to bounce some ideas around for your paper... Thanks for your positive feedback on the article. I am inclined to believe that if something is not measurable, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist; in a sense it goes back to the good ol' necessary and sufficient conditions.

      How many things are people saying don't exist today, but later those same things will become measurable... we need not get ahead of ourselves.

    • profile image

      Djuan lee 

      9 years ago

      I believe that jpcrusino has given some very objective examples supporting the fact that the mind does exist. I'm currently taking a psy class and my prof. believes that mind does not exist due to the "scientific" fact it can not be measured, tRtouched or observed. He is willing to give any person an automatic A if they can prove it. My intent is on proving it.


      There is more I would like to know on proving to my prof the mind does exist. Do you have an email?

    • jpcrusino profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago

      I would like to politely address the recent comment posted by "Al". In the first paragraph I defined how I planned to use the term "mind" which parallels well with my brief discussion.

      Al, I would encourage you to post a link to your discussions or articles about this topic, rather than simply nullifying my writing. I assume that you posted a comment because you care about this question "does the mind exist", which is why I would think that you could try to be more constructive (we are all on the same side here).

      This question is "the big fish" in many ways, so I hope that you would also consider that this article is only about 500 words... it is not the conclusion of my life's work.

      I do encourage comments, so to the readers, please post your ideas about the existence of the mind.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Your proof is inadequate. You assume that a mind is required to elicit a pain response.

    • profile image

      Dean Mullen 

      10 years ago

      The Body is like the hardware, the mind is like the software.

      Hardware without software is pointless

      Body without mind is lifeless

      Software without Hardware has nowhere to live and process information.

      Mind without Body has nowhere to live and process information.

      Only the Mind with Body, or Hardware with software works as a living individual, so essentially we are all just minds controlling Biological Matter.

      Yet when the Body becomes Inhabitable, where does the mind go????????


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