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Mind and Body / Dualism

Updated on October 10, 2017

Mind and Body / Dualism

Mind and Body

The connection between the mind and body can not be scientifically determined. It is through the exploration of theories both personal and of previous philosophers, that a person may come to an understanding of what the answer is to the mind body connection. Over time ideas of dualism have been added to and altered based on personal opinions. There is no scientific proof that the mind functions outside the brain or that the mind can function without the body.

What is clear is that the brain is subject to the body in terms of function and overall mental health. We know that people who experience hormone imbalance are prone to socially negative behaviors. We know that if you have any type of mass in the brain it can effect a persons behavior. We also know that damage within the brains communication system (nerves) can cause parts of the body to stop working.

The closest current studies we have today are the work of David Eagleman a neuroscientist at Stanford University. As stated by Eagleman your brain is the closest representation of who we are, which we know because if you damage the brain it changes a persons decision making and personality. Your brain is constantly thinking about things, working through problems even when you are not aware of these actions taking place (Eagleman, 2013).

Rene Descartes was among the first to determine that the soul functioned inside the body. He determined that a person knows they exist because they think. The question remains; is thinking a function of the brain or is it the function of a physically unattached soul, and is consciousness a function of the body or mind? It is known that people can be completely immobilized and still have the ability to think rational thoughts. A more recent case of this was Christopher Reeves who lived the last years of his life as a quadriplegic and yet his mind was not damaged.

In people with brain damage or birth defects the ability to think in the capacity of others may not be possible, however their consciousness is not any different that that of a normal person. People in a vegetative state of consciousness have been known to have movements such as grunting, yawning and moving the head and limbs even though they are still brain dead (Stephanie Watson, 2008). This is an example of the body functioning independent of the mind. The mind needs the body to create physical attributes that carry out the thoughts of the mind. The brain functioning without the body is pointless since it could not communicate of commit actions.


Renee Descartes was one of the first to introduce the idea that the mind and body functioned independently of one another (dualism). While there is no scientific evidence of dualism, countless stories have been told by people who have died and been brought back, often these people say they have seen themselves in those moments. This ability to leave the body and still have consciousness without the body adds weight to Descartes theory. Dualism also explains how a body can stay alive when a person is brain dead.


Everyday people function on a mental state of auto pilot where their subconscious carries out various tasks while they concentrate on other things. People who develop a routine in their day may find there subconscious mind following that routine even when they need to do something else. This manifests its self in actions such as; a mother driving to the school on a Saturday when she needs to go to the store. Her mind knows the schedule and takes her to school because that is where she normally goes at that time of the morning. When her conscious mind focuses, the woman realizes where she is and drives to the store. In that moment where was the woman’s conscious mind? Was she thinking about something else or was she in a state of non thinking that caused her subconscious to take over? One thing is for sure, she was not conscious in that she was deliberate between her actions and conscious thoughts.

From a philosophical standpoint the body is just a house for the mind. If the mind can function independently of the body then the implication is that we as people function from a state of consciousness provided from the point of view that is created by having a physical body. If the mind does not have a physical body then is it any less conscious?


Watson, Stephanie. (October 30, 2008). How Comas Work. Retrieved on March 11, 2009 from


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