Essay Example: Body and Mind Problem

3 pages
600 words
Wesleyan University
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The mind-body problem is an investigation into the relationship between the mind (beliefs, pain, thoughts emotions and sensations) and the body (matter, neurons). The problem seeks to know whether the mind and the body are two distinct things or they are the same thing. Human beings have both a mind and a brain. I believe that the mind and the body are two different things. The mind is a conscious spirit while the brain is non-conscious and physical. I think that the brain is an intangible thinking object which does not occupy space. The mind is not physical therefore it does not have any material properties while the body is physical. However, I believe that the two have some causal relationship. That is events taking place in the body can affect events taking place in the mind and events held in mind can influence events taking place in the body.

The Cartesian dualism theory of the mind-body problem makes more sense than the other approaches. According to this theory, there is an immaterial mind, and a material body and both cannot coexist. The mind and the body, however, exit independently even after death. Only spiritual souls can have mental properties, and only physical objects can have physical properties. To say that the mind is spiritual is to say that maybe it does not exist in space at all or it exists in a tiny area which is dimensionless. Mental property is only found in conscious things hence anything with a mental property must be conscious. This explains why the mind is a conscious spirit. On the other hand, physical things have bulk, and they are extended in both time and space. For an object to have physical properties, it must be physical. Material properties can be measured and observed without interfering with the composition of the matter. Also according to this theory, both the brain and the mind have a two-way casual interaction. Events taking place in the body can cause events to happen in the brain like stepping on some ice may cause firing of neurons to produce sensation to the low temperature. Similarly, events occurring in mind may affect events happening in the body like the desire to drink some water will cause some neurons in the brain to fire and cause contraction of the arm muscles causing rising from the glass of water.

Although the Cartesian dualism theory holds that there is a two-way causal relationship between the body and the mind, it does not provide a mechanism for this process. According to the theory, the immaterial brain does not occupy space, and if it does hold area, it is negligible. The theory does not explain how an immaterial mind that does not fill space affects a material body which occupies space. However physical things can influence the occurrence of mental things. Another problem is that if there is something nonphysical causing firing of neurons, then there is no physical event which causes firing of the neurons. This means that physical energy should be generated against the laws of physics. The Cartesian dualism theory does not explain where the physical energy for neuronal firing came from. If the energy responsible for the shooting of the neurons were external, that would be a violation of the conservation law of energy. However, the law of conservation only applies to closed systems and the human brain is not closed. Therefore the problem of violation of the law of conservation might not be valid. Also, the mind can influence the distribution of energy without changing the quantity of the energy.


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