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Problem of the Mind & Body

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The mind-body problem addresses the relationship between the mind and the body, how minds interact with bodies. It is a problem for the 17th century philosopher Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) who considered the mind to be in a mental realm and the body to be in a physical realm. Descartes believed that the mind is associated with conscious and that it does not take up space, whereas the body is an extension that consumes space. Descartes advocates dualism, a specific form known as Cartesian Dualism. It states there are two separate entities, one being the mind and the other the body. It also states that the mind is accountable for mental states such as emotion, decision, thought, belief, decision, etc. Descartes argues that the brain does not play this role. To Descartes, the mind is an entity, which works together with the brain. The mind-body problem involves whether or not the mind and the body are the same thing or separate.

The positions taken in this mind-body problem are those of dualists and monists. Dualists are those who believe that both material and non-material things exist in the world and monist believe that there is one of either material or non-material things. The two types of dualism are Descartes dualism and Cartesian dualism, the former having to with the mind and the body being functioning independently and the latter deals with the view that there is an interaction between physical and mental states. Cartesian dualism claims that each person has an immaterial mind and a physical body. Only the physical objects can have physical properties and only immaterial objects can have immaterial properties. An immaterial mind is a mind that is spatially unextended. A physical body is something that is extended in space. A mental property must be conscious, whereas a physical property is anything that is spatially extended. The mind and the body are able to exist independently but they do have a two-way casual interaction. A sub category of monists would include materialists, people who believe that there is only material, and idealists, people who believe that there is non-material. For dualists, minds are evidence because it is in a mental state and it doesn’t appear like material objects. The mental does not take up space unlike physical phenomena. The critique of Cartesian Dualism is that the material world does not need extra things coming in from the non-material world. That is the mind-body problem. In Descartes’ Meditations II, Descartes argues that the mind and body are distinct because “he cannot doubt the existence of his own mind (that is, of himself), whereas he finds that he cannot doubt the existence of the physical world”. (Bratman 239)

The problem brought up in the mind-body relationship is that the mind is not physical and it is distinct from the body so how does it affect the body, which is physical? It can also be flipped around. How can the body, something physical, affect the mind, something



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