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Showing posts with label effects of body on mind. Show all posts
Showing posts with label effects of body on mind. Show all posts

May 30, 2009

Body Mind Relationship


The body-mind relationship:
This is the relationship between a human body and its unique mind. Theories of the body-mind relationship can be divided into two broad categories:
Monistic and Dualistic theories.

Monistic theories: These suggest that mind and body are not separate substances. Thinkers like Aristotle, Hobbs, Hegel, and the Behaviorists, collectively thought of as the materialists, postulated that the mind was nothing more than a bodily function. A mind is generally thought to be of a substance other than a physical substance. Berkeley, Leibniz, and Schopenhauer, collectively known as the idealists, were monists of a different sort; they theorized that the body was simply a mental representation. Spinoza proposed that mind and body were the manifestations of some third property--what he considered God. This is the theory of double-aspectism, another monist view.

Dualistic theories: According to the dualist view, mind is thought to be of a substance other than a physical substance. Popular dualists were Descartes, Locke, and James, who collectively belong to the school of thought known as interactionism. Other dualistic views include parallelism, epiphenomenalism, and occasionalism.

Double Aspectism: Mind and body are distinguishable, but inseparable. Cognitive and experiential aspects can be distinguished from physical aspects, so there is a separate mind and body…sort of. The separate mind and body are two aspects of the state of being human. Spinoza explained it this way: "thinking substance (the mind) and extended substance (the body) are one and the same thing." For Spinoza, the single substance was God. This explanation of the Mind/Body connection may be the most difficult to understand, because it is perhaps the least clear.

Epiphenomenalism:The mind is really just a byproduct of the physical brain. Only physical events in the brain (e.g. neurons firing) have causal power. Let’s get clear about definitions before we go into this one. When we talk about the brain we are speaking of a physical thing, so the brain is part of the body. This is very important to epiphenomenalism. If a human body were a TV set, the mind would simply be the picture you see when it is switched on. In this view the physical body affects (and even causes) the mind. However, because the mind is merely a byproduct, the mind does not affect the body. Huxley (1874) said that mental events are "like a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive." According to James (1879), mental events do not affect the brain activity that produces them "any more than a shadow reacts upon the steps of the traveler whom it accompanies."

Idealism: According to idealism, what one knows to be real is in some way confined to the contents of one's own mind. Anything we experience through our senses is colored by how our mind perceives it. We therefore cannot have access to external reality. Only thoughts and ideas that originate in the mind can be immediately experienced. Idealism stands in stark contrast to the theory of materialism, which endorses the physical, spatial, factual domain as the ultimate reality. Plato's theory of forms/ideas has been compared to idealism, although the forms were not confined to the mind but existed independently of it. It has also been argued that Descartes' contribution, in which access to the mind is prioritized, influenced idealism. Idealism has been pervasive since the eighteenth century, but has been less popular in recent times.

Interactionism: Sometimes the mind affects the body, and sometimes the body affects the mind. The body and the mind are separate, and they affect one another. Descartes laid the groundwork here. We are physical beings because we are extended in space. We are mental beings because we think. In Descartes' words, "I think, therefore I am" (Cogito Ergo Sum). Here’s the problem we run into: The mind is not physical in any way, and it exists separately from the body. So, how does the non-physical mind affect the physical body, and visa versa? Descartes assumed that this interaction occurred in the pineal gland.

Materialism: This is the view that only physical matter is real. The body is governed by strictly material, non-mental causes. Inasmuch as mental properties exist, they have no causal effect on the physical body. Strict materialists may hard-headedly deny that anything mental exists at all. Others may concede that the mind exists, but characterize it as being identical to the brain. The earliest exponents of something resembling materialism were the Greeks, Democritus and Aristotle. A specific type of materialism is epiphenomenalism, the view that the mind is a byproduct of physical processes. Another type of materialism is naturalism, the notion that nothing supernatural exists.

Occasionalism:It seems that God is following us around all day, and when the mind gives the body some instruction, or visa versa, God makes it happen. Remember the problem we had with Interactionalism? We could not explain how the mind and body affected one another. Well, we have that all solved here. When your mind decides it would like your body to be on the other side of the room it gets some Almighty intervention. Occasionalism was popularized by 17th Century French philosopher, Nicolas Malbranche. The problem with Occasionalism is that it not only supposes that there is a God, but that he also has time to follow each and every one of us around.

Parallelism: Mind and body are separate, but they are perfectly synchronized. How do they affect one another? They don’t, they only appear to. When your mind decides that it would like your body to be on the other side of the room it is just a coincidence that your body walks over there. Although the origin of this view can be traced back to G.W. Leibniz, he is also implicated in Preestablished Harmony, a view that implicates God in the correlation between mind and body.

Preestablished Harmony: Mind and body, at the time of their creation, were perfectly synchronized by God, like two clocks set for exactly the same time. Although they appear to correspond and interact, there is no causal relationship between mind and body. Preestablished Harmony was a theory expounded by G.W. Leibniz, to oppose the theories of parallelism, occasionalism, and interactionalism. The problem with Preestablished Harmony is that it presupposes that there is a God.