Are We a Mind, a Body or Both?
Of all the topics that are currently occupying the attention of philosophers, the Mind-Body problem is at center stage. It is one of the classical metaphysical issues concerning the relationship between that which is mental and that which is physical. The simple question asked is: what are we? Are we a mind, a body or both? The issue has its origins in the ancient dualism of Plato and since then many solutions to the problem have been offered. D.M. Armstrong s The Mind-Body Problem gives rise to all the possible solutions to the problem. In his writings, he accurately depicts the views of others, as well as his own. Armstrong wants it to be clear that all theories of the mind-body relation get involved in a certain amount of difficulty. The thing that we have to try and judge is what sort of theory seems to come off best [with] all things concerned. It is not and easy task (20). Out of the many possible theories, the Dualistic approach seems to be the weakest in trying to pose a solution, while the Eliminative Materialistic approach appears to have the strongest hold on answering the never-ending question.
According to Dualism, the human person is composed of two completely different substances: the mind and the body. The body, or physical substance, is essentially located and extended in space, inactive, lifeless and unthinking. The mind, or mental substance, is essentially active, living, thinking, and, though located in time, not located in space. Altogether, the human person is some sort of union of a mind and a body (9). This form of Dualism, which seems to be the least plausible in offering a sufficient answer to the mind-body problem, is more commonly referred to as substance dualism. Perhaps the most famous advocate of substance dualism was Rene Descartes, a 17th century philosopher who put forth a tremendous influence on the religious and scientific community of his time. Aside from substance dualism, Descartes also adds a Cartesian twist. Cartesian duality is a dogma that explains the division of existence into two distinct entities: a thinking self and a non-thinking body, in which both can have causal effects on the other. With this, Descartes characterized thoughts and thinking as non-spatial, and non-corporeal. Thoughts are not of the body. The body represented a non-thinking entity, free of thoughts. He insisted that one s sense of self existed separate from the body. A body, then, is an epiphenomenon, something outside of anyone s capacity to know it, feel it, be connected with it, etc. Basically, Descartes feels that the body is a substance that is purely physical and, therefore, the mind is first and best known (10) with consciousness as its essence. He then moves from his assumption that consciousness is the very essence of the mind to the conclusion that the mind is conscious at all times that it exists [and] where there s mental activity, we are always aware of it [and] our awareness of mental activity cannot be wrong (13-16).
On to the more plausible theory of metaphysics: Eliminative Materialism, commonly known as eliminativism. This theory is fairly new, compared to others, and was first brought forth by Paul Feyerabend and Richard Rorty. Currently Paul and Patricia Churchland defend it. At the very beginning, like the time of Rorty, Eliminativists merely stated that we as human entities are only bodies. This seems to be connected with the Materialist point of view: the mind and body are one, where the mental is a distinct realm from the physical (67). In reality, they are very much different for the mere fact that the Eliminativists do not believe in the mental or in a mind. For them, there are only brain processes and brain (92), that which are purely physical and can be explained by science. Modern Eliminativists explain Eliminativism as the view that Folk Psychology is radically false in its ontology, what things it claims exist, and its laws. Folk Psychology is a...
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