Mind Body Problem: A Paradox

Image Source: Wikipedia

Before Descartes thought on mind body problem, philosophers argue (what we call substance dualists) believed mind is an independent substance whereas property dualists believed that mind is a group of independent substance that emerge from and cannot reduce to the brain, but this is not a distant substance. But what exactly mind body problem is and why does it perplex the minds of many philosophers and even biologists? Let’s discuss on its complexity.

As we move to mind body problem, first we introduce ourselves with these two terms: Substance Dualism and Property Substance. Former describes with the two substances: Physical and Non-Physical and human beings made up of two components: Physical and Non-Physical Minds. Whereas when we talk about property substance then it is almost a substance monist and it concedes to the dualist that these substances have both physical and non-physical properties. Still here, something went wrong? Question arises what is monism and dualism?

(Note: If any problem still persists, see the diagram below:)

Image Source: Wikipedia


So, we have well-established definitions of these two terms: Monism is against the dualism and believed that mind and body are not distinct entities which mean these two entities are one. But in dualism, it opposes the monism and believed that mind and body are not a single entity but different entities. However, many philosophers were perplexed at that time and were not giving an explicit definition on mind body problem.

However, it was in the 17th century, when famous and legendary mathematician and philosopher René Descartes (Father of Modern Philosophy) gave his theory on mind body problem resulting in Cartesian Dualism (that tells philosophy of mind where mental phenomena is non-physical and is distinct and separable). His theory on mind body problem became one of the finest descriptions on this problem. Descartes theory on mind even manifest how laws of physics are not responsible for our mind that is made up of distinct type of substance (substance dualism) and also shows how mental properties involving conscious experience of fundamental properties that are identified by physics (property substance). Entire mind body problem revolves around Descartes thoughts and his mind body interaction paradox (Yet, this is a complicated concept but I will endeavor my best to describe it without any obstruction). First, we talk about mind and its behavior. Mind is an important part of living beings especially when we talk about humans mind because it is a synthesis of two phenomena (conception and perception). Conception gives us an idea about our devise in our mind and what we plan whatever it is; for studies, architect, driving, learning, playing guitar anything it is depends on conceptual thoughts in mind whereas in perception we hear, see, observe, think, and many others perceptual things create in our mind. Stick with these two phenomena as I am going to tell something different here. For an excerpt, suppose you see a tree (for me, you are seeing a tree and obviously for you also, you are seeing) but, are you really see a tree that is being with the help of your mind or this tree already defined in your mind as “hologram”? For you, you are not ready for this term “hologram” because you are confident that your eyes see what is in front of you. This excerpt generally fits for perceptual thoughts because our thoughts in mind permits our eyes to see a tree, yes there is also a biological factor here but beyond biology perception still bewilders our thought on perception. From this we can say, neural cognition is useful here and we are in a better position to describe these two terms “Neurobiology” and Neurophilosophy”.

(Note: Neurobiology is the study of nervous system and also associates with molecular biology, anatomy, physiology, cytology and various other fields of biology whereas neurophilosophy is the study of the neuroscience that also describes the relevance concept on philosophy of mind)

On the other hand, conceptual thoughts are “Forms” or “Planned” where mind allows us to think before you work. This is your day to day plans, your planning for studies anything you plan or form in your mind. But these two terms are our observations for outer world but when we associate mind with body then story is different. Can we say mind body is separate entity instead of one? For us we might be in trouble but for Descartes; answer is yes, mind body are distinct and separable entities which mean mind and body work differently, yes it sounds weird but this is. For Descartes, he believed in two motivations, first is religious motivation and second one is scientific motivation. In religious motivation according to Descartes mean decay of the body does not metaphysically or logically imply the destruction of the mind and still there is argumentation for the conclusion that mind survives after body’s destruction where God cannot annihilate mind after body’s destruction. He also tried his best to show that human mind and soul is distinct from the body and refute those are “Irreligious”, only reliance in mathematics and not believe in soul’s immortality. His other motivation is scientific motivation, everything thought to be considered as “Final Cause” as things have an ultimate end or goal. This principal is known as “Substantial Form” because it was this principal that explained why matter is arranged in such a way as to be some species of substance. For an excerpt, in the case of bird, say, swallow, the substantial form of swallowness was thought to organize matter for the sake of being a swallow of species of substance. If you confused with this example, then remember your high standard’s gravitation concept where you all read / heard about Newton’s gravitational law. According to Descartes Substantial forms, he examines how the quality of gravity used to explain a body’s downward motion and further said:

“But what makes it especially clear that my idea of gravity was taken largely from the idea I had of the mind is the fact that I thought that gravity carried bodies toward the centre of the earth as if it had some knowledge of the center within itself.”

On the Pre-Newtonian realm, where characteristics of all bodies that ultimately fall down towards the centre of the earth compels Descartes to think “Why objects fall downward?” if we consider stone, then why it fall downward? Is stone want to achieve a final goal for reaching to the centre of earth? This is something like “stone” has thoughts, isn’t it? No, this is not stone’s knowledge or thoughts but person’s knowledge. Stone doesn’t have mind so as to unable to know anything. This cause Descartes to believe that there is a real distinction between mind and body and even many people at that time mistakenly think that non-humans, stones, and other non-living things have minds and had criticized Descartes for his work. But, according to Descartes, these non-humans like stones don’t have their own minds but they adhere on “Final Cause” so as to achieve the center of the earth (In Mechanics of Gravitation). They do what they compel to do for. Thus, he claimed that substantial form is a part of physical world stem that is a root cause for creating confusion of the ideas of mind and body.

(Candid Explanation for this scientific motivation: suppose, you have a book without being read by anyone. If you want to read this book what you do, you will the open and start reading its chapters; here you open, not a book open itself. This means book doesn’t have its own mind, yet it opens with the help of your mind and you knowledge lead you to do this, that’s clarity between non-minds and minds)

Now, we are on the verge of mind-body problem, well, before we talk about mind-body problem we have to understand the interaction between mind and body. In this interaction, questions arises how these two entities can have an interaction and suddenly give rise to sensations and motions in human beings? Do sensations and motions of our body really affect our mind? For Descartes, body is divisible as he cannot think a body, without having parts. But, he questions, how something could be divisible into parts and yet not indivisible separable. Here an excerpt, when I feel a pain (something wound on my body) , I feel but who instructs me to feel “pain” mind or body? Obviously, we will say “mind” but is this right answer? Perhaps, not, but we can ask question: Is there any need for mind to interact with body? There is some interaction between mind and body whether it is neurological interaction or philosophical interaction. Interaction in the case of mind-body is different than any other interaction in the entire cosmos. What if mind doesn’t depend on body and body doesn’t depend on mind? Yes, this sounds weird but some questions still mock when we profoundly understand the problem of mind-body. This other excerpt will help us to understand mind-body problem and that is soul and body relation. Before we move to the mind soul interrelation, we have a little example on mind body problem that will give you a clear vision on it. See below:

Suppose, you are lying on chair and suddenly your mind says let’s go out for a walk but your body says no, this is better to remain inside your room. This seems weird but this is and yet is our perception we can’t say whether this is mind’s or body’s perception. Here, Descartes gave his opinion on mind-body problem and said these two entities are different. Well, some philosophers did not accept this theory and reject without being credit to Descartes for his incredible idea on mind – body problem. This problem is same as we see in coin’s case as there is one soul but has two entities just like coin which is one but has two sides. What mind orders to body and how body reacts, really a challenge but somewhere these both are same as well as different entity.

Well, mind- body problem seems a neurological activity and this process something give rise to the problem. However, logically we are correct in solving mind-body problem but when we think apart from logic sense we think something different rather than believe on mind and body as both are separate entities. Descartes dualism concept is based on two identical things: suppose you have a chair that is used in a film and in one scene it exist in a film and in other scene it is not; here thing is same (i.e. chair) but played different characters, where it exists in one scene and in other it doesn’t exit. This is not a paradox but still weird, where conclusion of this statement is in doubt as how two things are differently consider the one? This seems that it will be all about neurological concept but still resides in concept of pain when one has whether in his / her mind or in body. For an instance, suppose a doctor has a experiment on patient and what he needs is to operate his certain body part then what he will do; he inject something in his body part so as to unconscious the given part. Then question here is, that patient is still conscious but when we talk about the given body part which doctor inject something in it is unconscious, so what is the basic problem related body mind problem as here, certain body part is inactive but mind is conscious; then who is superior at that time? For my perspective, none is superior at that time and both are different when on treatment, but when talk about lifeline of certain person then this is not.

Another condition here is, if person’s whole body is deactivated by the doctors and then a treatment on his / her certain body part then what will happen? Either person’s mind observe this event or person’s affected body part will observe this event, but who will observe at that time and are they one at that time? Well, answer is not hidden in the whole body but in a peculiar region of affected part of body as we generally observe when we take medicine for headache, stomach, arm pain, or whatever we are facing; we find, we take medicine that is suitable for affected area, not for whole body (which of course is a common sense). However, mind body problem is not only hidden inside the neurological realm but also is a peculiar consciousness. The mind body problem leads us to the cause of peculiar consciousness as consciousness is responsible for every single or even quantum thing / particle that certainly or uncertainly cease our view to observe the world.

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