This essay aims to characterize the philosophical question of the mind/body problem. In this essay will explore the philosophical works of dualism and behaviourism, leading to a summarised account of the arguments and their critiques, where I will add my own interpretation of the arguments to present a conclusion. Schopenhauer called the mind-body problem 'the world knot', a puzzle that is beyond our capacity to solve (Robinson and Groves, 2001, P82-3).
In philosophy, the mind/body problem asks the questions of whether the mind and body are a single working substance known as 'monism', or are they two distinct properties - a mind, an external, immaterial entity working within a physical material body. It is however approached by varying philosophical schools of thought, that mind and body are in some way related seems indubitable, and has not been seriously disputed (Warburton, 1999 P 130, Robinson and Groves, Pp60 & 123 Horner and Westacott 2000, P62).
Dualism is an area of philosophical thought, where human beings are made up of two radically different components (Maunter, 2000, P152). The mind or the 'mental' is seen as an external entity, which is immaterial and cannot be located in the body. This entity of the mental is where thinking processes occur - not in the brain, as the brain denotes the physical world. To the dualist it is difficult to see how a material object such as the brain is able to perceive and appreciate things such as art.
Cartesian dualism is the foremost school of thought in regards to the mind/body problem (Warburton, 1999, P131). Descartes conceived the mind as an entity in its own right, a 'mental substance', the essential nature of which is 'thinking', or consciousness. Descartes envisaged two domains of entities, one consisting of immaterial minds and the other of material bodies. Descartes' mind-body doctrine combines substance dualism, i. e. the dualism of two distinct kinds of substances, with attribute or property dualism, i. e. he dualism of mental and physical properties.
In Descartes meditations, he writes of the difference between the concept of 'myself' and the concept of my 'body', Descartes felt he could doubt the existyence of his body, but not his own existence - he therefore felt he was more than merely a body. In this view we see Descartes Cogito ergo sum - I think, therefore I am. An other aspect in the cartesian view is the belief that the mind can survive after bodily death, either by living in the 'spiritual world' or by reincarnation (Maunter, 2000, P71).
Behaviourism is an altogether different approach to the mind/body problem when compared to dualism (Warburton, 1999, P140-141). As the behaviourist sees it, the 'mind' simply does not exist. The behaviourist would argue that all behaviour and feelings could be represented as physical occurrences. For example, for one to feel irritated, they would behave in a particular manner, it is expected that one would have the tendencies to shout, stamp their feet and so on. The behaviourist suggests that when one describes a mental event, they are describing a pattern of behaviour or behavioural tendencies expected (Maunter, 2000, P64).
Through these descriptions we are led to believe that the mind is separate from the body. A philosopher who was prominent in this view was Gilbert Ryle (1900 - 1976) (Warburton, 1999, P141). He wrote in his book "The Concept of Mind", what he referred to as 'the ghost in the machine', the ghost being the illusion of mind and the machine being the body (Warburton, 1999, P141). Ryle's distinctly states that he has no belief in ghosts that refers to Descartes 'mind'. Ryle's called this a 'category mistakes' (Robinson and Groves, 2001, P143).
Dualism and behaviourism, two prominent concepts in the mind/body problem, with very differing and competing theories, yet, both are subject to great criticisms. The main critique of mind/body dualism is that it does not allow for scientific investigation, therefore it does not directly answer the actual question of what mind is. It simply implies that the mind is an external entity that thinks, dreams and so on. Therefore only the effects of the mind on the world can be and are investigated. By indirectly considering our own thoughts. This in the dualist view is known as introspection (Warburton, 1999, Pp131-132).
A critique of behaviourism is that it does not include any reference to qualia - the phenomenal character of a mental state (Maunter, 2000, P463). To turn all mental processes as forms of behaviour, qualia are found to be in no part of the equation. In this view to be irritated is to simply shout and stamp ones feet is merely a way of behaving - not a mental state or process - it does not however, explain what it is to be irritated, which is an essential process of a mental state - though this is ignored by the behaviourist school of thought (Robinson and Groves, 2001, P145).
This can particularly be seen through the joke: "Two behaviourists have sex, when they finish, the one turns to the other and says it was good for you how was it for me? " (Warburton, 1999) Although the concept of mind/body dualism is very appealing, if I was to raise my hand and say "yes, I believe this", it would be for dualism. I do however; have a few reservations about cartesian dualism. The idea of the mind surviving bodily death in a spiritual realm seems a little far-fetched and fairly romanticised, as is reincarnation.
In my view, the mind does live on after death, but not as a mystical entity, but in the minds of others. By this, the concept of ones own mind does survive bodily death. I believe also that the mind can infinite - this would come from written works - where evidence of the author remains, or especially these days through movies and television. My argument with the behaviourism is if all mental events are represented physically - what happens when a person loses the ability to use their body?
I base this assumption on individual's suffering from motor neuron disease, for example Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest contemporary scientists, yet he now has no control of his own body, yet continues to be a prominent figure in the world of physics - this as I see it displays distinct mind/body separation. In conclusion, In an essay of this size, it is almost impossible to present all aspect of the arguments and their critiques in full, two prominent views are that of dualism and behaviourism, they do, however, come from very different stand points.
As with much philosophical debate the answer is not always foremost in its concern, simply the debate itself. Mind/body has and will undoubtedly be one of those debates. In an essay of this size, it is almost impossible for the works of philosophers in this area to be truly appreciated, Schopenhauer called the mind-body problem 'the world knot', and a puzzle that is beyond our capacity to solve, and that it certainly seems to be!