Philosophy of mind  

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This page Philosophy of mind is part of the mind series. Illustration: The Heart Has its Reasons (c. 1887) by Odilon Redon
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This page Philosophy of mind is part of the mind series.
Illustration: The Heart Has its Reasons (c. 1887) by Odilon Redon

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as one key issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues concerning the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the physical body, such as how consciousness is possible and the nature of particular mental states.

Dualism and monism are the two major schools of thought that attempt to resolve the mind-body problem. Dualism can be traced back to Plato, and the Sankhya and Yoga schools of Hindu philosophy, but it was most precisely formulated by René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance Dualists argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas Property Dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.

Monism is the position that mind and body are not ontologically distinct kinds of entities. This view was first advocated in Western philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th century BC and was later espoused by the 17th century rationalist Baruch Spinoza. Physicalists argue that only the entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that the mind will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind. Neutral monists such as Ernst Mach and William James argue that events in the world can be thought of as either mental (psychological) or physical depending on the network of relationships into which they enter, and dual-aspect monists such as Spinoza adhere to the position that there is some other, neutral substance, and that both matter and mind are properties of this unknown substance. The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and functionalism.

Most modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive or non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, especially in the fields of sociobiology, computer science, evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences. Other philosophers, however, adopt a non-physicalist position that challenges the notion that the mind is a purely physical construct. Reductive physicalists assert that all mental states and properties will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological processes and states. Non-reductive physicalists argue that although the brain is all there is to the mind, the predicates and vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level explanations of physical science. Continued neuroscientific progress has helped to clarify some of these issues. However, they are far from having been resolved, and modern philosophers of mind continue to ask how the subjective qualities and the intentionality (aboutness) of mental states and properties can be explained in naturalistic terms.

The mind-body problem concerns the explanation of the relationship that exists between mind, and body processes. Our old experiences depend on stimulation that arrive at our various Sensory organs from the external world, and these stimulation cause changes in our mental states causing us to feel a sensation, which may be pleasant or unpleasant. Someone's desire for a slice of pizza, for example, will tend to cause that person to move his or her body in a specific manner and in a specific direction to obtain what he or she wants. The question, then, is how it can be possible for conscious experiences to arise out of a lump of gray matter endowed with nothing but electrochemical properties.A related problem is how someone's propositional attitudes (e.g. beliefs and desires) cause that individual's neurons to fire and his muscles to contract.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Philosophy of mind" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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