The Problem of the Mind and Body

A collection of cards focusing the the problem of the mind and body with relation to life after death, consciousness and personal identity.

The Problem of the Mind and Body

‘the problem of giving an account of how minds, or mental processes, are related to the bodily states and processes' -Oxford Companion To Philosophy.

The problem is about how the immaterial mind which does not occupy space interacts with the physical body.

Orginally the theory was fathered by Descartes and is known as Cartesian Dualism. Descartes believed that the mind and body connected through the penal gland, which was a part of the brain that was thought to have no purpose.

However, we now know that this is not the case, and because of such there are a number of other theories which are used to explain how the connection occurs and is possible.

‘What I ordinarily call me, according to Descartes, is actually two things; on one hand, an immaterial […]soul[…]and, on the other, a body.’ –Bernard Williams in Philosophy: Basic Readings

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This is the idea that both aspect of the mind and body exist, and beneath this there are a number of theories expaining the relationship between the two.

Parallelism- The idea that both the mind and body exist, and that they are parallel to each other. However, they are unable to affect one another, for which the below suggestions for the connection are given. -Leibniz

-> Occasionalism- Derived from Parallelism, this is the idea that the mind and body can affect one another only when God allows them to, who bridges the connection between them. -Malebranche

-> Pre-Established Harmony- Again is derived from parallelism, and is the idea that our mind and body were pre-programmed to connect before we came into existence.  -Leibniz

Epiphenomenalism- The idea that has sometimes been considered as monistic. Here the mind is a byproduct of the brain, and because of such the body can affect the mind, and because the mind is only a byproduct, it cannot effect the body. -Huxley

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The idea that only one of the two entities exist. There is not both.

Materialism- The idea that everything is purely physcal, there is no mental properties that exist.

Behaviourism- All factors of us, including our personality, comes down to chemical processes within the brain. Our behaviour is merely a consequence of such.This is a form of materialism.

'Ghost In The Machine'-  Created by Gilber Ryle, this is the idea he put forward that presented the idea of an immaterial mind as something to be ridiculed. In this, he placed the idea that in the case of dualism, the mind is the apparent 'ghost' that runs the controlled 'machine'. As Ryle is a materialist, it is clear that he does not believe the idea of this, and instead is an opposer of him.

Idealism- This is the form of mental monism, and states that everything is purely mental, there is nothing that is physical. In this, everything that appears to be physical is merely an illusion.

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Life After Death

Life after death is something that relates highly to the concept of the mind and body. The reason for this is that the mind can be considered as the soul, and because of such the mind and body problem allows there to be a connection between the soul and body.


Immortality of the Soul- This is the idea that after we die, our soul continues on in the afterlife in heaven or hell as the form of us. This is a Christian theory, and allows simply for the soul to be thought to be our essence of which is connected to the body.

Rebirth- Idea that we are constantly reborn into other bodies until we reach perfection and are able to become one with the universe. This is a Buddhist theory, and the name of the apparant 'soul' form here is the Atman. This can be considered as both Dualistic and Monistic as there is not specifically a soul, and therefore not a mind.

Reincarnation- The idea that our Atman is born into a different body in our next life, of which the quality is dependant on that of our current life. This is a Hindu belief and is Dualistic as it is necessary for the Atman, their form of soul, to exist.

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Life After Death II

Ressurection-This is a purely monistic theory, and is that after we die, God spiritually renews our body to bring us back to life. This is the original Christian concept, and means that we do not need a soul. 

'Replica Theory'- Invented by John Hick, this is the thought experiment that suggests that when we die, we are in a way recreated on another plane whihc is an exact form of us. This is different from a normal replica as it is not merely a copy. By having a 'replica' it is a continuation of our life after we have died, meaning that we are recreated with all of the same problems that we had when we died.

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Personal Identity

This is a problem in relation to the mind and body theory, and presents the factor of what exactly makes us who we are, and how what part of us seperates us from others.

Body Criterion- This is the idea that everything we are comes down to our underlying and unchanging physical structure. Examples of this is our DNA, fingerprints and retina scans.

Mental Criterion- This is the idea that everything is purely mental, our own personal identity is our personalities which come down to our mental experiences. This is, therefore, a Dualist conecept, but can also be taken as an idealist one.

Mind Criterion- This si the idea that everything we are comes down to our memories and our previous experiences as they are different from everyone.

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The meaning of the term Qualia is consciousness.

Relating to the factor of the mind and body problem. It is the discussion of how far we can think of consciousness.

We believe that we are conscious, however, we are unable to know whether others are conscious, we are only able to suggest others consciousness through shared experiences, such as that that we know if we step on a piece of lego, it will hurt. 

There is also the fact that we only believe ourselves to be conscious, yet we are known to percieve things differently to other people. Something we may see as red others may see as a dark orange.

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