The philosophy of mind was born when philosophers realized the concept of the human mind and its mysteries. The mission of this new branch of philosophy was to understand and explain the nature and the aspects of the human mind as well as how all these concepts connect each other.
The human mind is the object of study of various sciences such as psychology, biology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. All these sciences examine the human mind from their perspective following the classic approach of observation-experimentation-results examination and conclusion. The philosophy of mind uses the method of philosophy reflection. This method consists of the following processes:
o Examination, analysis and clarification of meanings.
o Data harvest through searching necessary facts.
o Use of deductive conclusions.
o Reduction ad absurdum.
o An infinitely repeating process of arguments, trying to reach a level where the fundamentals of the basic human thoughts can be evaluated.
The methods that the philosophy of mind uses are also tested in other philosophical fields. Methods that were successful in other areas are preferable to be used.
The conclusions achieved in other scientific fields, which also study the brain and the mind (from a different point of view), affect the findings of the philosophy of mind. Thus, the philosophers must always form their research based on the latest updates and development of other related scientific fields.
Characteristics of Mind
The Philosophy of Mind distinguishes mental phenomena from physical phenomena using the following characteristics:
o Inward accessibility
o Creativity and Freedom
The inward accessibility refers to the meaning that we are the only human beings who know how we feel and think. Nobody else can experience our sensations and mental states. Thus, our mental phenomena are inward accessible from us through introspection. Eating is an example of inward accessibility. The flavor of the food you eat is only available to you.
Subjectivity refers to certain experiences that are subjective to you. For instance, if you have an itch, you are the only person who feels it. Such mental phenomena have a subjective nature.
Some thoughts have the intentionality attribute. Intentional thoughts are about other thoughts or objects that have a particular property or relation with another object. We may desire an object, like an expensive sports car, we may like it or dislike it. Such attitudes towards the object give us a direction upon it. Intentionality is the way that we are being directed.
You can understand the idea of intentionality better with the following pictures. In figure 1 you have three objects arranged randomly. This random setup does not provide any information and has no meaning.
But, if the same three objects arranged as in figure 2, then you see an arrow pointing to the circle, instead of the two random shapes. While you still see the rectangle and the triangle, this special arrangement gives to your mind a message of direction towards the circle. This means that there is intentionality in the figure 2.
Fig 1: Random Placed Objects without Intentionality
Fig 2: Objects with Intentionality
I think that Intentionality maybe is the reason that many companies use in their visual advertisements hidden shapes or words. Such messages are not detectable when you see them as they are perfectly blended in the ad picture. But, as your eyes scan the image, your subconscious mind identifies the Intentionality of the picture and gets the hidden message. Ok, this is just a thought of mine and I don’t know if it is true. Anyway, Goal-directedness follows.
Goal-Directedness is a mind characteristic that accompanies mental phenomena that are interrelated. These mental phenomena are also parts of an intelligent entity that leads us to complete our goals.
The natural process of Goal-directedness begins with the sensation of the events in our environment. Afterward, the understanding of these events follows. Finally the usage of this information together with our remembered experiences, adjust our actions to complete our goals.
Creativity and freedom is a significant characteristic of the human mind. We have the freedom of choice and imagination. This means that we can exhibit creativity in our choices, imagining things that we have not yet experienced. In this way, we can become unpredictable.
Consciousness is related to inward accessibility and subjectivity. This mind characteristic is not fully understandable yet but is the closest term to describe the conscious mental phenomena. In some way, we know that we know.
The central issue in Philosophy of Mind concerns the existence of the mind itself. There are two fundamental views of the mind. There are theories considering the mind as a material and others that consider it as an immaterial. There are also some neutral theories.
The Mind as a Material
There are three materialism theories, The Eliminative materialism, the behaviorism and the central-state theory.
The eliminative materialism is an extreme view of the human mind considering that there are no such things as sensations, feelings, images and emotions. According to eliminative materialists, all these mental phenomena are non-existent and are completely hypothetical and must be discarded.
An alternative to eliminative materialism is the reductive materialism. Reductive materialists use the terms of feelings, sensations, etc. but only as physical properties of the brain.
Behaviorism and central-state theories derived from the reductive materialism when the sensations, feelings, etc. had to be defined. These two theories are alternative answers proposed by the reductive materialists.
Behaviorism is the view that, sensations, feelings, etc. refer to the behavior or movements of the bodies. Behaviorists analyze the mental terms as behavioral terms so that any mental state to be synonymous with a particular action.
The central-state view considers that mental phenomena have no difference from any state or activity of the human body. Thus, all mental terms are different states of the central nervous system or the brain. For example, the hunger is a state of the mind while the feeling of pain is another state.
The Mind as Immaterial
The first immaterialist was Plato. He defended the view that the human mind exists and it is immaterial. Also, he believed that the mind is separated from the body and can also exist without it. The Dualism theory was born.
Plato was a dualist. Another dualist was Rene Descartes. He believed in the explicit view that mind and matter are two completely different substances, and each one can exist separately.
The question that the dualists had to deal with was if these two elements can affect each other. This issue is also known as the mind-body problem.
Some human behaviors may involve both the mind and the body. An example would be a very noisy environment where you cannot stand the volume, and you close your ears. While Dualists tried to explain these phenomena, they proposed two interesting theories.
The first view was suggested by Descartes and it is called Interactionism. Descartes said that the mind and the body can affect each other with their functions. So, any mind function affects the body and vice versa.
The second theory is called Epiphenomenalism and is that only the body is capable affecting the mind. The Mind cannot affect the body. This view resulted when the interactionism could not explain the brain functions under neurology terms.
The Irish philosopher George Berkeley dealt the mind-body problem differently. He claimed that everything is immaterial, and no material objects exist. His View was that minds and ideas constitute the whole world. What seems to be material is just a mental perception. This concept of the human mind is called monism.
Perry, John. “Philosophy of Mind.” Microsoft Student 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
“” philosophy of mind.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica 2009 Student and Home Edition. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009.
Philosophy of Mind, www.Wikipedia.org