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Running Head: MIND-BODY PROBLEM
The Mind-Body Problem Chad A. Cohan University of Phoenix
2 The Mind-Body Problem
Philosophers and scientistshave debated the unknown for years. One such issue that has pervaded philosophers and scientistsin debate has been the issue of mind-body dualism. Mindbody dualism "assumes the existence of two distinct principles of being in the universe: spirit and matter, or soul and body." (Kazlev, 2004) The concept of dualism can be linked all the way back to Plato (Duke & Hicken & Nicoll & Robinson & Strachan, 1995) and Aristotle(Robinson, 1983). But the argument over mind-body dualism came into existence most profoundly when introduced by Rene Descartes. Rene Descartes postulated that the body is a living, physical entity that takes up space and is able to participate in moving, similar to a car. He also argued that the mind is an immaterial substance and does nottake up any space. The realm of the mind and consciousness is related to the physical body and evidence supports the idea that there is no independent mind. The realm of mind and consciousness is awareness. Descartes once said, "I think, therefore I am." (Baird, F.E. & Kaufmann, W., 2008) The meaning of this statement is that a person pondering on their existence is alone proof of existence. Thus, awareness is considered to be the realm of mind and consciousness. In a recent study, according to the University of Leicester (2008), scientists have postulated that they have found cells in the brain that become very busy only when something is being explicitly noticed. Volunteers of the realm of consciousness study were displayed pictures on a computer screen for a brief amount of time, just enough for the picture to be noticeable. The volunteers were inquired each time whether they saw the picture or not. While the volunteers pictured the images or not, researchers were watching what was happening in the brain during this exercise. Certain neurons fired to the perception in an all-or-none way. The mind and consciousness relate to the physical body via one's nervous system. The
nervous system is composed of an array of nerves, thebrain, and spinal cord. The nervous system acts as a mainframe controller of thebody. Information that is sent to your brain is used to activate all your actions and reactions. The brain is thought to be the physical portion which is intertwined with your mind. Your mind is thought to be intangible things such as emotions, thoughts, and perceptions. The study of the brain has made it abundantly clear that our thoughts exist as measurable forms of energies / electricity in the brain tissue (Mo, 2006). For example, your arm will lift if you stimulate a particular part of the brain. This implies that thoughts are some form of matter. Furthermore, according to Mo (2006), brain activity was simultaneously paralleled with the thought of a single word by researchers at the University of New Mexico conducting a study using a refined functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique. The concept of an independent mind that transcends physical functions of the body through the central nervous system is not completely justified and can be countered with contrasting evidence. It appears that the mind controls the body in the way the electrical system controls a computer. Therefore, the mind affects practically everything in one's body. For example, the mind is dependent on the specific sense organs. The senses themselves are alterations of the nerve ends that have specific ways for facilitating stimuli to act on the nerve ends. Let's take the eye, for example. The eye is basically the optic nerve diffused to create the retina and is mutated in specific ways to make it perceptive to vibrations. To illustrate, suppose one sees a picture on the wall. My eyes, the light, and the optic nerves are all the physical parts that are involved in seeing the picture. However, in order to see the picture, our mind must be conscious of it. If one was to close his or her eyes, he or she would not see the picture. Or if one had an eye disease and could not see out of his or her eyes, then this person would also not be able to see the picture. This is proof that the mind is dependent on the central nervous system (Pyle, 2009).
Free will seems to be the most common defense that is associated with proving that the mind and body are separate. But evidence suggests that free will is not always "free" in the typical sense and free will, according to some studies,is compatible with the mind and body not being separate entities. Brandon Keim (2008) of Wired Science in his article "Is Free Will an Illusion" states that "Long before you’re consciously aware of making a decision, your mind has already made it." He cites a study to prove that people are not always free in theirdecisionmaking. For example, if oneasked you to press a button, you'd be able to "choose" which hand to press it with, right? Keim (2008) in his article "Is Free Will an Illusion" cites the study conducted by neuroscientists at the Max Planck Institute in which the people being tested in the experiment were asked to choose whether to press a button with their right or left hand. It turned out that seven seconds before they experienced making the choice, their brain activity all ready predicted their lasting decisions. The Max Planck's study co-author John-Dylan Haynes stated, "Your decisions are strongly prepared by brain activity. By the time consciousness kicks in, most of the work has already been done." (Keim, "Brain Scanners," 2008) Furthermore, Haynes upgraded a prototypical experiment conducted by the now deceased Benjamin Libet. Libet, prior to Haynes' experiment, displayed that a neural activity in a particular brain region fired that involved synchronizing motor activity, for a fraction of a second before, the people in the experiments chose to push a button (Keim, "Brain Scanners," 2008). This is evidence that some of our decisions are all ready determined for us. The realm of the mind and consciousness is related to the physical body and the evidence points to the notion that an independent mind is far from proven. The realm of mind and consciousness is awareness. The mind and consciousness work in conjunction with the physical body. The concept of an independent mind that transcends physical functions of the body
through the central nervous system is not completely justified and can be countered with contrasting evidence. The mind is dependent on the sense organs, just one of many examples that the mind is not independent of the body. Evidence also exists that free will does not presuppose an independent mind. Contemporary evidence suggests that the mind or our consciousness is part of our body and is based on chemical reactions in our brain.
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