THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM
The Mind Body Problem: The Synthesis Perspective – Two Give Rise to One
Written by Dr. Nash Popovic
It does not seem that the above possibilities provide an adequate explanation for the relationship between the brain and the mind. Although many of the theories have some elements that ring true, none of them are fully satisfactory. To summarise the main problems, materialism does not adequately explain experience and agency, while dualism cannot explain the interaction between mind and matter. A fresh look at the issue is required.
As philosopher McGinn puts it, ‘consciousness is an anomaly in our present world-view and, like all anomalies, it calls for some more or less drastic rectification in that relative to which it is anomalous.’ (1995, p.226). The model described below is an attempt to do just that and is based on the following postulates:
- The mind heavily depends on the nervous system (including the brain) and its development. This is not controversial, so it does not need further elaboration.
- As the above criticism of the materialist perspective shows, the mind cannot be identified with the brain. Even Aristotle argued that the mind must be immaterial on the basis that a material organ could not have the range and flexibility required for human thought. Similarly, in modern times, mathematician Gödel, for example, believed that his famous theorem showed that humans are capable of demonstrably rational forms of mathematical thought which could not be exhibited by a mechanical or formal system of the sort that mind would have to be if only physical. Brentano’s notion of the irreducible flexibility of intellect points in the same direction.
- Rather than being a discrete entity (as a brain is), the mind is considered a convenient name for the sum of mental events belonging to one person. These mental events must be interactive processes, otherwise the mind would be merely an epiphenomenon. And, if this interaction is only between the environment and the body/brain (as behaviourism suggests), the mind