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Mind-Body Problem


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#1 Erasmus00

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 03:17 PM

Many religions, especially western, tend to link the soul with the intellect/mental capacity, as seperate from the body. In this way, when the body dies, the soul, usually meaning personality/intellect, ascends to heaven. It seems a mind/body dualism is important.

However, the possiblity of organic brain damage pretty much conclusively ties mind to body. How do religions get around this problem? i.e., if a person suffers personality changing brain damage, does his soul change as well? Which personality ascends to heaven, pre-brain damage or post-brain damage? If a bit of damage to the brain can slow someones mental faculties, shouldn't complete shut down of the brain end them entirely? If the body is intimately linked to the mind, when the body shuts down shouldn't the mind?
-Will

#2 bumab

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 03:33 PM

Good question!

Materialism- the belief that the human person is a material object only. Thus, the mind is a material object. When the material object "dies," does it cease to exist? No- all the parts are still here. So could the mind possibly exist? All it's parts still exist, they just are not in the arrangement they once were.

If the body can go from one coherent whole to distantly seperated parts, and still exist (albeit in a very unrecognizable way), couldn't the mind also go from one coherent part and still exist? Perhaps it transforms from material to immaterial at death? That's not as outrageous as it sounds. When your cat dies, it goes from being a material object- YOUR cat- and becomes an immaterial thing- your memory of your cat.

..sorry to those who have recently lost a cat...

#3 skuinders

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 04:20 PM

I happen to conduct neuroscience research so this topic is somewhat near to me. The soul notion is often criticized with the "ghost in the machine" argument which asks: by what means can a non-physical entity (eg. the soul) interact with the physical world? There is overwhelming evidence now that suggests the mind comes from the brain, period. The vast majority of neuroscientists dismiss the soul argument completely.

#4 Biochemist

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 05:03 PM

...There is overwhelming evidence now that suggests the mind comes from the brain, period....

That surprises me. The thought/brain connection is so weak that I do not understand how you could describe this as "overwhelming". Could you elaborate?

#5 skuinders

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 05:44 PM

That surprises me. The thought/brain connection is so weak that I do not understand how you could describe this as "overwhelming". Could you elaborate?

Sure, just watch an fMRI... extensive research has even been done by many groups to map out the specific parts of the brain responsible for different kinds of thought (eg. Broca's area transforms abstract thoughts into words, the frontal lobes for creating the arguments that I post here). If you would like more detailed information, there is a lot of data available on human thought and the brain in various neuroscience or cogsci journals.

#6 Hawkens

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 05:59 PM

However, the possiblity of organic brain damage pretty much conclusively ties mind to body.


How do you know that a brain damaged person has their mind destroyed at all? For all we know, they cannot control their body. There is know way to know for sure what exactly is going on inside or what it's like to have brain damaged without trying it out personally.

Maybe one day they will be able to cure it and we will know..... :)

I would think that your mind is fine but the wires connecting the mind to the body are a mess. Anyone ever thought out exactly what they were going to say to somebody but when the time came to say it, you messed it all up when you tried to speak what you were thinking?

#7 Biochemist

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 06:12 PM

Sure, just watch an fMRI... extensive research has even been done by many groups to map out the specific parts of the brain responsible for different kinds of thought ..

Sorry, I was not more specific. I am reasonably aware of brain imaging techniques. I wasn't trying to "catch" you. I just did not ask my question well.

We have had lots of indicators of the locations of certian kinds of brain activity including the regions that are cognitive (e.g., the cortex) the regions that are mood (e.g., the limbic systems) etc for decades. But the mechanism for generation of a thought (versus where it resides when it occurs) is still pretty vague. I don't think we have established why certain folks experience different stimuli so differently (that is, why people "think" differently fomr the same inputs).

We have a lot of experience with drugs affecting mood, and some trivial examples of drugs affecting general cognitive ability, but the process to generate a thought de novo is pretty unclear.

I thought.

#8 Erasmus00

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 06:48 PM

How do you know that a brain damaged person has their mind destroyed at all? For all we know, they cannot control their body. There is know way to know for sure what exactly is going on inside or what it's like to have brain damaged without trying it out personally.


Certain areas of the brain, when damaged, don't effect control of the body at all. Certain types of brain damage can turn you into a pathological liar, for instance. Personality alteration, and the like.
-Will

#9 bumab

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 06:57 PM

Certain areas of the brain, when damaged, don't effect control of the body at all. Certain types of brain damage can turn you into a pathological liar, for instance. Personality alteration, and the like.
-Will


This seems the best evidence to date that the mind is identical to the brain. Fishteacher brought up another study where high intensity magnetic fields influence peoples choice of random objects, and the people were not aware of the influence, lending credence to this idea as well.

But, again, just because the mind appears to be identical to the brain, that doesn't mean it expires at death, or any of those other conclusions.

#10 Gurdur

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 09:45 PM

Regardless of the known biological foundation of the mind (*), the mind is so sufficiently complex that the mind cannot be described in the vocabulary of neurology. The mind/body problem does not rest in the end on any introduction of things like souls, it rests on the fact that the mind is so complex it must be described on its own terms and cannot be reduced down to mere neurology (owing to the necessary presuppotionalism in science).

Thus, though we know the mind to be based on the body, we cannot then explain all the mind in terms of bodily functions --- try explaining prescriptive but subjective ethics, just for example.

Merely stating the body is a necessary foundation for the mind does not explain the mind; in the very end, we may come up with a good explanation for the making of the mind, but we can still never know for sure.
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(*) The mind is not just the "brain"; given the vegetative nervous system, the glands in the body and the whole body schemata then represented in the brain, the mind is the whole body (in a healthy individual), not just the brain. Just a pedantic note

#11 skuinders

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Posted 15 July 2005 - 10:33 PM

But the mechanism for generation of a thought (versus where it resides when it occurs) is still pretty vague.

My initial point was that we have strong evidence that shows the connection between mind and brain and that the former is a consequence of the latter. The correlation between physical and mental activity is (and has been) clearly observable and thus one could make the "ghost in the machine" argument against the soul with confidence. So, while we do not know all the details of thought generation, a soul proponent is still left making extra assumptions. A book that discusses the mind and brain in depth (but not great detail) is How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker from MIT... it might answer more of your questions.