Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature
of the mind. The mind–body problem is a paradigm issue in philosophy
of mind, although other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem
of consciousness, and the nature of particular mental states.
Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental
functions, mental properties, consciousness, the ontology of the mind,
the nature of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.
Dualism and monism are the two central schools of thought on the
mind–body problem, although nuanced views have arisen that do not
fit one or the other category neatly. Dualism is seen even in the
Eastern tradition, in the
Yoga schools of Hindu
philosophy, and Plato, but its entry into
Western philosophy was
René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance dualists
Descartes argue that the mind is an independently existing
substance, whereas property dualists maintain that the mind is a group
of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to
the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.
Monism is the position that mind and body are not ontologically
distinct entities (independent substances). This view was first
Western philosophy by
Parmenides in the 5th century BCE
and was later espoused by the 17th century rationalist Baruch
Spinoza. Physicalists argue that only entities postulated by
physical theory exist, and that mental processes will eventually be
explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to
evolve. Physicalists maintain various positions on the prospects of
reducing mental properties to physical properties (many of whom adopt
compatible forms of property dualism), and the
ontological status of such mental properties remains
unclear. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that
exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an
illusion created by the mind. Neutral monists such as
Ernst Mach and
William James argue that events in the world can be thought of as
either mental (psychological) or physical depending on the network of
relationships into which they enter, and dual-aspect monists such as
Spinoza adhere to the position that there is some other, neutral
substance, and that both matter and mind are properties of this
unknown substance. The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st
centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions
include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and
Most modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive or
non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different
ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. These
approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences,
especially in the fields of sociobiology, computer science,
evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences.
Reductive physicalists assert that all mental states and properties
will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological
processes and states. Non-reductive physicalists argue
that although the mind is not a separate substance, mental properties
supervene on physical properties, or that the predicates and
vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are
indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level
explanations of physical science. Continued neuroscientific
progress has helped to clarify some of these issues; however, they are
far from being resolved. Modern philosophers of mind continue to ask
how the subjective qualities and the intentionality of mental states
and properties can be explained in naturalistic terms.
1 Mind–body problem
2 Dualist solutions to the mind–body problem
2.1 Arguments for dualism
2.2 Interactionist dualism
2.3 Other forms of dualism
2.3.1 Psychophysical parallelism
2.3.4 Dual aspect theory
2.3.5 Experiential dualism
3 Monist solutions to the mind–body problem
3.1 Physicalistic monisms
3.1.2 Identity theory
3.1.4 Non-reductive physicalism
3.1.5 Weak emergentism
3.1.6 Eliminative materialism
3.2 Non-physicalist monisms
3.2.2 Neutral monism
5 Linguistic criticism of the mind–body problem
Externalism and internalism
7 Naturalism and its problems
Philosophy of perception
Philosophy of mind and science
9.4 Cognitive science
Philosophy of mind in the continental tradition
Mind in Eastern philosophy
Mind in Hindu philosophy
Vedanta monistic idealism
Buddhist philosophy of mind
Abhidharma theories of mind
11.2.2 Indian Mahayana
11.2.3 Tibetan Buddhism
12 Topics related to philosophy of mind
12.1 Free will
13 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
Main article: Mind–body problem
The mind–body problem concerns the explanation of the relationship
that exists between minds, or mental processes, and bodily states or
processes. The main aim of philosophers working in this area is to
determine the nature of the mind and mental states/processes, and
how—or even if—minds are affected by and can affect the body.
Our perceptual experiences depend on stimuli that arrive at our
various sensory organs from the external world, and these stimuli
cause changes in our mental states, ultimately causing us to feel a
sensation, which may be pleasant or unpleasant. Someone's desire for a
slice of pizza, for example, will tend to cause that person to move
his or her body in a specific manner and in a specific direction to
obtain what he or she wants. The question, then, is how it can be
possible for conscious experiences to arise out of a lump of gray
matter endowed with nothing but electrochemical properties.
A related problem is how someone's propositional attitudes (e.g.
beliefs and desires) cause that individual's neurons to fire and
muscles to contract. These comprise some of the puzzles that have
confronted epistemologists and philosophers of mind from at least the
time of René Descartes.
Dualist solutions to the mind–body problem
Dualism is a set of views about the relationship between mind and
matter (or body). It begins with the claim that mental phenomena are,
in some respects, non-physical. One of the earliest known
formulations of mind–body dualism was expressed in the eastern
Yoga schools of
Hindu philosophy (c. 650 BCE), which
divided the world into purusha (mind/spirit) and prakriti (material
substance). Specifically, the
Yoga Sutra of
Patanjali presents an
analytical approach to the nature of the mind.
In Western Philosophy, the earliest discussions of dualist ideas are
in the writings of
Plato who maintained that humans' "intelligence" (a
faculty of the mind or soul) could not be identified with, or
explained in terms of, their physical body. However, the
best-known version of dualism is due to
René Descartes (1641), and
holds that the mind is a non-extended, non-physical substance, a "res
Descartes was the first to clearly identify the mind
with consciousness and self-awareness, and to distinguish this from
the brain, which was the seat of intelligence. He was therefore the
first to formulate the mind–body problem in the form in which it
still exists today.
Arguments for dualism
The most frequently used argument in favor of dualism appeals to the
common-sense intuition that conscious experience is distinct from
inanimate matter. If asked what the mind is, the average person would
usually respond by identifying it with their self, their personality,
their soul, or some other such entity. They would almost certainly
deny that the mind simply is the brain, or vice versa, finding the
idea that there is just one ontological entity at play to be too
mechanistic, or simply unintelligible. Many modern philosophers of
mind think that these intuitions are misleading and that we should use
our critical faculties, along with empirical evidence from the
sciences, to examine these assumptions to determine whether there is
any real basis to them.
Another important argument in favor of dualism is that the mental and
the physical seem to have quite different, and perhaps irreconcilable,
properties. Mental events have a subjective quality, whereas
physical events do not. So, for example, one can reasonably ask what a
burnt finger feels like, or what a blue sky looks like, or what nice
music sounds like to a person. But it is meaningless, or at least odd,
to ask what a surge in the uptake of glutamate in the dorsolateral
portion of the hippocampus feels like.
Philosophers of mind call the subjective aspects of mental events
"qualia" or "raw feels". There is something that it is like to
feel pain, to see a familiar shade of blue, and so on. There are
qualia involved in these mental events that seem particularly
difficult to reduce to anything physical.
David Chalmers explains this
argument by stating that we could conceivably know all the objective
information about something, such as the brain states and wavelengths
of light involved with seeing the color red, but still not know
something fundamental about the situation – what it is like to see
the color red.
If consciousness (the mind) can exist independently of physical
reality (the brain), one must explain how physical memories are
created concerning consciousness. Dualism must therefore explain how
consciousness affects physical reality. One possible explanation is
that of a miracle, proposed by
Arnold Geulincx and Nicolas
Malebranche, where all mind–body interactions require the direct
intervention of God.
Another possible argument that has been proposed by C. S. Lewis is
the Argument from Reason: if, as monism implies, all of our thoughts
are the effects of physical causes, then we have no reason for
assuming that they are also the consequent of a reasonable ground.
Knowledge, however, is apprehended by reasoning from ground to
consequent. Therefore, if monism is correct, there would be no way of
knowing this—or anything else—we could not even suppose it, except
by a fluke.
The zombie argument is based on a thought experiment proposed by Todd
Moody, and developed by
David Chalmers in his book The Conscious Mind.
The basic idea is that one can imagine one's body, and therefore
conceive the existence of one's body, without any conscious states
being associated with this body. Chalmers' argument is that it seems
possible that such a being could exist because all that is needed is
that all and only the things that the physical sciences describe about
a zombie must be true of it. Since none of the concepts involved in
these sciences make reference to consciousness or other mental
phenomena, and any physical entity can be by definition described
scientifically via physics, the move from conceivability to
possibility is not such a large one. Others such as Dennett have
argued that the notion of a philosophical zombie is an incoherent,
or unlikely, concept. It has been argued under physicalism that
one must either believe that anyone including oneself might be a
zombie, or that no one can be a zombie—following from the assertion
that one's own conviction about being (or not being) a zombie is a
product of the physical world and is therefore no different from
anyone else's. This argument has been expressed by Dennett who argues
that "Zombies think they are conscious, think they have qualia, think
they suffer pains—they are just 'wrong' (according to this
lamentable tradition) in ways that neither they nor we could ever
discover!" See also the problem of other minds.
René Descartes by
Frans Hals (1648)
Interactionist dualism, or simply interactionism, is the particular
form of dualism first espoused by
Descartes in the Meditations. In
the 20th century, its major defenders have been
Karl Popper and John
Carew Eccles. It is the view that mental states, such as beliefs
and desires, causally interact with physical states.
Descartes' famous argument for this position can be summarized as
follows: Seth has a clear and distinct idea of his mind as a thinking
thing that has no spatial extension (i.e., it cannot be measured in
terms of length, weight, height, and so on). He also has a clear and
distinct idea of his body as something that is spatially extended,
subject to quantification and not able to think. It follows that mind
and body are not identical because they have radically different
At the same time, however, it is clear that Seth's mental states
(desires, beliefs, etc.) have causal effects on his body and vice
versa: A child touches a hot stove (physical event) which causes pain
(mental event) and makes her yell (physical event), this in turn
provokes a sense of fear and protectiveness in the caregiver (mental
event), and so on.
Descartes' argument crucially depends on the premise that what Seth
believes to be "clear and distinct" ideas in his mind are necessarily
true. Many contemporary philosophers doubt this. For
Joseph Agassi suggests that several scientific discoveries
made since the early 20th century have undermined the idea of
privileged access to one's own ideas. Freud claimed that a
psychologically-trained observer can understand a person's unconscious
motivations better than the person himself does. Duhem has shown that
a philosopher of science can know a person's methods of discovery
better than that person herself does, while Malinowski has shown that
an anthropologist can know a person's customs and habits better than
the person whose customs and habits they are. He also asserts that
modern psychological experiments that cause people to see things that
are not there provide grounds for rejecting Descartes' argument,
because scientists can describe a person's perceptions better than the
person herself can.
Other forms of dualism
Four varieties of dualism. The arrows indicate the direction of the
Occasionalism is not shown.
Psychophysical parallelism, or simply parallelism, is the view that
mind and body, while having distinct ontological statuses, do not
causally influence one another. Instead, they run along parallel paths
(mind events causally interact with mind events and brain events
causally interact with brain events) and only seem to influence each
other. This view was most prominently defended by Gottfried
Leibniz. Although Leibniz was an ontological monist who believed that
only one type of substance, the monad, exists in the universe, and
that everything is reducible to it, he nonetheless maintained that
there was an important distinction between "the mental" and "the
physical" in terms of causation. He held that God had arranged things
in advance so that minds and bodies would be in harmony with each
other. This is known as the doctrine of pre-established harmony.
Occasionalism is the view espoused by
Nicholas Malebranche that
asserts that all supposedly causal relations between physical events,
or between physical and mental events, are not really causal at all.
While body and mind are different substances, causes (whether mental
or physical) are related to their effects by an act of God's
intervention on each specific occasion.
Property dualism is the view that the world is constituted of just one
kind of substance – the physical kind – and there exist two
distinct kinds of properties: physical properties and mental
properties. In other words, it is the view that non-physical, mental
properties (such as beliefs, desires and emotions) inhere in some
physical bodies (at least, brains). How mental and physical properties
relate causally depends on the variety of property dualism in
question, and is not always a clear issue. Sub-varieties of property
Strong emergentism asserts that when matter is organized in the
appropriate way (i.e. in the way that living human bodies are
organized), mental properties emerge in a way not fully accountable
for by physical laws. Hence, it is a form of emergent materialism.
These emergent properties have an independent ontological status and
cannot be reduced to, or explained in terms of, the physical substrate
from which they emerge. They are dependent on the physical properties
from which they emerge, but opinions vary as to the coherence of
top–down causation, i.e. the causal effectiveness of such
properties. A form of property dualism has been espoused by David
Chalmers and the concept has undergone something of a renaissance in
recent years, but was already suggested in the 19th century by
Epiphenomenalism is a doctrine first formulated by Thomas Henry
Huxley. It consists of the view that mental phenomena are causally
ineffectual, where one or more mental states do not have any influence
on physical states or mental phenomena are the effects, but not the
causes, of physical phenomena. Physical events can cause other
physical events and physical events can cause mental events, but
mental events cannot cause anything, since they are just causally
inert by-products (i.e. epiphenomena) of the physical world. This
view has been defended most strongly in recent times by Frank
Physicalism is the view that mental properties form a
separate ontological class to physical properties: mental states (such
as qualia) are not reducible to physical states. The ontological
stance towards qualia in the case of non-reductive physicalism does
not imply that qualia are causally inert; this is what distinguishes
it from epiphenomenalism.
Panpsychism is the view that all matter has a mental aspect, or,
alternatively, all objects have a unified center of experience or
point of view. Superficially, it seems to be a form of property
dualism, since it regards everything as having both mental and
physical properties. However, some panpsychists say mechanical
behaviour is derived from primitive mentality of atoms and
molecules—as are sophisticated mentality and organic behaviour, the
difference being attributed to the presence or absence of complex
structure in a compound object. So long as the reduction of non-mental
properties to mental ones is in place, panpsychism is not a (strong)
form of property dualism; otherwise it is.
Dual aspect theory
Dual aspect theory
Dual aspect theory or dual-aspect monism is the view that the mental
and the physical are two aspects of, or perspectives on, the same
substance. (Thus it is a mixed position, which is monistic in some
respects). In modern philosophical writings, the theory's relationship
to neutral monism has become somewhat ill-defined, but one proffered
distinction says that whereas neutral monism allows the context of a
given group of neutral elements and the relationships into which they
enter to determine whether the group can be thought of as mental,
physical, both, or neither, dual-aspect theory suggests that the
mental and the physical are manifestations (or aspects) of some
underlying substance, entity or process that is itself neither mental
nor physical as normally understood. Various formulations of
dual-aspect monism also require the mental and the physical to be
complementary, mutually irreducible and perhaps inseparable (though
This is a philosophy of mind that regards the degrees of freedom
between mental and physical well-being as not necessarily synonymous
thus implying an experiential dualism between body and mind. An
example of these disparate degrees of freedom is given by Allan
Wallace who notes that it is "experientially apparent that one may be
physically uncomfortable—for instance, while engaging in a strenuous
physical workout—while mentally cheerful; conversely, one may be
mentally distraught while experiencing physical comfort".
Experiential dualism notes that our subjective experience of merely
seeing something in the physical world seems qualitatively different
than mental processes like grief that comes from losing a loved one.
This philosophy also is a proponent of causal dualism which is defined
as the dual ability for mental states and physical states to affect
one another. Mental states can cause changes in physical states and
However, unlike cartesian dualism or some other systems, experiential
dualism does not posit two fundamental substances in reality: mind and
matter. Rather, experiential dualism is to be understood as a
conceptual framework that gives credence to the qualitative difference
between the experience of mental and physical states. Experiential
dualism is accepted as the conceptual framework of Madhyamaka
Madhayamaka Buddhism goes even further, finding fault with the monist
view of physicalist philosophies of mind as well in that these
generally posit matter and energy as the fundamental substance of
reality. Nonetheless, this does not imply that the cartesian dualist
view is correct, rather
Madhyamaka regards as error any affirming view
of a fundamental substance to reality.
In denying the independent self-existence of all the phenomena that
make up the world of our experience, the
Madhyamaka view departs from
both the substance dualism of
Descartes and the substance
monism—namely, physicalism—that is characteristic of modern
science. The physicalism propounded by many contemporary scientists
seems to assert that the real world is composed of physical
things-in-themselves, while all mental phenomena are regarded as mere
appearances, devoid of any reality in and of themselves. Much is made
of this difference between appearances and reality.
Indeed physicalism, or the idea that matter is the only fundamental
substance of reality, is explicitly rejected by Buddhism.
Madhyamaka view, mental events are no more or less real than
physical events. In terms of our common-sense experience, differences
of kind do exist between physical and mental phenomena. While the
former commonly have mass, location, velocity, shape, size, and
numerous other physical attributes, these are not generally
characteristic of mental phenomena. For example, we do not commonly
conceive of the feeling of affection for another person as having mass
or location. These physical attributes are no more appropriate to
other mental events such as sadness, a recalled image from one's
childhood, the visual perception of a rose, or consciousness of any
sort. Mental phenomena are, therefore, not regarded as being physical,
for the simple reason that they lack many of the attributes that are
uniquely characteristic of physical phenomena. Thus, Buddhism has
never adopted the physicalist principle that regards only physical
things as real.
Main article: Hylomorphism
Hylomorphism is a theory that originates with Aristotelian philosophy,
which conceives being as a compound of matter and form. "Hylomorphism"
is a 19th-century term formed from the Greek words ὕλη hyle,
"wood, matter", and μορφή, morphē, "form".
Monist solutions to the mind–body problem
In contrast to dualism, monism does not accept any fundamental
divisions. The fundamentally disparate nature of reality has been
central to forms of eastern philosophies for over two millennia. In
Indian and Chinese philosophy, monism is integral to how experience is
understood. Today, the most common forms of monism in Western
philosophy are physicalist. Physicalistic monism asserts that the
only existing substance is physical, in some sense of that term to be
clarified by our best science. However, a variety of formulations
(see below) are possible. Another form of monism, idealism, states
that the only existing substance is mental. Although pure idealism,
such as that of George Berkeley, is uncommon in contemporary Western
philosophy, a more sophisticated variant called panpsychism, according
to which mental experience and properties may be at the foundation of
physical experience and properties, has been espoused by some
philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead and David Ray
Phenomenalism is the theory that representations (or sense data) of
external objects are all that exist. Such a view was briefly adopted
Bertrand Russell and many of the logical positivists during the
early 20th century. A third possibility is to accept the existence
of a basic substance that is neither physical nor mental. The mental
and physical would then both be properties of this neutral substance.
Such a position was adopted by Baruch Spinoza and was popularized
by Ernst Mach in the 19th century. This neutral monism, as it is
called, resembles property dualism.
Main article: Behaviorism
Behaviorism dominated philosophy of mind for much of the 20th century,
especially the first half. In psychology, behaviorism developed as
a reaction to the inadequacies of introspectionism. Introspective
reports on one's own interior mental life are not subject to careful
examination for accuracy and cannot be used to form predictive
generalizations. Without generalizability and the possibility of
third-person examination, the behaviorists argued, psychology cannot
be scientific. The way out, therefore, was to eliminate the idea
of an interior mental life (and hence an ontologically independent
mind) altogether and focus instead on the description of observable
Parallel to these developments in psychology, a philosophical
behaviorism (sometimes called logical behaviorism) was developed.
This is characterized by a strong verificationism, which generally
considers unverifiable statements about interior mental life
pointless. For the behaviorist, mental states are not interior states
on which one can make introspective reports. They are just
descriptions of behavior or dispositions to behave in certain ways,
made by third parties to explain and predict another's behavior.
Philosophical behaviorism has fallen out of favor since the latter
half of the 20th century, coinciding with the rise of cognitivism.
Cognitivists reject behaviorism due to several perceived problems. For
example, behaviorism could be said to be counterintuitive when it
maintains that someone is talking about behavior in the event that a
person is experiencing a painful headache.
Main article: Type physicalism
Type physicalism (or type-identity theory) was developed by John
Smart and Ullin Place as a direct reaction to the failure of
behaviorism. These philosophers reasoned that, if mental states are
something material, but not behavioral, then mental states are
probably identical to internal states of the brain. In very simplified
terms: a mental state M is nothing other than brain state B. The
mental state "desire for a cup of coffee" would thus be nothing more
than the "firing of certain neurons in certain brain regions".
The classic Identity theory and Anomalous
Monism in contrast. For the
Identity theory, every token instantiation of a single mental type
corresponds (as indicated by the arrows) to a physical token of a
single physical type. For anomalous monism, the token–token
correspondences can fall outside of the type–type correspondences.
The result is token identity.
Despite its initial plausibility, the identity theory faces a strong
challenge in the form of the thesis of multiple realizability, first
formulated by Hilary Putnam. It is obvious that not only humans,
but many different species of animals can, for example, experience
pain. However, it seems highly unlikely that all of these diverse
organisms with the same pain experience are in the identical brain
state. And if this is the case, then pain cannot be identical to a
specific brain state. The identity theory is thus empirically
On the other hand, even granted the above, it does not follow that
identity theories of all types must be abandoned. According to token
identity theories, the fact that a certain brain state is connected
with only one mental state of a person does not have to mean that
there is an absolute correlation between types of mental state and
types of brain state. The type–token distinction can be illustrated
by a simple example: the word "green" contains four types of letters
(g, r, e, n) with two tokens (occurrences) of the letter e along with
one each of the others. The idea of token identity is that only
particular occurrences of mental events are identical with particular
occurrences or tokenings of physical events.
Anomalous monism (see
below) and most other non-reductive physicalisms are token-identity
theories. Despite these problems, there is a renewed interest in
the type identity theory today, primarily due to the influence of
Main article: Functionalism (philosophy of mind)
Functionalism was formulated by
Hilary Putnam and
Jerry Fodor as a
reaction to the inadequacies of the identity theory. Putnam and
Fodor saw mental states in terms of an empirical computational theory
of the mind. At about the same time or slightly after, D.M.
David Kellogg Lewis formulated a version of
functionalism that analyzed the mental concepts of folk psychology in
terms of functional roles. Finally, Wittgenstein's idea of meaning
as use led to a version of functionalism as a theory of meaning,
further developed by
Wilfrid Sellars and Gilbert Harman. Another one,
psychofunctionalism, is an approach adopted by the naturalistic
philosophy of mind associated with
Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn.
What all these different varieties of functionalism share in common is
the thesis that mental states are characterized by their causal
relations with other mental states and with sensory inputs and
behavioral outputs. That is, functionalism abstracts away from the
details of the physical implementation of a mental state by
characterizing it in terms of non-mental functional properties. For
example, a kidney is characterized scientifically by its functional
role in filtering blood and maintaining certain chemical balances.
From this point of view, it does not really matter whether the kidney
be made up of organic tissue, plastic nanotubes or silicon chips: it
is the role that it plays and its relations to other organs that
define it as a kidney.
Main article: Physicalism
Non-reductionist philosophers hold firmly to two essential convictions
with regard to mind–body relations: 1)
Physicalism is true and
mental states must be physical states, but 2) All reductionist
proposals are unsatisfactory: mental states cannot be reduced to
behavior, brain states or functional states. Hence, the question
arises whether there can still be a non-reductive physicalism. Donald
Davidson's anomalous monism is an attempt to formulate such a
physicalism. He "thinks that when one runs across what are
traditionally seen as absurdities of Reason, such as akrasia or
self-deception, the personal psychology framework is not to be given
up in favor of the subpersonal one, but rather must be enlarged or
extended so that the rationality set out by the principle of charity
can be found elsewhere."
Davidson uses the thesis of supervenience: mental states supervene on
physical states, but are not reducible to them. "Supervenience"
therefore describes a functional dependence: there can be no change in
the mental without some change in the physical–causal reducibility
between the mental and physical without ontological reducibility.
Because non-reductive physicalist theories attempt to both retain the
ontological distinction between mind and body and to try to solve the
"surfeit of explanations puzzle" in some way; critics often see this
as a paradox and point out the similarities to epiphenomenalism, in
that it is the brain that is seen as the root "cause" not the mind,
and the mind seems to be rendered inert.
Epiphenomenalism regards one or more mental states as the byproduct of
physical brain states, having no influence on physical states. The
interaction is one-way (solving the "surfeit of explanations puzzle")
but leaving us with non-reducible mental states (as a byproduct of
brain states) – causally reducible, but ontologically irreducible to
physical states. Pain would be seen by epiphenomenaliasts as being
caused by the brain state but as not having effects on other brain
states, though it might have effects on other mental states (i.e.
Main article: Emergentism
Weak emergentism is a form of "non-reductive physicalism" that
involves a layered view of nature, with the layers arranged in terms
of increasing complexity and each corresponding to its own special
science. Some philosophers hold that emergent properties causally
interact with more fundamental levels, while others maintain that
higher-order properties simply supervene over lower levels without
direct causal interaction. The latter group therefore holds a less
strict, or "weaker", definition of emergentism, which can be
rigorously stated as follows: a property P of composite object O is
emergent if it is metaphysically impossible for another object to lack
property P if that object is composed of parts with intrinsic
properties identical to those in O and has those parts in an identical
Sometimes emergentists use the example of water having a new property
when Hydrogen H and Oxygen O combine to form H2O (water). In this
example there "emerges" a new property of a transparent liquid that
would not have been predicted by understanding hydrogen and oxygen as
gases. This is analogous to physical properties of the brain giving
rise to a mental state. Emergentists try to solve the notorious
mind–body gap this way. One problem for emergentism is the idea of
"causal closure" in the world that does not allow for a mind-to-body
Main article: Eliminative materialism
If one is a materialist and believes that all aspects of our
common-sense psychology will find reduction to a mature cognitive
neuroscience, and that non-reductive materialism is mistaken, then one
can adopt a final, more radical position: eliminative materialism.
There are several varieties of eliminative materialism, but all
maintain that our common-sense "folk psychology" badly misrepresents
the nature of some aspect of cognition. Eliminativists such as
Paul Churchland argue that while folk psychology treats
cognition as fundamentally sentence-like, the non-linguistic
vector/matrix model of neural network theory or connectionism will
prove to be a much more accurate account of how the brain works.
The Churchlands often invoke the fate of other, erroneous popular
theories and ontologies that have arisen in the course of
history. For example, Ptolemaic astronomy served to explain
and roughly predict the motions of the planets for centuries, but
eventually this model of the solar system was eliminated in favor of
the Copernican model. The Churchlands believe the same eliminative
fate awaits the "sentence-cruncher" model of the mind in which thought
and behavior are the result of manipulating sentence-like states
called "propositional attitudes".
Idealism is the form of monism that sees the world as consisting of
minds, mental contents and or consciousness. Idealists are not faced
with explaining how minds arise from bodies: rather, the world, bodies
and objects are regarded as mere appearances held by minds. However,
accounting for the mind–body problem is not usually the main
motivation for idealism; rather, idealists tend to be motivated by
skepticism, intentionality, and the unique nature of ideas. Idealism
is prominent in Eastern religious and philosophical thought. It has
gone through several cycles of popularity and neglect in the history
of Western philosophy.
Different varieties of idealism may hold that there are
multiple minds (pluralistic idealism)
only one human mind (solipsism)
or a single Absolute, Anima Mundi, One or Over-soul.
Neutral monism, in philosophy, is the metaphysical view that the
mental and the physical are two ways of organizing or describing the
same elements, which are themselves "neutral", that is, neither
physical nor mental. This view denies that the mental and the physical
are two fundamentally different things. Rather, neutral monism claims
the universe consists of only one kind of stuff, in the form of
neutral elements that are in themselves neither mental nor physical.
These neutral elements might have the properties of color and shape,
just as we experience those properties. But these shaped and colored
elements do not exist in a mind (considered as a substantial entity,
whether dualistically or physicalistically); they exist on their own.
Main article: New mysterianism
Some philosophers take an epistemic approach and argue that the
mind–body problem is currently unsolvable, and perhaps will always
remain unsolvable to human beings. This is usually termed New
Colin McGinn holds that human beings are cognitively
closed in regards to their own minds. According to McGinn human minds
lack the concept-forming procedures to fully grasp how mental
properties such as consciousness arise from their causal basis. An
example would be how an elephant is cognitively closed in regards to
A more moderate conception has been expounded by Thomas Nagel, which
holds that the mind–body problem is currently unsolvable at the
present stage of scientific development and that it might take a
future scientific paradigm shift or revolution to bridge the
explanatory gap. Nagel posits that in the future a sort of "objective
phenomenology" might be able to bridge the gap between subjective
conscious experience and its physical basis.
Linguistic criticism of the mind–body problem
Each attempt to answer the mind–body problem encounters substantial
problems. Some philosophers argue that this is because there is an
underlying conceptual confusion. These philosophers, such as
Ludwig Wittgenstein and his followers in the tradition of linguistic
criticism, therefore reject the problem as illusory. They argue
that it is an error to ask how mental and biological states fit
together. Rather it should simply be accepted that human experience
can be described in different ways—for instance, in a mental and in
a biological vocabulary. Illusory problems arise if one tries to
describe the one in terms of the other's vocabulary or if the mental
vocabulary is used in the wrong contexts. This is the case, for
instance, if one searches for mental states of the brain. The brain is
simply the wrong context for the use of mental vocabulary—the search
for mental states of the brain is therefore a category error or a sort
of fallacy of reasoning.
Today, such a position is often adopted by interpreters of
Wittgenstein such as Peter Hacker. However, Hilary Putnam, the
originator of functionalism, has also adopted the position that the
mind–body problem is an illusory problem which should be dissolved
according to the manner of Wittgenstein.
Externalism and internalism
Where is the mind located? If the mind is a physical phenomenon of
some kind, it has to be located somewhere. According to some, there
are two possible options: either the mind is internal to the body
(internalism) or the mind is external to it (externalism). More
generally, either the mind depends only on events and properties
taking place inside the subject's body or it depends also on factors
external to it.
Proponents of internalism are committed to the view that neural
activity is sufficient to produce the mind. Proponents of externalism
maintain that the surrounding world is in some sense constitutive of
Externalism differentiates into several versions. The main ones are
semantic externalism, cognitive externalism and phenomenal
externalism. Each of these versions of externalism can further be
divided into whether they refer only to the content or to the vehicles
of the mind.
Semantic externalism holds that the semantic content of the mind is
totally or partially defined by a state of affairs external to the
body of the subject. Hilary Putnam's
Twin Earth thought experiment
Twin Earth thought experiment is
a good example.
Cognitive externalism is a very broad collection of views that
suggests the role of the environment, of tools, of development, and of
the body in fleshing out cognition. Embodied cognition, the extended
mind, and enactivism are good examples.
Phenomenal externalism suggests that the phenomenal aspects of the
mind are external to the body. Authors who addressed this possibility
are Ted Honderich, Edwin Holt, Francois Tonneau, Kevin O'Regan,
Riccardo Manzotti, Teed Rockwell and Max Velmans.
Naturalism and its problems
The thesis of physicalism is that the mind is part of the material (or
physical) world. Such a position faces the problem that the mind has
certain properties that no other material thing seems to possess.
Physicalism must therefore explain how it is possible that these
properties can nonetheless emerge from a material thing. The project
of providing such an explanation is often referred to as the
"naturalization of the mental". Some of the crucial problems that
this project attempts to resolve include the existence of qualia and
the nature of intentionality.
Main article: Qualia
Many mental states seem to be experienced subjectively in different
ways by different individuals. And it is characteristic of a
mental state that it has some experiential quality, e.g. of pain, that
it hurts. However, the sensation of pain between two individuals may
not be identical, since no one has a perfect way to measure how much
something hurts or of describing exactly how it feels to hurt.
Philosophers and scientists therefore ask where these experiences come
from. The existence of cerebral events, in and of themselves, cannot
explain why they are accompanied by these corresponding qualitative
experiences. The puzzle of why many cerebral processes occur with an
accompanying experiential aspect in consciousness seems impossible to
Yet it also seems to many that science will eventually have to explain
such experiences. This follows from an assumption about the
possibility of reductive explanations. According to this view, if an
attempt can be successfully made to explain a phenomenon reductively
(e.g., water), then it can be explained why the phenomenon has all of
its properties (e.g., fluidity, transparency). In the case of
mental states, this means that there needs to be an explanation of why
they have the property of being experienced in a certain way.
The 20th-century German philosopher
Martin Heidegger criticized the
ontological assumptions underpinning such a reductive model, and
claimed that it was impossible to make sense of experience in these
terms. This is because, according to Heidegger, the nature of our
subjective experience and its qualities is impossible to understand in
terms of Cartesian "substances" that bear "properties". Another way to
put this is that the very concept of qualitative experience is
incoherent in terms of—or is semantically incommensurable with the
concept of—substances that bear properties.
This problem of explaining introspective first-person aspects of
mental states and consciousness in general in terms of third-person
quantitative neuroscience is called the explanatory gap. There are
several different views of the nature of this gap among contemporary
philosophers of mind.
David Chalmers and the early Frank Jackson
interpret the gap as ontological in nature; that is, they maintain
that qualia can never be explained by science because physicalism is
false. There are two separate categories involved and one cannot be
reduced to the other. An alternative view is taken by philosophers
Thomas Nagel and Colin McGinn. According to them, the gap is
epistemological in nature. For Nagel, science is not yet able to
explain subjective experience because it has not yet arrived at the
level or kind of knowledge that is required. We are not even able to
formulate the problem coherently. For McGinn, on other hand, the
problem is one of permanent and inherent biological limitations. We
are not able to resolve the explanatory gap because the realm of
subjective experiences is cognitively closed to us in the same manner
that quantum physics is cognitively closed to elephants. Other
philosophers liquidate the gap as purely a semantic problem. This
semantic problem, of course, led to the famous "
which is: Does Red cause Redness?
Main article: Intentionality
John Searle—one of the most influential philosophers of mind,
proponent of biological naturalism (Berkeley 2002)
Intentionality is the capacity of mental states to be directed towards
(about) or be in relation with something in the external world.
This property of mental states entails that they have contents and
semantic referents and can therefore be assigned truth values. When
one tries to reduce these states to natural processes there arises a
problem: natural processes are not true or false, they simply
happen. It would not make any sense to say that a natural process
is true or false. But mental ideas or judgments are true or false, so
how then can mental states (ideas or judgments) be natural processes?
The possibility of assigning semantic value to ideas must mean that
such ideas are about facts. Thus, for example, the idea that Herodotus
was a historian refers to
Herodotus and to the fact that he was a
historian. If the fact is true, then the idea is true; otherwise, it
is false. But where does this relation come from? In the brain, there
are only electrochemical processes and these seem not to have anything
to do with Herodotus.
Philosophy of perception
Philosophy of perception
Philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of perceptual
experience and the status of perceptual objects, in particular how
perceptual experience relates to appearances and beliefs about the
world. The main contemporary views within philosophy of perception
include naive realism, enactivism and representational
Philosophy of mind and science
Humans are corporeal beings and, as such, they are subject to
examination and description by the natural sciences. Since mental
processes are intimately related to bodily processes, the descriptions
that the natural sciences furnish of human beings play an important
role in the philosophy of mind. There are many scientific
disciplines that study processes related to the mental. The list of
such sciences includes: biology, computer science, cognitive science,
cybernetics, linguistics, medicine, pharmacology, and psychology.
Main article: Neuroscience
The theoretical background of biology, as is the case with modern
natural sciences in general, is fundamentally materialistic. The
objects of study are, in the first place, physical processes, which
are considered to be the foundations of mental activity and
behavior. The increasing success of biology in the explanation of
mental phenomena can be seen by the absence of any empirical
refutation of its fundamental presupposition: "there can be no change
in the mental states of a person without a change in brain
Within the field of neurobiology, there are many subdisciplines that
are concerned with the relations between mental and physical states
and processes: Sensory neurophysiology investigates the relation
between the processes of perception and stimulation. Cognitive
neuroscience studies the correlations between mental processes and
Neuropsychology describes the dependence of
mental faculties on specific anatomical regions of the brain.
Lastly, evolutionary biology studies the origins and development of
the human nervous system and, in as much as this is the basis of the
mind, also describes the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of
mental phenomena beginning from their most primitive stages.
Evolutionary biology furthermore places tight constraints on any
philosophical theory of the mind, as the gene-based mechanism of
natural selection does not allow any giant leaps in the development of
neural complexity or neural software but only incremental steps over
long time periods.
Since the 1980s, sophisticated neuroimaging procedures, such as fMRI
(above), have furnished increasing knowledge about the workings of the
human brain, shedding light on ancient philosophical problems.
The methodological breakthroughs of the neurosciences, in particular
the introduction of high-tech neuroimaging procedures, has propelled
scientists toward the elaboration of increasingly ambitious research
programs: one of the main goals is to describe and comprehend the
neural processes which correspond to mental functions (see: neural
correlate). Several groups are inspired by these advances.
Computer science concerns itself with the automatic processing of
information (or at least with physical systems of symbols to which
information is assigned) by means of such things as computers.
From the beginning, computer programmers have been able to develop
programs that permit computers to carry out tasks for which organic
beings need a mind. A simple example is multiplication. It is not
clear whether computers could be said to have a mind. Could they,
someday, come to have what we call a mind? This question has been
propelled into the forefront of much philosophical debate because of
investigations in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).
Within AI, it is common to distinguish between a modest research
program and a more ambitious one: this distinction was coined by John
Searle in terms of a weak AI and strong AI. The exclusive objective of
"weak AI", according to Searle, is the successful simulation of mental
states, with no attempt to make computers become conscious or aware,
etc. The objective of strong AI, on the contrary, is a computer with
consciousness similar to that of human beings. The program of
strong AI goes back to one of the pioneers of computation Alan Turing.
As an answer to the question "Can computers think?", he formulated the
famous Turing test. Turing believed that a computer could be said
to "think" when, if placed in a room by itself next to another room
that contained a human being and with the same questions being asked
of both the computer and the human being by a third party human being,
the computer's responses turned out to be indistinguishable from those
of the human. Essentially, Turing's view of machine intelligence
followed the behaviourist model of the mind—intelligence is as
intelligence does. The
Turing test has received many criticisms, among
which the most famous is probably the
Chinese room thought experiment
formulated by Searle.
The question about the possible sensitivity (qualia) of computers or
robots still remains open. Some computer scientists believe that the
specialty of AI can still make new contributions to the resolution of
the "mind–body problem". They suggest that based on the reciprocal
influences between software and hardware that takes place in all
computers, it is possible that someday theories can be discovered that
help us to understand the reciprocal influences between the human mind
and the brain (wetware).
Main article: Psychology
Psychology is the science that investigates mental states directly. It
uses generally empirical methods to investigate concrete mental states
like joy, fear or obsessions.
Psychology investigates the laws that
bind these mental states to each other or with inputs and outputs to
the human organism.
An example of this is the psychology of perception. Scientists working
in this field have discovered general principles of the perception of
forms. A law of the psychology of forms says that objects that move in
the same direction are perceived as related to each other. This
law describes a relation between visual input and mental perceptual
states. However, it does not suggest anything about the nature of
perceptual states. The laws discovered by psychology are compatible
with all the answers to the mind–body problem already described.
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the
mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does,
and how it works. It includes research on intelligence and behavior,
especially focusing on how information is represented, processed, and
transformed (in faculties such as perception, language, memory,
reasoning, and emotion) within nervous systems (human or other animal)
and machines (e.g. computers).
Cognitive science consists of multiple
research disciplines, including psychology, artificial intelligence,
philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and
education. It spans many levels of analysis, from low-level
learning and decision mechanisms to high-level logic and planning;
from neural circuitry to modular brain organisation. Rowlands argues
that cognition is enactive, embodied, embedded, affective and
(potentially) extended. The position is taken that the "classical
sandwich" of cognition sandwiched between perception and action is
artificial; cognition has to be seen as a product of a strongly
coupled interaction that cannot be divided this way.
Philosophy of mind in the continental tradition
Most of the discussion in this article has focused on one style or
tradition of philosophy in modern Western culture, usually called
analytic philosophy (sometimes described as Anglo-American
philosophy). Many other schools of thought exist, however, which
are sometimes subsumed under the broad (and vague) label of
continental philosophy. In any case, though topics and methods
here are numerous, in relation to the philosophy of mind the various
schools that fall under this label (phenomenology, existentialism,
etc.) can globally be seen to differ from the analytic school in that
they focus less on language and logical analysis alone but also take
in other forms of understanding human existence and experience. With
reference specifically to the discussion of the mind, this tends to
translate into attempts to grasp the concepts of thought and
perceptual experience in some sense that does not merely involve the
analysis of linguistic forms.
Critique of Pure Reason, first published in 1781 and
presented again with major revisions in 1787, represents a significant
intervention into what will later become known as the philosophy of
mind. Kant's first critique is generally recognized as among the most
significant works of modern philosophy in the West. Kant is a figure
whose influence is marked in both continental and
analytic/Anglo-American philosophy. Kant's work develops an in-depth
study of transcendental consciousness, or the life of the mind as
conceived through universal categories of consciousness.
In Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's
Philosophy of Spirit or Geist), the third part of
his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Hegel discusses three
distinct types of mind: the "subjective mind/spirit", the mind of an
individual; the "objective mind/spirit", the mind of society and of
the State; and the "Absolute mind/spirit", the position of religion,
art, and philosophy. See also Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit.
Nonetheless, Hegel's work differs radically from the style of
American philosophy of mind.
Henri Bergson made in
Memory "Essay on the
relation of body and spirit" a forceful case for the ontological
difference of body and mind by reducing the problem to the more
definite one of memory, thus allowing for a solution built on the
empirical test case of aphasia.
In modern times, the two main schools that have developed in response
or opposition to this Hegelian tradition are phenomenology and
existentialism. Phenomenology, founded by Edmund Husserl, focuses on
the contents of the human mind (see noema) and how processes shape our
experiences. Existentialism, a school of thought founded upon the
work of Søren Kierkegaard, focuses on Human predicament and how
people deal with the situation of being alive.
Existential-phenomenology represents a major branch of continental
philosophy (they are not contradictory), rooted in the work of Husserl
but expressed in its fullest forms in the work of Martin Heidegger,
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. See
Heidegger's Being and Time, Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of
Perception, Sartre's Being and Nothingness, and Simone de Beauvoir's
The Second Sex.
Mind in Eastern philosophy
Mind in Hindu philosophy
Substance Dualism is a common feature of several orthodox Hindu
schools including the Sāṅkhya, Nyāya,
Yoga and Dvaita Vedanta. In
these schools a clear difference is drawn between matter and a
non-material soul, which is eternal and undergoes samsara, a cycle of
death and rebirth. The
Nyāya school argued that qualities such as
cognition and desire are inherent qualities which are not possessed by
anything solely material, and therefore by process of elimination must
belong to a non-material self, the atman. Many of these schools
see their spiritual goal as moksha, liberation from the cycle of
Vedanta monistic idealism
Advaita Vedanta of the 8th century Indian philosopher
Śaṅkara, the mind, body and world are all held to be the same
unchanging eternal conscious entity called Brahman. Advaita, which
means non-dualism, holds the view that all that exists is pure
absolute consciousness. The fact that the world seems to be made up of
changing entities is an illusion, or Maya. The only thing that exists
is Brahman, which is described as
Satchitananda (Being, consciousness
Advaita Vedanta is best described by a verse which states
Brahman is alone True, and this world of plurality is an error; the
individual self is not different from Brahman."
Another form of monistic
non-dualism) as posited by the eleventh century philosopher Ramanuja.
Advaita Vedanta by arguing that consciousness is
always intentional and that it is also always a property of something.
Brahman is defined by a multiplicity of qualities and
properties in a single monistic entity. This doctrine is called
"samanadhikaranya" (several things in a common substrate).
Arguably the first exposition of empirical materialism in the history
of philosophy is in the
Cārvāka school (also called Lokāyata). The
Cārvāka school rejected the existence of anything but matter (which
they defined as being made up of the four elements), including God and
the soul. Therefore, they held that even consciousness was nothing but
a construct made up of atoms. A section of the
believed in a material soul made up of air or breath, but since this
also was a form of matter, it was not said to survive death.
Buddhist philosophy of mind
The Five Aggregates (pañca khandha)
according to the Pali Canon.
mental factors (cetasika)
Form is derived from the Four Great Elements.
Consciousness arises from other aggregates.
Mental Factors arise from the Contact of
Consciousness and other aggregates.
Source: MN 109 (Thanissaro,
2001) diagram details
Buddhist teachings describe that the mind manifests moment-to-moment
as sense impressions and mental phenomena that are continuously
changing. The moment-by-moment manifestation of the mind-stream
has been described as happening in every person all the time, even in
a scientist who analyses various phenomena in the world, or analyses
the material body including the organ brain. The manifestation of
the mind-stream is also described as being influenced by physical
laws, biological laws, psychological laws, volitional laws, and
A salient feature of
Buddhist philosophy which sets it apart from
Indian orthodoxy is the centrality of the doctrine of not-self (Pāli.
anatta, Skt. anātman). The Buddha's not-self doctrine sees humans as
an impermanent composite of five psychological and physical aspects
instead of a single fixed self. In this sense, what is called ego or
the self is merely a convenient fiction, an illusion that does not
apply to anything real but to an erroneous way of looking at the ever
changing stream of five interconnected aggregate factors. The
relationship between these aggregates is said to be one of
dependent-arising (pratītyasamutpāda). This means that all things,
including mental events, arise co-dependently from a plurality of
other causes and conditions. This seems to reject both causal
determinist and epiphenomenalist conceptions of mind.
Abhidharma theories of mind
Three centuries after the death of the Buddha (c. 150 BCE) saw the
growth of a large body of literature called the
Abhidharma in several
contending Buddhist schools. In the Abhidharmic analysis of mind, the
ordinary thought is defined as prapañca ('conceptual proliferation').
According to this theory, perceptual experience is bound up in
multiple conceptualizations (expectations, judgments and desires).
This proliferation of conceptualizations form our illusory
superimposition of concepts like self and other upon an ever changing
stream of aggregate phenomena. In this conception of mind no
strict distinction is made between the conscious faculty and the
actual sense perception of various phenomena.
Consciousness is instead
said to be divided into six sense modalities, five for the five senses
and sixth for perception of mental phenomena. The arising of
cognitive awareness is said to depend on sense perception, awareness
of the mental faculty itself which is termed mental or 'introspective
awareness' (manovijñāna) and attention (āvartana), the picking out
of objects out of the constantly changing stream of sensory
Rejection of a permanent agent eventually led to the philosophical
problems of the seeming continuity of mind and also of explaining how
rebirth and karma continue to be relevant doctrines without an eternal
mind. This challenge was met by the
Theravāda school by introducing
the concept of mind as a factor of existence. This "life-stream"
(Bhavanga-sota) is an undercurrent forming the condition of being. The
continuity of a karmic "person" is therefore assured in the form of a
mindstream (citta-santana), a series of flowing mental moments arising
from the subliminal life-continuum mind (Bhavanga-citta), mental
content, and attention.
Sautrāntika school held a form of phenomenalism that saw the
world as imperceptible. It held that external objects exist only as a
support for cognition, which can only apprehend mental
representations. This influenced the later
Yogācāra school of
Mahayana Buddhism. The
Yogācāra school is often called the mind-only
school because of its internalist stance that consciousness is the
ultimate existing reality. The works of
Vasubandhu have often been
interpreted as arguing for some form of Idealism.
Vasubandhu uses the
dream argument and a mereological refutation of atomism to attack the
reality of external objects as anything other than mental
entities. Scholarly interpretations of Vasubandhu's philosophy
vary widely, and include phenomenalism, neutral monism and realist
The Indian Mahayana schools were divided on the issue of the
possibility of reflexive awareness (svasaṃvedana). Dharmakīrti
accepted the idea of reflexive awareness as expounded by the
Yogācāra school, comparing it to a lamp that illuminates itself
while also illuminating other objects. This was strictly rejected by
Mādhyamika scholars like Candrakīrti. Since in the philosophy of the
Mādhyamika all things and mental events are characterized by
emptiness, they argued that consciousness could not be an inherently
reflexive ultimate reality since that would mean it was
self-validating and therefore not characterized by emptiness.
These views were ultimately reconciled by the 8th century thinker
Śāntarakṣita. In Śāntarakṣita's synthesis he adopts the
Yogācāra views of reflexive awareness as a conventional
truth into the structure of the two truths doctrine. Thus he states:
"By relying on the Mind-Only system, know that external entities do
not exist. And by relying on this Middle Way system, know that no self
exists at all, even in that [mind]." 
Yogācāra school also developed the theory of the repository
consciousness (ālayavijñāna) to explain continuity of mind in
rebirth and accumulation of karma. This repository consciousness acts
as a storehouse for karmic seeds (bija) when all other senses are
absent during the process of death and rebirth as well as being the
causal potentiality of dharmic phenomena. Thus according to B.
No constituents of the body—in the brain or elsewhere—transform
into mental states and processes. Such subjective experiences do not
emerge from the body, but neither do they emerge from nothing. Rather,
all objective mental appearances arise from the substrate, and all
subjective mental states and processes arise from the substrate
Tibetan Buddhist theories of mind evolved directly from the Indian
Mahayana views. Thus the founder of the
Gelug school, Je Tsongkhapa
Yogācāra system of the
Eight Consciousnesses in his
Explanation of the Difficult Points. He would later come to
repudiate Śāntarakṣita's pragmatic idealism. According to the 14th
Dalai Lama the mind can be defined "as an entity that has the nature
of mere experience, that is, 'clarity and knowing'. It is the knowing
nature, or agency, that is called mind, and this is
non-material." The simultaneously dual nature of mind is as
1. Clarity (gsal) – The mental activity which produces cognitive
2. Knowing (rig) – The mental activity of perceiving cognitive
14th Dalai Lama
14th Dalai Lama has also explicitly laid out his theory of mind as
experiential dualism which is described above under the different
types of dualism.
Because Tibetan philosophy of mind is ultimately soteriological, it
focuses on meditative practices such as
allow a practitioner to experience the true reflexive nature of their
mind directly. This unobstructed knowledge of one's primordial, empty
Buddha nature is called rigpa. The mind's innermost
nature is described among various schools as pure luminosity or "clear
light" ('od gsal) and is often compared to a crystal ball or a mirror.
Sogyal Rinpoche speaks of mind thus: "Imagine a sky, empty, spacious,
and pure from the beginning; its essence is like this. Imagine a sun,
luminous, clear, unobstructed, and spontaneously present; its nature
is like this."
The central issue in Chinese
Zen philosophy of mind is in the
difference between the pure and awakened mind and the defiled mind.
Chinese Chan master Huangpo described the mind as without beginning
and without form or limit while the defiled mind was that which was
obscured by attachment to form and concepts. The pure Buddha-mind
is thus able to see things "as they truly are", as absolute and
non-dual "thusness" (Tathatā). This non-conceptual seeing also
includes the paradoxical fact that there is no difference between a
defiled and a pure mind, as well as no difference between samsara and
In the Shobogenzo, the Japanese philosopher
Dogen argued that body and
mind are neither ontologically nor phenomenologically distinct but are
characterized by a oneness called shin jin (bodymind). According to
Dogen, "casting off body and mind" (Shinjin datsuraku) in zazen will
allow one to experience things-as-they-are (genjokoan) which is the
nature of original enlightenment (hongaku).
Topics related to philosophy of mind
There are countless subjects that are affected by the ideas developed
in the philosophy of mind. Clear examples of this are the nature of
death and its definitive character, the nature of emotion, of
perception and of memory. Questions about what a person is and what
his or her identity consists of also have much to do with the
philosophy of mind. There are two subjects that, in connection with
the philosophy of the mind, have aroused special attention: free will
and the self.
Main article: Free will
In the context of philosophy of mind, the problem of free will takes
on renewed intensity. This is certainly the case, at least, for
materialistic determinists. According to this position, natural
laws completely determine the course of the material world. Mental
states, and therefore the will as well, would be material states,
which means human behavior and decisions would be completely
determined by natural laws. Some take this reasoning a step further:
people cannot determine by themselves what they want and what they do.
Consequently, they are not free.
This argumentation is rejected, on the one hand, by the
compatibilists. Those who adopt this position suggest that the
question "Are we free?" can only be answered once we have determined
what the term "free" means. The opposite of "free" is not "caused" but
"compelled" or "coerced". It is not appropriate to identify freedom
with indetermination. A free act is one where the agent could have
done otherwise if it had chosen otherwise. In this sense a person can
be free even though determinism is true. The most important
compatibilist in the history of the philosophy was David Hume.
More recently, this position is defended, for example, by Daniel
On the other hand, there are also many incompatibilists who reject the
argument because they believe that the will is free in a stronger
sense called libertarianism. These philosophers affirm the course
of the world is either a) not completely determined by natural law
where natural law is intercepted by physically independent
agency, b) determined by indeterministic natural law only, or c)
determined by indeterministic natural law in line with the subjective
effort of physically non-reducible agency. Under Libertarianism,
the will does not have to be deterministic and, therefore, it is
potentially free. Critics of the second proposition (b) accuse the
incompatibilists of using an incoherent concept of freedom. They argue
as follows: if our will is not determined by anything, then we desire
what we desire by pure chance. And if what we desire is purely
accidental, we are not free. So if our will is not determined by
anything, we are not free.
Philosophy of self
The philosophy of mind also has important consequences for the concept
of "self". If by "self" or "I" one refers to an essential, immutable
nucleus of the person, some modern philosophers of mind, such as
Daniel Dennett believe that no such thing exists. According to Dennett
and other contemporaries, the self is considered an illusion. The
idea of a self as an immutable essential nucleus derives from the idea
of an immaterial soul. Such an idea is unacceptable to modern
philosophers with physicalist orientations and their general
skepticism of the concept of "self" as postulated by David Hume, who
could never catch himself not doing, thinking or feeling
anything. However, in the light of empirical results from
developmental psychology, developmental biology and neuroscience, the
idea of an essential inconstant, material nucleus—an integrated
representational system distributed over changing patterns of synaptic
Outline of human intelligence
Outline of thought
Theory of mind in animals
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Philosophy Study Guide offers many suggestions on what to
read, depending on the student's familiarity with the subject:
Philosophy of Mind
AL Engleman "Expressions: A
Philosophy of Mind" (CafePress, 2005)
Philosophy and the Mirror of
Nature (Princeton, 1980),
p. 120, 125.
Pedro Jesús Teruel, Mente, cerebro y antropología en Kant (Madrid,
2008). ISBN 978-84-309-4688-4.
David J. Ungs, Better than one; how we each have two minds (London,
2004). ISBN 978-1-78220-173-1
Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead Science and the Modern World (1925; reprinted
London, 1985), pp. 68–70.
Edwin Burtt The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science,
2nd ed. (London, 1932), pp. 318–19.
Felix Deutsch (ed.) On the Mysterious Leap from the
Mind to the Body
(New York, 1959).
Herbert Feigl The "Mental" and the "Physical": The Essay and a
Postscript (1967), in H. Feigl et al., (eds.), Minnesota Studies in
Philosophy of Science (Minneapolis, 1958), Vol. 2,
pp. 370–497, at p. 373.
Nap Mabaquiao, Jr., Mind, Science and Computation (with foreword by
Tim Crane). Manila: De La Salle University Publishing House, 2012.
Celia Green The Lost Cause: Causation and the Mind–Body Problem.
(Oxford: Oxford Forum, 2003). Applies a sceptical view on causality to
the problems of interactionism.
Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso,
Understanding the Mind: The
Power of the Mind,
Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1997)
Gerhard Medicus. Being Human – Bridging the Gap between the Sciences
of Body and Mind. Berlin (2015): VWB
Scott Robert Sehon, Teleological Realism: Mind, Agency and
Explanation. Cambridge: MIT University Press, 2005.
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MindPapers: A Bibliography of the
Mind and the Science
of Consciousness, compiled by
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Philosophy of Mind, edited by Chris Eliasmith.
An Introduction to the
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Field guide to the
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Mind Field: The Playground of Gods, from the Indian
by Swami Veda Bharati.
Philosophy of mind
Concept and object
Hard problem of consciousness
Language of thought
Problem of other minds
Philosophy of artificial intelligence / information /
perception / self
Philosophy of science
A priori and a posteriori
Ignoramus et ignorabimus
Problem of induction
Unity of science
Positivism / Reductionism / Determinism
Rationalism / Empiricism
Received view / Semantic view of theories
Scientific realism / Anti-realism
thermal and statistical
Space and time
Criticism of science
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History and philosophy of science
History of science
History of evolutionary thought
Relationship between religion and science
Rhetoric of science
Sociology of scientific knowledge
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William of Ockham
Hugh of Saint Victor
John Stuart Mill
Charles Sanders Peirce
Alfred North Whitehead
C. D. Broad
Carl Gustav Hempel
W. V. O. Quine
Bas van Fraassen
Philosophy of psychiatry
Philosophy of perception
Space and time
Schools of thought
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Internalism and Externalism
Ordinary language philosophy
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