Russell

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Mind-body interaction and the problems associated with it lie at the heart of much of modern philosophy, despite having been discussed for many centuries. A formal definition for mind-body interaction is hard to establish, but it generally implies the existence of communication or an interface between the immaterial mind and material body. The idea of mind-body interaction and its obstacles are virtually only of concern for dualists since, “dualism and the mind/brain identity theory share the assumption that the mind is a thing, a non-physical Cartesian substance…” (1). Physicalists are unconvinced that the mind is anything but physical; therefore, they see no problems with a physical-physical interaction. One of the most famous philosophers to have discussed this subject is Descartes. He believed that the mind and body are two different substances altogether. Descartes believed that the immaterial mind had a characteristic property which drew it apart from physicality; the capacity to think. Conversely, he believed that his body was purely physical and its characteristic property was extension, i.e. it occupied a point in space. Despite having considerably different properties, Descartes held the view that both the mind and the body were capable of existing independently of one another. This notion of detached existence helped Descartes to reach the conclusion that he was “simply a thinking, non-extended thing…” (2). Thus, the term “cogito ergo sum” was coined. Descartes’ theory, known as Cartesian substance dualism, proposed that the mind and body were composed of two different substances. This poses some problems with interaction between them. K.T. Maslin presents the example of sitting at the computer, watching th... ... middle of paper ... ... simply avoids some of the problems that Cartesian substance dualism faces without answering its own questions, for example, how the physical events cause qualia formation? Personally, I agree and disagree with elements of both theories. Epiphenomenalism makes some logical sense, i.e. I agree with the idea of “what it is like” and the notion of experience being non-learnable. I would agree that Mary couldn’t possibly know what red is like before leaving the room as I believe that seeing a colour is to experience it. Mary doesn’t learn that red exists when she steps out of the room; she simply learns what red is like as it exists, however, I am undecided when it comes to the epiphenomenalist’s idea of mind-body interaction. I tend to disagree that mind-body interaction is one-way; however, I see no way to explain how exactly the mind and body mutually interact.

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