saving "mind"

I want to start a discussion on the relation between the rejection of Cartesian dualism and the rejection of metaphysics. Though not everyone will reject either of these, it’s my impression that those who reject metaphysics reject dualism because mind as something apart from the brain has been classified, by Descartes, as a metaphysical entity. Most anti-metaphysicists, in my impression, seem to think that Descartes’ biggest blunder was to separate all things into two mutually exclusive ontological categories - the physical and the metaphysical. My issue with this is that, if this is taken to be Descartes mistake, the solution is not to reject the metaphysical category - that would be to play by the Cartesian rules - effectively keeping the two categories, but saying of one that nothing therein really exists and everything in the other does. No - the solution to the problem, as described above, is to re-merge all physical and metaphysical entities back into one categories (of “things”), and then sift through the myriad of entities therein, keeping some and rejecting others on some completely different basis.

In this way, I think the mind, as a non-physical entity distinct from the physical brain, can be saved from the trash heap. I don’t think we have the same right to dismiss the mind as we do other metaphysical entities. Most metaphysical entities are, in my humble opinion, rejected on the grounds that they cannot be verified except by way of abstract reasoning. Platonism comes to mind as a case in point. Abstract reasoning is not perfect, and therefore most hardnosed anti-metaphysicists demand a rigorous scientific methodology as a substitute. But my position is that the verification of mind, although not possible by any scientific means (I open your cranium and see no mind), is still possible by sheer experiential exposure. That is, I can say I know my mind exists because I feel it! I know I’m sad because I feel sad. I know I’m thinking because I can “see” my thoughts in an introspective sense. This, to me, is a valid form of verification - albeit a private one - but one that saves mind from the metaphysical garbage bin. Yes, I know mind is “non-physical” and I guess this makes it metaphysical, but here I’m using the “metaphysical garbage bin” as a metaphor for those metaphysical entities whose rejection is warranted because of their non-verifiable character (other than abstract reasoning), not simply because they are metaphysical. Mind does not deserve this fate. I have no more reason to reject my internal subjective experiences than I do to reject my more empirical observations of the world. When it comes down to it, both are experiential - why should one reflect real things whereas the other should not?

DISCLAIMER: I don’t mean to stereotype anti-metaphycisists. If the way I’ve depicted the anti-metaphysicist position strikes you as unwarranted insofar as your take on it is concerned, please say so.

ever see someone who has had a frontal lobotomy?

“mind” as something seperate from brain function fails as and is as metaphysical as “spirit” or “soul”

or are you going to claim that your spirit and soul are real because you can feel them as well?

there is no ghost in the machine


I’m saying that I definitely feel something, and I call it “mind” - or more particularly “emotion”, “thought”, “memories”… and I call the set of all these things “mind”.

I guess it might be going too far to say that mind is something separate from brain, at least in the exclusive sense, but I think it is equally too radical to say that mind just doesn’t exist, only the brain does. When I experience an emotion, it doesn’t feel like a bunch of neurons or chemical reactions or anything of that sort. Maybe emotions are a different aspect or property of their physical counterparts in the brain, but as such, they cannot be seen by “looking” at neurons. What I maintain is that even if they are somehow properties of neurochemical activity, or a different way of experiencing this, the reduction of mind to this neurochemical activity is insufficient. It doesn’t explain why neurons and chemicals exhibit these properties to the subject whose neurons and chemicals they belong to.

I think I’ll need to understand exactly what you mean by “function”. I’m vaguely familiar with functionalism, but the extent to which I understand it is that mind is the “function” of the brain. I take it this is not to be confused with “product”. Does it mean the activity of the brain? Does it mean the purpose of the brain?

why not claim it has to do with the heart? or the stomach? when you feel dizzy do you blame your ears? your “sense” of mind has no more connection to the body than soul. neurochemical activity is all there is. to posit mind, spirit or soul to any of it assumes facts not in evidence and is an error.

function in this case would be more like activity. in as much as the heart pumps blood and the kidneys clean it, the brain controls them and the other parts of the brain give one the illusion of self.


Because there is no correlation between mental states and those of the heart, stomach, ears, etc. Well, okay, heightened emotions may correlate with faster heart beat, but that’s a very weak correlation when it comes to the mind as a whole, whereas the brain shows a much stronger correlation.

But they are in evidence. That’s my point. Not publicly or scientificly, but the fact that I feel my mental states in one way or another is evidence enough for me that they exist.

That’s the function of the brain? To give off the “illusion of self”? Wouldn’t there have to be a self to be fooled by this illusion in the first place?



no, there is no self (for purely logical reasons ala hume as I have demonstrated many times in other threads on this board)

that is the function of the brain as much as there is a function of the liver…


I did what you said and came up with this:

So let me see if I understand: we cannot deduce the existence of causation in the Humean sense, and so we have no right to assume that 1) each mental experience causes the others, and 2) none of these mental states, alone or together, cause the “I” to come into being. Fair enough. Couldn’t we still equate “I” with the whole set of these mental states? I mean, not that they cause “I” to exist, but that they simply are the “I”?

In any case, I don’t want this to disgress into a debate about the existence of the self or Hume’s Problem of Induction. Whether you want to equate “self” with “mind” or not, or whether it causes the self or not, I leave up to you. What my focus is on is that I can deduce (not induce) the existence of these mental experiences solely on the basis of my feeling them.

you can only deduce from given premises and I don’t give (or grant) you the existence of your mental experiences.

welcome to solipsism 101


“X. therefore X.”

Is this not a deduction?

I realize it’s not quite in the same form as “I experience mental state X, therefore mental state X exists.” But all mental states are really just experiences anyway, therefore if I’m having said experience, it must exist.

no, that is not a deduction.
that is a circle.

sum ergo sum.


Well, whatever.

My point is: if I can feel it, it’s there.

No, I can’t show you my experiences. So I guess I can’t “prove” my point to you. But this certainly doesn’t mean I’m wrong, at least about my experiences.

Furthermore, by the same logic, you can’t prove to me that your experiences exist (although I assume they do). This goes for your sensory experiences as well. Why then should I believe anything you or anyone else has claimed to have verified by way of empirical observation - such as the neurochemical events in the brain?

that’s the whole point… it (mind,soul,spirit) cannot be proven


From one person to another, yes. But to one’s self (or, just to be on the safe side, to myself), it is self-evident.

I have a magical third eye that no one can see that tells me I will live on forever after my death. no one can see this either; but I can feel it and it is self evident so it must be real.

(and no, it isn’t in my pineal gland)

to make an assertion about the existence of anything that only the individual can percieve can sound ridiculous. what do you mean you can’t see my invisible friend? he’s real I tell you, it is self evident. invisible friend sound too harsh? how about guardian angel? you can’t percieve him either? I feel him so he must be real, and you must feel yours too… maybe if we meditate and sing a single note for a while “ommmmmmmmmm”… do you feel him yet? maybe you need to sing longer “oommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”. now? now do you feel your guardian angel? no? well I can feel mine and I just know that if you try you can feel yours too… I know what it is; you haven’t lived the proper life and followed the magical path to happiness. follow these 10 simple rules and 8 special methods and pay (no) thithe (no) donate 10-20% of your income to my (no) our new church of the invisible friends and guardian angles (no) angels…

rule one: never question your guardian angel…
rule two: always obey the priest of the guardian angel…

what a tangled web…

but really I can feel it…


take an aluminum baseball bat, take one or two swift swings and make direct contact to the cranium, tell me how the brain is not my mind?


Here’s my last post. Please re-read it.

Maybe I should have added “to myself” at the end of “…it is self-evident.”

You’re obviously attacking an argument I’m not making. I’m not saying that if I can feel my own mind, then it should be self-evident to everyone. I understand that it would only be self-evident to me. I also understand that this marks the end of the road for me insofar as convincing others that I have a mind, let alone that minds exist for each and every person.

So I’m not going to tell you to “try harder” or “dig deeper” in the hopes that you’ll come out of it with some kind of subjective experience (although I think you would, however in denial you may be about it - but again, that’s not my argument). I’m just going to declare that I have a mind, and that my reason for my claim is that I feel it, and that this is as good a reason as any other for me.


This doesn’t prove anything. All this says is that the mind is somehow dependent on the brain, not that it is the brain.

but it is not as good a reason for anyone else…


Your verification of mind is not very different from Descartes’ I think therefore I am - It only differs in that Descartes attributed the thinking to himself, (I) and you to your mind. He did not separate his mind from himself, you do. In that sense you are the dualist.
Further do I find your assertion that mind is non physical very questionable. You seem to think that opetning a cranium and not finding an object with a nametag that says ‘mind’ is rerason anough to assume this.

ALthough I agfree with your purpose - to unite the physical and the metaphysical - I’d rather assume that matter is a dense form of mind. This solves a lot of problems quantumphysicists are running into.


All your doing is putting words in my mouth. When I say that my experiences convince me that I have a mind, that’s all I mean. But you’re telling me “No, that’s not what you mean. You mean…”

Put it this way: I’m saying you’ve made a good point - namely, that my experiences are mine alone, and can’t be offered to anyone else for their verification. So point taken. But I’ll still argue that, for these very same reasons, you can’t tell me I don’t have a mind, nor can you say this about anyone other than yourself. The best you can be is agnostic about it.

True - I can’t prove to anyone else that I have a mind, but for most people, I don’t think I have to. They already take it for granted that I, and everyone else, does.

Well, I’m not actually taking a stand on that issue - at least, not in this thread. It was really Imp who, on a Humean account, wanted to dissociate mind from self as either a causation or an identity. I wasn’t really interested in this issue one way or the other, so I let him have it. But if you want my opinion, I think “I” is the mind.

Actually, I’m not married to this idea. The central idea I’m pushing here is that whatever it is I’m feeling when I experience emotions, thoughts, sensations, etc. are real, and they are what they feel like they are. It just so happens that, to me, they definitely contrast with how I perceive matter. This could mean several things - that mind is something separate from the brain is just one of them. It might also mean that mind is a property of matter, one that manifests itself only to the beholder of the mind. It might mean that mind is a different form of matter (though the definition of “matter” comes into question in this case). Any way you cut it though, I maintain that mind isn’t just the brain.

Are you hinting at “quantum consciousness”? :wink:

then you are doing nothing but peddling dogma and not making a philosophical argument.