A Summary of the Mind Body Problem in Philosophy

The mind-body quandary in philosophy has been scrutinized and considered for many years. It originated in the philosophy of Rene Descartes. Some current thinkers have trouble accepting Descartes dualistic theory and have continued to search for the differences between the consciousness and physical body. This begs the question: where does the brain and non-physical consciousness meet, if they do in fact meet?

Dualistic theory

Descartes is recognized for his important contribution to the theory of the duality of the innate consciousness and body. Descartes rejected the ideas of antecedents and made a advance in philosophy by plainly distinguishing between the mind and body. The human body is a physical unit able to move and is visible, while the mind is thought to be free of the physical body. Descartes believed the mind is a spiritual matter that is disconnected from the body. While the physical brain is the seat of intelligence for the body; the mind is in fact the seat of self-awareness and perception. Descartes stated that the pineal gland is the “communications center” where the mind influences the body. He did not think the mind was actually in the pineal gland, but that it was the route for mind’s influences.

The Cartesian dichotomy comes from Descartes’ teachings. His theory holds that humans had an unthinking body with a reasoning mind, whereas animals also had unconscious bodies but  animals were not able to reason. The explanation for this is that humans are a combination of both minds and bodies, while animals are just bodies that react, not think.

Differing theories

Gottfried Leibniz proposed that the solution to the mind and body problem is that the mind and the body work together amicably in total harmony with each other, in spite of the fact that they are independent of each other. Leibniz thought that the physical and mental realms were energy and not material in anyway. George Berkley disagreed with Leibniz, he asserted that the mind exists only because of human awareness. Berkley supposed that knowledge was gained through awareness, and held God as the everlasting recipient of all.

Independent mind

Descartes’ follower thought his teachings that the physical body has an autonomous mind which goes beyond the mere physical but acts through the nervous system. However some philosophers, such as the materialists, disagree with that and advocate that the mind is a bodily function, just like breathing, and therefore not independent


The relationship between the conscious mind, the and the body have debated for ages. It is agreed that mind and consciousness are self-awareness, but how that self-awareness interacts with the body is still in dispute.

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