The Mind/Body Problem

Essay by epsilon April 2004

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The mind/body problem is a fundamental philosophical problem that even the greatest thinkers have pondered throughout our history, but still have yet to provide an adequate solution for. The problem lies specifically in the philosophical realm of metaphysics, which involves the examination of the nature of our reality. According to metaphysics, reality consists of two things: the physical, and the mental. The 'physical' are things that exist in a material sense, such as neurotransmitters, DNA, and so on, whereas the 'mental' are things that do not exist in a material sense, and thus are immaterial, such as things like pain, thoughts, emotions, and desires. The two things at first seem intuitively unrelated. However, we as humans actually encapsulate both realms in our very being, illustrated by the fact that we have a brain, are made up of DNA, and yet we can also think, and experience pain. Thus, there must be a relationship between the mind and body, which leads us to the basic goal of the mind/body problem that is to determine exactly what that relationship is.

The importance of solving the mind/body problem is crucial. Firstly, because if we were to find an answer, the effect it will have on our perspective of reality would be analogous to the collapse of the Newtonian world of physics, in the face of Einstein's relativistic world. Doors that were previously locked on philosophical issues such as artificial intelligence, free will, and immortality would be opened. This would also apply to issues in other academic fields such as theology, psychology, and cognitive science. Also, based on the solution we could conceive of another realm of academic study, which previous to the solution, was unconceivable. However, in spite of the great rewards that will come from solving the mind/body problem, we must come...