What is the mind?

TONYJEFFS tonyjeffs at aol.com
Fri Dec 4 15:52:34 EST 1998

This is a very interesting discussion. 
It seems that this postulate -  a soul/mind that is not purely a material
phenomenon contained within the circuitry - would fulfil two human 'wants':
1.  It goes some way to explaining why *I* exist. (As opposed to why anything
or anyone else exists)
2. It goes some way to supporting the notion that we have free will (Which
helps us feel important).

More below:

In article <7452d2$lrm$1 at usenet01.srv.cis.pitt.edu>, andersw+ at pitt.edu (Anders
N Weinstein) writes in reply to Ray Scanlon:

>The soul (mind)
>Surely your *experiencing* something is a mental event if anything is.
>>experiences the activity of the brain, that is all.The brain does all the
>>"thinking", the deciding, the implementation of the decision.
>If that were the correct account of our subjective experience, then
>we ought to experience ourselves as passive, paralyzed victims, watching
>as our body does things in accordance with the "decisions" taken by our
>(external to ourselves, beyond our control). It would be absurd to say
>we could pursue a desire or goal of our own, for we can only watch
>passively. I am not even sure if you think we ourselves have any interest
>in the outcome at all.
Disagree; It is not imo absurd to say that everything we think say and do is
determined by our genes our environment and a little chaos.  

>I certainly don't
>experience myself wishing for it and hoping that something other than
>myself -- my brain -- will make a decision to go for it and execute it,
>in which case I might passively be treated to its satisfaction.
When your brain is asleep is your soul still active?
Perhaps all the wishing and hoping is also a brain function. Perhaps your soul
is simply a passive observer, a spectator to a movie so engrossing that your
soul feels part of it.

>To repeat, the implied split between *two* subjects of mental states,
>my soul (my self?) and this alien thing, my neurons, is untenable. 
>seem to want very much to be a dualist, so why not go the whole hog?
>Mustn't it be the very same self that desires, thinks and decides, as 
>the self that experiences?
What  you inject a hormone that changes your physical desires?
The hormone effects your brain, not your soul. This real option suggests that
everything including physical desire is entirely a brain function

> How does the soul experience anything if it has no concepts or understanding?

We don't have rules or guidelines for matters outside of the physical laws of
science, so it is reasonable that we don't understand how a soul would

>How could the soul be *you* (your self,
>the seat of your personality) 
Perhaps the soul is yourself, without being "the seat of your personality".
There is good evidence that chemical or physical changes to the brain can have
a dramatic affect on personality. Therefore I think we must conclude that
personality resides in the brain.

>if it is purely passive, and without
>relation to such concepts as will and desire and action? The purely
>passive observer soul, carried through experiences by an external
>brain, as you sketch it is a very strange entity, stranger even than
>Descartes' rational intellect.
A non-physical soul is a  strange entity in any event.  Things that we accept,
such as gravity, ice floating on water, internal combustion engines being of a
manageable size, are all pretty strange really.

>>If you are uneasy with the soul (mind) and its "baggage" then just drop the
>>subject. A materialistic explanation of the brain has no need of soul
>>(mind), biology has no need of soul. Only the philosopher needs a
>>conjunction of soul and body so that he may have something to talk about.
>A materialistic explanation of the brain has no need of soul -- true.
>But an intentional explanation of the doings of a human person does, in
>a sense, have need of soul. For it needs to cite intentional (and
>other) psychological attributes of the person, and these are irreducible
>to the terms of mechanistic explanations.
>For example, there is a perfectly mundane, common-sense intentional
>explanation of why I stopped in at the convenience store on my way home
>today -- I remembered I was out of milk and wanted to pick some up to
>have with my Cornflakes tomorrow morning. I know the milk costs a little bit
>more there than it does at the supermarket, but that is OK with me since it
>easier to get it on my way home than make a special trip. And so on.
I don't see that this suggests the need of a non-material soul. These
intentions could easily have been programmed into a soul -less computer brain.

Personally, I am satisfied that the physical brain can fulfil all the
requirements of life without a soul.
But the unique certainty of my own existance makes me believe that I do have
some kind of soul.  I guess the same is true of other entities, but have no way
of knowing that in an absolute sense.
I see no evidence that this soul of mine has a role in desire, action or
decision making.  I cant dismiss the possibility that I do not have 'free will'


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