A Critique of “Mind”
The mind has troubled philosophers for millennia. But at some point the philosopher must wonder what it is he is actually talking about in regards to
1 the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and
thought: as the thoughts ran through his mind, he came to a conclusion | people have the price they are prepared to pay settled in their
• a person's mental processes contrasted with physical action: I wrote a letter in my mind.
2 a person's intellect: his keen mind.
• a person's memory: the company's name slips my mind.
• a person identified with their intellectual faculties: he was one of the greatest minds of his time.
3 a person's attention: I expect my employees to keep their minds on the job.
• the will or determination to achieve something: anyone can lose weight if they set their mind to it.
According to the definition above—although it fails to define anything—“mind” is the element of a person that enables them to be aware of
the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel
. But what is this element?
To the dualist, this element is an immaterial substance that is separate from the physical nature of the body. To the physicalists, this element can
be reduced to neurological processes, and may even be identical to what they call the brain or “brain states”. And our good friends the idealists,
against all common sense, assert that the mind is all there is, and talking about mind is talking about reality.
In order to discover the element we call mind, we can at best deduce
what it is, as we can not rely on the senses for confirmation. From what
we know, “mind” does not have any demonstrative qualities. It is unobservable and immaterial, meaning we cannot see, hear or feel it, or discover
it in a human body. For our examination, the mind is empirically out of reach. At this interval in our search, we are forced to employ deductive
reasoning in order to clear this hurdle; that is we must deduce from a true premise if we are to reach a probable conclusion of what “mind” is.
What true premises do we have to deduce from?
So far, the only premise we have available is the human being, where most of our studies of mind are focused upon. The human being is demonstrative
and observable and a verifiiable fact. Once again, no mind is physically observable in him, yet the human being can think and be aware. Where do we go
We know that damage to the brain can hinder the mind. Cognition, reflexes, motor abilities, speech, memory and the like are affected when the brain is
manipulated, and we can deduce from clear evidence that the brain and the mind are connected in some way. Physiologically, the brain is a likely
candidate for mind. But is the brain the element that allows us to think and be aware? Is the brain the “mind”?
We cannot say that it is brains that think, as a brain apart from the body will not think. If there is a brain in a jar, it would be strange to infer
that it is still an element that allows one to think. To disconnect the body and the brain is to end thinking and awareness; and thinking and
awareness (mind) does not persist in either of the two elements when torn apart. Only when infused together into a functioning whole can thinking
As an example: it would be strange to say that an eye is the element that allows us to see, as an eye apart from the body cannot see. But also, it
would be strange to imagine that a man without eyes can see, directly showing that eyes are connected to seeing. But only when the two working parts
come together are we allowed to see. Therefore, the whole is the element that allows us see.
It could be said that humans could not think without a brain, and therefor the element of mind is removed with the brain. This is a logical
conclusion, but from a false premise, that bodies without brains are humans. We don’t know of any humans without brains and therefore we have no
such premise to deduce from.
If we accept this deduction, we must say that the brain is not
the mind, as the brain by itself does not allow us to think.
We have not been able to deduce further for our premise (the human being), in terms of physiology, that an element inside the human allows the human
to think. We also cannot observe and confirm the existence of any “mind-stuff”, or an immaterial and non-physical entity that we can label
“mind”, save for the conceptions of it in our imagination. Have we reached any conclusion of what it is we are talking about when we speak of
Since we cannot deduce to any mind from our premise, it seems fit to conclude that the premise itself, the human being, is what we call “mind”. On
nothing and nowhere else can we place that label.