The Mind-Body Problem: Mankind’s Elusive Enigma
What is the universe? Where did it come from? Does it still exist when we die? Do we create the universe, or does it create us? These questions all pertain to what has become known as the mind-body problem - a term describing ancient philosophical meanderings to any relationship which might exist between consciousness and the mechanics of the physical body. In order to understand the relationship between man’s thoughts and actions, and how mankind’s forebears approached these timeworn questions, one may consult the early 20th-century esotericists and ceremonial magicians and their attempts to answer the questions.
Relationship Between Mind and Body
A 2001-paper published by the Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, titled Evolutionary Psychology and the brain revealed that although the mind-body problem has ancient origins, the lines of questioning it brings forth have been influential in the modern sciences of sociobiology, computer science, evolutionary psychology and in neurosciences. Any scientific theory of consciousness has to explain how the brain’s varying states can electrochemically generate subjective consciousness, and this has become known as the ‘hard problem' of consciousness. Neurobiologists, neuropsychologists, neuropsychiatrists and neurophilosophers all study neuroscience and philosophy of mind for signs that consciousness is generated by our complex biological systems, but these empirical approaches implies a presupposition that mind and body ‘do’ affect each other; but the mind–body problem holds that the mind and the body might be fundamentally different in nature.
Representation of consciousness by the 17th century by Robert Fludd, an English Paracelsian physician. (Public Domain)
Historically, the reason why so many schools of thought concerning the mind-body problem existed, was essentially because of the lack of an empirically measurable point in space-time where the mind and body can be said to unite. This is to say, there is nowhere measurable or tangible that an observer can say: “right there at coordinates x, y, z, at such and such a time, the body creates conscious experience, or, conscious experience causes the body to act”.
Some of history’s sharpest minds have attempted to solve this problem and three general approaches have been proposed; monist, dualist and psychophysical parallelism. According to scholar Jaegwon Kim in his book Supervenience and Mind, 1993) monism proposes that all essence, substance and unified reality is one thing, inseparable, and there are three subcategories.
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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history. www.ashleycowie.com.
Top Image: Alive Divine Body Mind (CC0)
By Ashley Cowie