Human Mind :
Human Mind

A phrenological mapping of the brain. Phrenology was among the first attempts to correlate mental functions with specific parts of the brain.

René Descartes’ illustration ofmind/body dualism. Descartes believed inputs are passed on by the sensory organs to the epiphysisin the brain and from there to the immaterial spirit.

mind /ˈmaɪnd/ is the set of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, and memory—a characteristic of humans, but which also may apply to other life forms.

A lengthy tradition of inquiries in philosophy, religion, psychology and cognitive science has sought to develop an understanding of what a mind is and what its distinguishing properties are. The main question regarding the nature of mind is its relation to the physical brain and nervous system – a question which is often framed as the mind–body problem, which considers whether mind is somehow separate from physical existence (dualism andidealism), or the mind is identical with the brain or some activity of the brain, deriving from and/or reducible to physical phenomena such as neuronal activity (physicalism). Another question concerns which types of beings are capable of having minds, for example whether mind is exclusive to humans, possessed also by some or all animals, by all living things, or whether mind can also be a property of some types of man-made machines.

Whatever its relation to the physical body it is generally agreed that mind is that which enables a being to have subjective awareness and intentionalitytowards their environment, to perceive and respond to stimuli with some kind of agency, and to have consciousness, including thinking and feeling.

Important philosophers of mind include Mulla Sadra, Plato, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Martin Heidegger, John Searle, Daniel Dennett, Thomas Nagel,David Chalmers and many others. The description and definition is also a part of psychology where psychologists such as Sigmund Freud and William James have developed influential theories about the nature of the human mind. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries the field of cognitive scienceemerged and developed many varied approaches to the description of mind and its related phenomena. The possibility of non-human minds is also explored in the field of artificial intelligence, which works closely in relation with cybernetics and information theory to understand the ways in which human mental phenomena can be replicated by nonbiological machines.

The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different cultural and religious traditions. Some see mind as a property exclusive to humans whereas others ascribe properties of mind to non-living entities (e.g. panpsychism and animism), to animals and to deities. Some of the earliest recorded speculations linked mind (sometimes described as identical with soul or spirit) to theories concerning both life after death, and cosmological andnatural order, for example in the doctrines of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek, Indian and, later, Islamic and medieval European philosophers.

Etymology :

The original meaning of Old English gemynd was the faculty of memory, not of thought in general. Hence call to mindcome to mindkeep in mindto have mind of, etc. The word retains this sense in Scotland. Old English had other words to express “mind”, such as hyge “mind, spirit”.

The meaning of “memory” is shared with Old Norse, which has munr. The word is originally from a PIE verbal root *men-, meaning “to think, remember”, whence also Latin mens “mind”, Sanskrit manas “mind” and Greek μένος “mind, courage, anger”.

The generalization of mind to include all mental faculties, thought, volition, feeling and memory, gradually develops over the 14th and 15th centuries.

Definitions :

The attributes that make up the mind is debated. Some psychologists argue that only the “higher” intellectual functions constitute mind, particularly reason and memory. In this view the emotions — love, hate, fear, joy — are more primitive or subjective in nature and should be seen as different from the mind as such. Others argue that various rational and emotional states cannot be so separated, that they are of the same nature and origin, and should therefore be considered all part of it as mind.

In popular usage, mind is frequently synonymous with thought: the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on “inside our heads.” Thus we “make up our minds,” “change our minds” or are “of two minds” about something. One of the key attributes of the mind in this sense is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access. No one else can “know our mind.” They can only interpret what we consciously or unconsciously communicate.

Mental faculties :

Broadly speaking, mental faculties are the various functions of the mind, or things the mind can “do”.

Thought is a mental act that allows humans to make sense of things in the world, and to represent and interpret them in ways that are significant, or which accord with their needs, attachments, goals, commitments, plans, ends, desires, etc. Thinking involves the symbolic or semiotic mediation of ideas or data, as when we form concepts, engage in problem solving, reasoning and making decisions. Words that refer to similar concepts and processes include deliberation, cognition, ideation, discourse and imagination.

Thinking is sometimes described as a “higher” cognitive function and the analysis of thinking processes is a part of cognitive psychology. It is also deeply connected with our capacity to make and use tools; to understand cause and effect; to recognize patterns of significance; to comprehend and disclose unique contexts of experience or activity; and to respond to the world in a meaningful way.

Memory is the ability to preserve, retain, and subsequently recall, knowledge, information or experience. Although memory has traditionally been a persistent theme in philosophy, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also saw the study of memory emerge as a subject of inquiry within the paradigms of cognitive psychology. In recent decades, it has become one of the pillars of a new branch of science called cognitive neuroscience, a marriage between cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Imagination is the activity of generating or evoking novel situations, images, ideas or other qualia in the mind. It is a characteristically subjective activity, rather than a direct or passive experience. The term is technically used in psychology for the process of reviving in the mind percepts of objects formerly given in sense perception. Since this use of the term conflicts with that of ordinary language, some psychologists have preferred to describe this process as “imaging” or “imagery” or to speak of it as “reproductive” as opposed to “productive” or “constructive” imagination. Things imagined are said to be seen in the “mind’s eye”. Among the many practical functions of imagination are the ability to project possible futures (or histories), to “see” things from another’s perspective, and to change the way something is perceived, including to make decisions to respond to, or enact, what is imagined.

Consciousness in mammals (this includes humans) is an aspect of the mind generally thought to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, sentience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one’s environment. It is a subject of much research in philosophy of mind, psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. Some philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness, which is subjective experience itself, and access consciousness, which refers to the global availability of information to processing systems in the brain.Phenomenal consciousness has many different experienced qualities, often referred to as qualia. Phenomenal consciousness is usually consciousness of something or about something, a property known as intentionality in philosophy of mind.

Mental content :

Mental contents are those items that are thought of as being “in” the mind, and capable of being formed and manipulated by mental processes and faculties. Examples include thoughts,concepts, memories, emotions, percepts and intentions. Philosophical theories of mental content include internalism, externalism, representationalism and intentionality.[13]

Memetics :

Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, which was originated by Richard Dawkins and Douglas Hofstadter in the 1980s. It is an evolutionary model of cultural information transfer. A meme, analogous to a gene, is an idea, belief, pattern of behaviour (etc.) “hosted” in one or more individual minds, and can reproduce itself from mind to mind. Thus what would otherwise be regarded as one individual influencing another to adopt a belief, is seen memetically as a meme reproducing itself.

Relation to the brain :

In animals, the brain, or encephalon (Greek for “in the head”), is the control center of the central nervous system, responsible for thought. In most animals, the brain is located in the head, protected by the skull and close to the primary sensory apparatus of vision, hearing, equilibrioception, taste and olfaction. While all vertebrates have a brain, most invertebrates have either a centralized brain or collections of individual ganglia. Primitive animals such as sponges do not have a brain at all. Brains can be extremely complex. For example, the human brain contains around 86 billion neurons, each linked to as many as 10,000 others.

Understanding the relationship between the brain and the mind – mind–body problem is one of the central issues in the history of philosophy – is a challenging problem both philosophically and scientifically. There are three major philosophical schools of thought concerning the answer: dualism, materialism, and idealism. Dualism holds that the mind exists independently of the brain; materialism holds that mental phenomena are identical to neuronal phenomena; and idealism holds that only mental phenomena exist.

Through most of history many philosophers found it inconceivable that cognition could be implemented by a physical substance such as brain tissue (that is neurons and synapses).Descartes, who thought extensively about mind-brain relationships, found it possible to explain reflexes and other simple behaviors in mechanistic terms, although he did not believe that complex thought, and language in particular, could be explained by reference to the physical brain alone.

The most straightforward scientific evidence of a strong relationship between the physical brain matter and the mind is the impact physical alterations to the brain have on the mind, such as with traumatic brain injury and psychoactive drug use.Philosopher Patricia Churchland notes that this drug-mind interaction indicates an intimate connection between the brain and the mind.

In addition to the philosophical questions, the relationship between mind and brain involves a number of scientific questions, including understanding the relationship between mental activity and brain activity, the exact mechanisms by which drugs influence cognition, and the neural correlates of consciousness.

Evolutionary history of the human mind :

The evolution of human intelligence refers to a set of theories that attempt to explain how human intelligence has evolved, closely tied to the evolution of the human brain, and to the origin of language.

The timeline of human evolution spans some 7 million years, from the separation of the Pan genus until the emergence of behavioral modernity by 50,000 years ago. Of this timeline, the first 3 million years concern Sahelanthropus, the following 2 million concern Australopithecus, while the final 2 million span the history of actual Homo species (the Paleolithic).

Many traits of human intelligence, such as empathy, theory of mind, mourning, ritual, and the use of symbols and tools, are already apparent in great apes although in lesser sophistication than in humans.

There is a debate between supporters of the idea of a sudden emergence of intelligence, or “Great leap forward” and those of a gradual or continuum hypothesis.

Theories of the evolution of intelligence include:

  • Robin Dunbar’s social brain hypothesis
  • Geoffrey Miller’ssexual selection hypothesis concerning Sexual selection in human evolution
  • The ecological dominance-social competition (EDSC)explained by Mark V. Flinn, David C. Geary and Carol V. Ward based mainly on work by Richard D. Alexander.
  • The idea of intelligence as a signal of good health and resistance to disease.
  • TheGroup selection theory contends that organism characteristics that provide benefits to a group (clan, tribe, or larger population) can evolve despite individual disadvantages such as those cited above.
  • The idea that intelligence is connected with nutrition, and thereby with status.A higher IQ could be a signal that an individual comes from and lives in a physical and social environment where nutrition levels are high, and vice versa.

Philosophy of mind :

Main article: Philosophy of mind

Philosophy of mind is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body. The mind–body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as the central issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues concerning the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the physical body. José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado writes, “In present popular usage, soul and mind are not clearly differentiated and some people, more or less consciously, still feel that the soul, and perhaps the mind, may enter or leave the body as independent entities.”

Dualism and monism are the two major schools of thought that attempt to resolve the mind–body problem. Dualism is the position that mind and body are in some way separate from each other. It can be traced back to Plato, Aristotle and the Samkhya and Yoga schools of Hindu philosophy, but it was most precisely formulated by René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance dualists argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas Property dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties thatemerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.

The 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger suggested that subjective experience and activity (i.e. the “mind”) cannot be made sense of in terms of Cartesian “substances” that bear “properties” at all (whether the mind itself is thought of as a distinct, separate kind of substance or not). This is because the nature of subjective, qualitative experience is incoherent in terms of – or semantically incommensurable with the concept of – substances that bear properties. This is a fundamentally ontological argument.

The philosopher of cognitive science Daniel Dennett, for example, argues there is no such thing as a narrative center called the “mind”, but that instead there is simply a collection of sensory inputs and outputs: different kinds of “software” running in parallel. Psychologist B.F. Skinner argued that the mind is an explanatory fiction that diverts attention from environmental causes of behavior; he considered the mind a “black box” and thought that mental processes may be better conceived of as forms of covert verbal behavior.

Mind/body perspectives :

Monism is the position that mind and body are not physiologically and ontologically distinct kinds of entities. This view was first advocated in Western Philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th Century BC and was later espoused by the 17th Century rationalist Baruch Spinoza. According to Spinoza’s dual-aspect theory, mind and body are two aspects of an underlying reality which he variously described as “Nature” or “God”.

  • Physicalistsargue that only the entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that the mind will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve.
  • Idealistsmaintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind.
  • Neutral monistsadhere to the position that perceived things in the world can be regarded as either physical or mental depending on whether one is interested in their relationship to other things in the world or their relationship to the perceiver. For example, a red spot on a wall is physical in its dependence on the wall and the pigment of which it is made, but it is mental in so far as its perceived redness depends on the workings of the visual system. Unlike dual-aspect theory, neutral monism does not posit a more fundamental substance of which mind and body are aspects.

The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism andfunctionalism.

Many modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive or non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body.These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, e.g. in the fields of sociobiology, computer science, evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences.Other philosophers, however, adopt a non-physicalist position which challenges the notion that the mind is a purely physical construct.

  • Reductive physicalistsassert that all mental states and properties will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological processes and states.
  • Non-reductive physicalistsargue that although the brain is all there is to the mind, the predicates and vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level explanations of physical science.

Continued progress in neuroscience has helped to clarify many of these issues, and its findings strongly support physicalists’ assertions.Nevertheless, our knowledge is incomplete, and modern philosophers of mind continue to discuss how subjective qualia and the intentional mental states can be naturally explained.