Is the ‘mind’ something of the physical realm?


Is the ‘mind’ something of the physical realm? Or is it something immaterial, like Descartes and Plato suggest?

For the materialist or physicalist theory of science mind, and also consciousness, is just a product, or emergent property, of neuronal activity, thus finally of matter/energy. From some philosophical perspectives, however, mind (a prolongation of pure consciousness in the individual) is not so reducible. The brain is like a power-house, but not the power-source.

Consciousness is primary, indefinable, without attributes, and cannot be accounted for through the use the tools of science, in the same way that my subjectivity (subjective experience) cannot be objectified. This account is variously defined as monism or non-duality.


About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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2 Responses to Is the ‘mind’ something of the physical realm?

  1. laura says:

    Interesting post! You manage to cover a lot of material with conciseness and clarity. If you haven’t already seen it, I think you’d find Shelly Kagan’s lecture on “Arguments for the Existence of the Soul” intriguing. He explains the physicalist definition of a “mind,” insofar that it is the ability of the human to perform certain functions that render him “conscious” or “alive.” In the same way we can address a “smile” as a combination of physical traits and abilities without having to reduce it solely to the teeth or lips, so can we use “consciousness,” “mind,” and “life” as blanket terms to cover the combination of a larger range of human abilities.

    • ‘Consciousness’, ‘mind’, and ‘life’ are metaphysical concepts (I like to say that ‘everything is metaphysical’, even language itself, since the intrinsic nature of each one of these ‘things’ is unknown to the individual mind). However, the above three concepts can each one encapsulate the whole of reality as its referent, whether separately or combined. They are irreducible to concepts of a lesser compass. Metaphysics is more contemplative, intuitive, visionary (in a positive sense) than rational, without excluding the latter. It requires a special temper and vocation.

      I cannot tell of Prof. Kagan (I listen to a couple of his lectures, very competently delivered), but I suspect that most, if not all, of U of Yale philosophy professors are interested in metaphysics from an academic point of view (are there any Platonists among them?). To be a Platonist one has to be a contemplative, a deep ‘meditator’ – a non-dualist in the final analysis, and there are but few of these in Western philosophy University departments.

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