Monday, October 26, 2009

Blog #25 - How do you know you have a mind?

One of the biggest questions that modern philosophers have struggled w/ is the idea of what our mind really is. How do we think? How does the process work, from thinking about what I'm going to say to sending signals to my fingers to type these words. Back in Descartes' day (1596-1650), there was a lot less known about how our bodies work; but even today, we're still figuring out new ways that the brain works. His famous saying is, "I think, therefore, I am." In other words, b/c we can think about our minds, that means we have a mind.

We discussed lots of different ways to figure out whether or not we have a mind. The points included:
- Our minds interpret sensory input and compare that input to our memories / experiences, in essence, a great synthesizer. Our mind is a combination of memories, experiences and emotions. One piece of evidence that shows we have a mind is that we demonstrate reason, morals and problem-solving;
- Society defines what our minds are - our consciousness gives us awareness;
- We don't have a mind at all, but what we call a mind is our way to describe how we think; we don't possess the language to accurately describe what goes on in our heads; Alex added that since we exist in the natural world and we can't fully understand ourselves, and this failure to comprehend how our brains work is the reason why we haven't created a true A.I. (artificial intelligence);
- I don't think we came to a conclusion on whether there's a spiritual aspect to the mind (is this our soul)?
- Lastly, a couple of you said, in effect, "yeah, we have a mind. So what?"

I started thinking of examples of why we need to understand the mind-body problem. In class, we mentioned the Terry Schiavo case (2005) and whether or not a fetus has a mind. Additionally, I thought that getting a better picture of this dichotomy would help w/:
1. Analyzing the competency of a mentally ill suspect to stand trial for crimes he/she had committed;
2. What does our "real" self consists of - Is it just a bunch of grey matter?
3. Figuring out what animates zombies - are they just animated bodies w/o a mind? Check out this link for more info -
4. Are we really responsible for our actions if something inside our mind makes us react? Think fight or flight idea.

Here's a video on the use of MRI technology to see what is going on in your mind:

Now that you've had some time to think about this concept again w/ some new perspectives (I'll bet you never thought I'd come up w/ zombies, did ya?), tell me your thoughts about your mind. Has your concept of what the mind changed since before you started the class? Why or why not?

Due Friday, October 30 - 150 words minimum.

Here's another video talk from - Henry Markram talks about a brain in a computer.

Enjoy. :)


  1. I agree with Descartes version of dualism which states that the mind is a nonphysical substance. I believe in property dualism and that the mind is not something separate from the body. Also, idealist’s belief that all that exists is the mind and that everything else is an illusion created by the mind is a foolish and mindless theory (mindless-HAHA – I’m not going to explain why it’s foolish because that’s not what the question asks). I believe that the mind is not a physical substance, however, it does come from somewhere within your body. Whether the mind is in the conscience, brain, soul, or big toe, it exists and it is a product of the systems of the body working together. All humans with the exception of a few rare cases have a belief system. Humans compile all sorts of different occurrences in their brains, whether they be ideas, facts, or actions and we mesh them all together and employ them to the world around us and our conscience to form a single idea; a belief. This belief has to come from somewhere; our brains can collect the information and dissect it, but the belief itself comes from somewhere else. This somewhere is the mind, a non-physical “something” that we will never fully understand and have answers to. My concept of the mind has not really changed throughout the course of this class. However, through this class, we have studied several ideas/theories about the mind which have led me to further examine my inference and confirm my thoughts. (Confirm my thoughts with myself, not in the sense that my thoughts are exactly accurate because there will never be exact answers regarding the mind)

    Nawar Dimitry 2nd Period

  2. Daniel Sherwood

    Now that I have had time to review my thoughts on the mind, I would have to say that I have just about the same standing. I find that without a mind the human race as a whole would be incapable of thinking anything intellectual. I think that the fact that I can write this blog is testament to the fact that I do in fact have a mind. I’m not sure if I have heard anything that makes me feel different. There is no evidence that there isn’t a mind. As shown in that video there are certain neurons that are sparked when a thought gets processed in the brain. Maybe the only plausible thing about the existence/non –existence of the mind would be in the fact that some people have less of a mind than others (I am aware of the elitism in this statement). But I think that everyone has the same capacitance for their mind it’s just some choose to use it more than others.

  3. I've always thought the mind was an intriguing instrument. I've always wondered exactly how it sends messages to our body's and how it automatically processes our body's movements and mental processes. I never thought -until our class discussions- that the mind and the body could co-exist. I always thought it was the body and then there was the brain. Another thing that has changed my definition of what a mind is, is the question is the mind a brain? or is it just consciousness? If the mind is just consciousness then when we die we no longer have a mind, but if the mind is a brain than it stays with us even in our death (even though its not operating). I think that the mind is a combo of consciousness and a brain that allows us to complete and process thoughts. Even when we aren't aware that we are thinking we are constantly taking in visual stimuli from our environment and perceiving it differently from person to person. We are always thinking therefore we are always using our brain therefore we are always conscious . :side thoughts: What is a dream? are we "conscious" if we are sleeping? b/c our brain/mind is still functioning. If not we wouldnt be having dreams. After our class discussions ive realized the mind/brain and body is more connected that we thought! They work together and help us form language, and other things we need to survive


  4. The question do we have a mind is a very complicated question. I believe that we do have a mind because there is no other substance to use for thoughts. If we didn't have a mind how would we figure out problems or even the answer to this question. Having a mind shows how we think about certain things. Some people say the brain is our thinking source but the brain does not allow us to express ourselves emotionally. The brain is more so for the body functions then thought. The brain and the mind work together through comprehension of actions made by a person. The mind is like a pathway to get to the brain, the information starts in the mind and the action is carried out through the brain. "The mind is a terrible thing to waste." lol. So without the mind it would be harder for the brain to function. So with all this being said the mind is in exsitence.

    Jasmine Cain
    2nd hr

  5. My concept of the mind hasn’t changed since our class discussion on it. I believe that if we don’t have mind, then how do we think, and as Mr. Wickersham said, problem solve? I completely agree with Descartes famous saying, “I think, therefore, I am.” We are constantly asking questions, using our minds to think about how to answer the questions that we ask. If we didn’t have a mind, I believe that everyone would be unable to engage in anytime of conversation with someone else. We need to use our minds to use our bodies, and we need to use our bodies with our minds. Even when we are dreaming, we are still conscious and are brains are functioning- we might not even know it that they are! We us our minds everyday and I do believe that the mind and body are not separate, just like what Descartes’ dualism. I believe that what we see, or the allusion the is perceived, it actually there and that is not unreal.
    Annie Sovran

  6. I personally believe that we do have a mind. If we didn’t have a mind, we wouldn’t even be able to contemplate whether we have a mind or not. In response to Alex’s statement, whether we understand ourselves or not, the fact that we try to understand ourselves and can try to reason ourselves is evidence. This goes directly with Descartes quote “I think, therefore I am”, which I agree with 100%. The definition of a mind according to the dictionary is “the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons”. Since we can reason, since we can feel things, and perceive things, yeah, we have a mind. The fact that we can actually discuss and debate whether or not we have a mind can be used as proof as we do because we can reason and disagree and come to conclusions. Sorry for this being a bit repetitive.

  7. Yes, I do think that my concept of the mind has changed since the beginning of this class. But not from this class, mostly from psychology. The mind comes from how people perceive the world around them. In class we talk about if your senses are deceiving us and how do we know people don’t just disappear when I walk out of a room. I know the whole point of Philosophy is to question what can’t be answered but we’ve exhausted these concepts of the mind. What needs to questioned is how humans are able to think different thoughts or why are there different levels of intelligence of the human race? My perception of these questions is different from another person’s, why is that? My concept of the mind has changed from the beginning of this class but not so much from this class. I think that can change if we take the next step and answer different questions of what the mind is and how it works.

    Remy Gijsbers

  8. The question of “do we have a brain?” is one that really makes you think about how our brain works. I do believe that we have a mind. I think this because our mind is the process of our brain doing its job. Just like how food being processed is called digestion. The mind has voluntary and involuntary parts. We can control our movements and our actions in almost all circumstances until an emergency takes place and our mind has a natural instinct. Our mind can superpower our body with just a simple electrical signal. Our mind involuntarily controls our body functions and cell functions. Our mind receives information from our senses and organizes it and puts it into a language we can understand. It problem solves but most weird of all is the dreaming part of our mind. Even when unconscious, our minds do wonders like put us in a dream. This is looked to be as a coded way of our mind telling us things involuntarily. That is why I think a mind exists.

    Jason S
    2nd hour

  9. I believe that the mind is a combination of an individual’s personality, emotions and personal experiences. I don’t believe that people are philosophical zombies because humans have a conscious. I believe that Descartes beliefs touch on what I believe about the mind being a non-physical substance. The mind to me is more than just signals in your brain to tell you how to respond. It helps you carry out your lifestyle and judgments among other people. The thing that makes everyone different then one another is because of their different personality’s, emotions and experiences.
    Those various aspects play important roles with the minds process and how other’s conduct their lifestyles and judgments. For example parents try to set a good example for their children. We notice what they do and eventually duplicate what they do in order to gain their appreciation. Or out of fear or hate we might do things and commit acts that we might regret that we wouldn’t do if we had a calm mind.

    Collin Parson
    2nd hour

  10. After reviewing this material, my position on the mind has basically remained the same. I still believe that we have minds, and that they are very powerful. We need a mind to do everything we do in a given day, from the simplest to the most complex activities. The fact that we can remember events and specific details of our lives so vividly is another reason why our minds definitely exist. In my opinion, the mind is abstract and somewhat related to the soul (I almost feel like I should be putting "mind" in quotation marks). Such is the case in the topic we discussed in class, the case of Terry Schiavo. I think it completely wrong to say Terry didn’t have a mind. She most certainly had a mind, it’s just that it wasn’t sending the right signals to her brain or body and wasn’t functioning properly. Many interesting aspects of the human species would go unexplained if we concluded that minds don’t exist or that they can be programmed.

    Claire Hayes

  11. To be honest, I’m still pretty unsure on where I stand, but I’m agreeing that we do have a mind. I mean I don’t think there is a way we could function without a mind. Obviously if I can keep learning things and remembering them to use them later in life then I have a mind and it is working. But then on the other hand I agree when Alex was saying how we can’t even fully understand ourselves and that’s why no one had come up with an actual A.I. I guess the more I think about it I would have to agree overall that I do have a mind because I agree with how our minds interpret our memories and experiences that we’ve had. It is also true that if we didn’t have a mind then we would do whatever we want when we want and not care about the consequences that come with it, but since we do have a mind we know right from wrong and are able to solve everyday problems. I just think if he didn’t have a mind we wouldn’t be able to think so hard about these questions in the first place. In my mind, you can’t live your life without one.

    Chelsea Koz

  12. I still believe that we do indeed have a mind. When Descartes says, "I think, therefore, I am", you described his meaning that, because we can think about our minds, that means we have a mind. Well, in my book if your even thinking about the fact that we may or may not have a mind, your proving that we do have a mind. For, example how do you explain me studying for my honors philosophy test, or writing my contempory literature paper? I believe that, in order to do those task and any other everyday task, we must have a a mind. A mind is what keeps us functiioning and able to complete simple task, like brushing our teeth, tying our shoe, or even walking. Even those small jobs take a little, little bit of thinking, its still thinking, which you need a mind to do. Also, on the other hand, when it comes to topics like psychology, you definitly need a mind. Biopsychology, explains the brain and all the actions taking place in that mind of ours. This is a huge testament that a mind exist, and that it reglates just about everything that we do.

    - Jasmine Smith

  13. My concept of the mind has changed very little since class. My understanding of the mind may have improved a little, in terms of physical composition and workings, but what I think of what the mind is in an essence has rarely changed. From a physiological standpoint, the mind comes from our brain, which has electromagnetic reactions and chemical reactions that help the body function and perceive our world. I think the mind is a complex system in which we develop our intellect and wisdom. I believe what kind of causes the mind determines to make is based upon the thoughts, words, and actions one has taken throughout his/her lifetime. The mind is definitely influenced by the environment, which supplied our mind with a family, government, and laws of physics. They said it is the family that is the closest influence after all. I think that based upon what’s important to me, which is the happiness of all humanity, that existentialism is something to ponder, but ultimately, because I’m concerned for other people’s happiness, it doesn’t matter to me, because it is a change of one self’s mindset, one’s human revolution, that will decided the destiny of mankind.

    John Cassetta
    2nd Hour

  14. I believe that we have minds. I know this because the mind is the control center for the rest of the body. If my brain is telling my fingers to type, and therefor I am typing. I agree with Descartes famous saying, "I think, therefor, I am." This is saying that because we can thing about our minds, we have a mind. Our minds are not simple at all. Our minds demonstate reason, morals and problem-solving. For example, if I were to come along the same roadblock in life two times. By the second time that I come along this roadblock, I would have learned more from my previous experience and I would either be able to take another route or I could take the same route and hope for a similar outcome. My mind would have told my body how I should react to the situation. If the outcome of the last similar situation was bad then my mind would most likely tell my body to react differently.

  15. Since focusing on our “minds” in class, I believe that my thought has changed. I used to not think anything of the mind, but I used to believe in it without a second thought. Now, I am trying to disperse the idea of the mind and the brain. I think that the brain is the part of our central nervous system that includes the entire higher nervous center, but according to the dictionary our mind is “responsible for one’s thoughts and feelings; the seat of the faculty of reason.” Why can’t our brain be our thought process? And who says that the mind is actually real? I think I have to agree with Descartes on this one. I think that the mind is a nonphysical substance, if we think we have a mind, then we have one. Society does define what our mind is and everyone is subject to believe it because it’s the only REAL source of evidence we have. I agree with the point that we don’t have a mind at all, but what we call a mind is our way to describe how we think. I personally think our brain is our mind and our mind is a societal idea.

  16. After talking about having a mind in class or not, and reading all of the possibilities about having a mind my opinion has not changed, and I believe that we do have a mind. I think that the mind is a space for imagination and places where we can go. The mind is a way that we demonstrate our morals and our reason. We need our minds to use our bodies and live our everyday lives. If we didn’t have a mind, we wouldn’t be able to think and store all of our memories that we have experienced throughout the day or what our teacher taught us in class the week before. I believe that our mind is in our brain and our brain helps our mind come up with all of the things that we think about every day. As Descartes said, “I think therefore I am.” Because we can think about having a mind, we do have a mind.
    Becca Milen

  17. At this point, I’m still standing by the whole "yeah, we have a mind. So what?" thing. As for analyzing the competency of a mentally ill suspect to stand trial for crimes they committed, its impossible to decide. In another class of mine, I am reading One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. In that book, the narrator is a schizophrenic man in a mental institution. Though large portions of what he is saying are untrue, some of it is and it’s still bizarre. Because he is a mental patient though, a jury probably wouldn’t believe what he would say in a trial, even though what he is saying may be true. So no matter if the guy actually is suitable to stand trial or not, it doesn’t matter because people will never believe someone like that.
    Our “real” self consists of just grey matter. We know that because if you cut into somebody’s brain, you never see any thoughts. Therefore, our thoughts must be like hallucinations because you can’t touch them, but you can see them. Therefore, logically, our minds aren’t “real” in the sense that you can touch them/see them, etc. The zombie question is irrelevant because there is no such thing as zombies.
    We are responsible for our actions except in immediate life or death situations. What I mean is that I am responsible for deciding to walk down the stairs, but if I have a gun in my hand and there is a guy running at me with a knife and I shoot the guy, I didn’t have enough time to think about this decision. Therefore, I’m not responsible for the outcome because I didn’t have enough time to think through the consequences.
    2nd hour

  18. My opinion on our minds has NOT changed since our class discussion. The mind versus the brain is the same as the soul versus the heart. Our minds are a part of our brains as our souls are some parts of our hearts. The mind is in sync with the soul as the brain is in sync with the heart. I believe we have a spirit body that contains parts like our soul and a material body that contains parts like our hearts. The spirit body overlaps the material body in the same way that our muscular system is wrapped around our bones.
    This is probably why I don’t believe in artificial intelligence. Computers DO NOT have material bodies or spiritual bodies and we should NEVER be able to create something as complex as that. The day we are able to create a computer that thinks as you and I do, is the day we have gone TOO FAR. I’m also not exactly sure how people can say things like we don’t have a mind or our soul doesn’t exist, it does, just in a different way than our material body.

    I thought this blog was due all day long, not just before 2nd hour. Sorry.


  19. I still think the same way i did in class. there is no doubt in my mind, that i have a mind. This whole discussion to me is the same as asking is their air. clearly it is there... we use it all the time. We dont need scientist to try to create it. it is just there. After watching these videos i feel as though scientist have very little idea what they are talking about. Everything is just Theory. The philosopher Kant who said there is a limit to human knowledge. We need to have an outside view, which we dont. In the case of Terry Schiavo, it doesnt matter whether she had a "mind" or not. what it comes down to is her life. She had a life, and then it was taken away. Her mind had nothing to do with it. there is no way to know whether she would have wanted to die or not since her contentious was submerged.

    scientists have learn to understand the mechanics of the brain, but they are no where closer to understanding the workings of the mind.

    -Chelsea Rosenbaum

  20. Concerning mentally ill people being tried and convicted of a crime, I think that it isn’t a matter of the minded versus the mindless. If we agree that a mind does exist, the mentally ill definitely do have minds, albeit damaged ones. The mind is what gives us, or might solely consist of, our perceptions of our surroundings. To say that the mentally ill do not perceive the world would be fundamentally false. The mentally ill simply perceive things differently enough to have difficultly functioning in our society. An unhealthy mind is not the same as no mind at all. This isn’t to say, however, that just because they do have a mind we can hold them fully accountable for their actions. It is the responsibility of our society to take the mentally ill and help them to the extent that they can function on their own as best as possible.

    -Alex Aginian

  21. I believe we do have a mind due to the fact we make decisions based on emotions. Considering the brain make logical actions such as if you touch something hot your brain tells you to say ouch. The mind doesn’t do that it is your way on wondering upon something and to ponder your emotions and thoughts. I know that I have a mind because I can think about things and use my thoughts and emotions to say if I am in love or Happy or sad you can’t do that with a brain. How can having a mind be a theory if we have so many mentally ill patients that are consider bipolar. Mentally ill patients have something that makes them different from others and proves that the brain has something makes you make conscious decisions, called your mind. Alanna Albritton


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