Re: What Is the Mind?

From: Dye, Matt (
Date: Thu Mar 20 1997 - 12:11:49 GMT

> This may seem silly but I am just wondering how one can
> prove that we actually have a mind. I know one cannot prove
> either that one does not have a mind but seeing as this
> course is about explaining the mind I am asking what proof
> there is that we have minds.
> Surely all of what we are studying can said to be brain
> related.

We can never know that someone else has a mind ... only that we ourselves
have a mind. This "breakthrough" -- knowing that I have a mind -- was
made by a French philosopher named Rene Descartes.

Descartes wanted to rid himself of the received wisdom of his Age, and to
build his own philosophical system based upon what he could be sure of.

His starting point was mistrust of his senses. This was a common
philosophical stance during the Renaissance called skepticism. "I
cannot trust my senses, therefore I cannot be sure of anything that I
know. So how do I know that my life is nothing but a dream". Descartes
was not happy with this, as it leads nowhere. His famous conclusion was
that he could be sure of his own existence, as it was something he
could know rationally. He did not need to see his body to know that he
existed, it was something he could conclude by reason -- Descartes was
what is termed a rationalist. This lead to the now famous conclusion:
"cogito ergo sum" -- "I think therefore I am".

Descartes went on to say lots of dodgy stuff about the only other thing
being certain was the existence of a Perfect Being. But that aside,
"cogito ergo sum" was a great breakthrough. Think about what he said,
and then think about whether you have a mind. There are no easy answers
... :-)


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:52 GMT