Re: Descartes and the Mind

From: Baden, Denise (
Date: Thu Oct 19 1995 - 17:10:02 BST

With regard to our metaphysical debate, the main concept that struck
me, was how mathematical truths and that sort of 'logic/grammar' was
given the special privilege of not being open to doubt. Let me explain.
As far as I understand it, these sorts of truths are formal truths,
they are by definition true. Surely though, this means they are
circular and therefore meaningless i.e. 1 plus 1 is 2 because they are
so defined. If one tries to give real meaning to these definitional
truths, then other difficulties arise. For example, one could say that
to state that something is a chair, but yet is not a chair, is a
contradiction and so has no meaning. I think however that statement has
more meaning than a mathematical truth. When I sit on a chairlike
piece of furniture, I regard it as a chair, but when my young son sees
it, its properties become more like those of a table, or climbing
frame. Maybe I'm just playing word games, but then again, maybe so is

I personally believe that whether one believes in 'the ghost in the
machine' or mind/body dualism, depends on how one defines 'mind' eg,
by function, location, structure etc. I can also draw an analogy
between the problems one has in defining key concepts (i.e.
categories always tend to merge with each other at the edges, as
most/all? things are interrelated to some degree) to the structure of
the brain where millions of neurones interconnect, some clustering
together in nuclei, others linking distant parts of the cortex. In
other words, everything is interrelated, but some is more interelated
than others. I would like to tie all this in to cognitive psychology
by saying that I don't think the concept of 'mind' is necessary to
understanding how we think. In some ways, it might even be a
hindrance, as it implies a separate entity that acts as a conductor,
in the sense that we picture it as our will/consciousness
manipulating all the bits of the brain to some end. There are not
many characteristics of the concept of 'mind' that cannot be shown to
have been lost or impaired due to injury, trauma or chemical
imbalances. I include in these things such abilities as planning,
memory, sense of self, spirituality etc which can be lost, e.g.
through frontal lobe, temporal lobe or hippocampul lesions. This
suggests that the mind certainly cannot be thought of as distinct
from the body. Baden, Denise

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:55 GMT