I’ve been pondering over this for some weeks now. It’s sometimes called the mind-body issue. I’ve been asking myself questions that I can’t answer: we assume that we’re unique in having a mind. When we evolved from not having a mind to having a mind, how did it come about? Why do we seem to be the only creatures with mind? My late and sorely missed Border Collie/Springer Spaniel, Bracken, was the most intelligent animal I’ve ever known. But I’m not sure he had a mind … not sure that he knew he was a dog. How can we tell whether animals have minds or not? (But I must mention here that a recent study has claimed that animals are self-aware.) My Oxford Dictionary has … ‘Brain: (1) an organ of soft, nervous tissue contained in the skull of vertebrates, functioning as the co-ordinated centre of sensation and intellectual and nervous activity’. ‘ Mind: (1) the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think and to feel: the faculty of consciousness and thought. (2) a person’s ability to think and reason: the intellect.’
So be it. But it doesn’t answer my questions.
Could I be wrong in thinking that brain and mind must be closely related? In his 1949 book ‘The Concept of Mind’ Gilbert Ryle introduced The Category Mistake … She arrived in a flood of tears and a taxi. / A visitor is shown round the university. He sees the lecture rooms, the tutorial rooms, and the accommodation block. But where’s the university? he asks. Ryle would say that by linking brain and mind I’m guilty of a category mistake. They don’t belong in juxtaposition because they’re parts of one thing….I suppose it’s like batting and bowling in cricket … you can’t have one without the other.
Ryle would also hold that mind is an illusion born of the dualism of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) with his distinction between the conscious mind and the biological brain which dominated thought until recently.
I turned to usage:
# Brain drain # Georgia on My Mind
# Brain-dead # The mind of a killer.
# A first class brain # Mind – Body – Spirit
What would you say?
# You’re not focussing: engage your brain / mind.
# We need a fresh brain / mind on this problem.
# I wouldn’t be a millionaire without my brilliant brain / mind.
This clearly suggests that brain and mind have different uses and are therefore separable. If I want to raise my hand, my brain sends a message to my hand: if I want to write a poem, I engage my creative mind.
So … I’m stuck with my questions and I’m at odds with an entire school of Philosophy.
And then there’s the nervous system.
All I need.