The Power of the Mind over the Body
Human have different ways of thinking and making decisions, whether relying on emotions or thoughts. People face various situations that force them to do the right thing even if it feels bad. Similarly, sometimes individuals tend to make wrong decisions because it feels good. The idea is that while some people tend to be rational, others tend to be irrational, depending on the part of the brain that is at work in the process of decision-making. Those facing such situations are most likely to find information in this paper helpful as it unravels the mystery about the philosophy behind the working of the mind, and whether the mind is part of the body or the body is part of the mind. The answer depends on what controls the other during daily experiences, including decision-making. Evidence reveals that while the mind has both the rational and the irrational part, rational decision are controlled by the mind, while irrational ones are controlled by the body. Hence, the mind has power over the body.
The role of the body can clearly be established in the following quote: “I have a distinct idea of body, in so far as this is simply an extended, non-thinking thing” (Descartes). From the perspective, the body is simply the physical part. It is tangible and where people get feelings and emotions. People experience suffering in the body, but through information processed by the mind. For instance, when one is hurt, an instant reaction to the pain is evident because the mind informs the body how to react. While the body contains the mind, it is different from the mind. However, the body cannot exist without the mind. For example, when under general anesthesia during a surgery, one goes to sleep, but it is possible to wake up in the middle of the surgery. Hence, this means that the mind wakes up and the person becomes conscious incase of waking up after the effect of anesthesia. The brain or mind is absent during the surgery as long as the anesthesia is at work and the body remains at work. It is the same way people behave when using the body instead of using the mind. The situation shows that the mind can be separated from the body, though the outcome is not desirable since a person cannot operate consciously.
The mind is the rational part, but also contains illogical parts, including emotions. It is the intangible section that drives and controls the body. When confronted with a decision to make, one can either use the rational or irrational parts of the mind, a process that affects the outcome. Decision-making involves a major conflict between the two parts of the human mind. The mind has various faculties or residents that control different processes, such as emotions (Oosterwijk et al. 2110). The reality is reflected in the fact that the mind has different states, including fear, love, memory, planning, and disgust, among other aspects. Thus, the mind does many processes, including the mental, logical, and even irrational processes. In the same manner, the mind takes care of the conscious part. “I think therefore I am” (Descartes). According to the quote, the mind makes humans whom they are. It is the powerhouse of human existence.
The mind is responsible for various functions of the human body and it is common to all people. Hence, according to François Poullain de la Barre, “the mind has no sex.” Therefore, this means that dualism exists between mind and body (Mehta 202). Mind–body dualism is an idea in philosophy, suggesting that the body and the mind are to some extent separable and distinct. As such, this perspective is responsible for some interpretations on the relationship between the body and the mind. The theory is associated with the views of Descartes (1641) who suggests the non-physical and non-partial aspect of the body. From the perspective, while sensations emanate from the body, it is not the part that is responsible for their feeling. The mind is responsible for the feeling or reaction to the sensation. Hence, the mind is associated with consciousness as well as self-awareness. Further, the philosopher differentiates the mind from the brain, indicating that the latter is the seat of intelligence (Smith et al. 23). The mind plays an important role in representing a person in the fullness of rationality and irrationality.
The support for dualism is evident in the instances when someone is brain dead because of an injury. In such a case, the mind would be dead, but the organs would still be working. From this perspective, the brain operates separate from the body. Since when the brain is dead the mind does not function, the idea confirms the argument that the mind is not simply a component of the brain that observes, but instead the entire brain working in the body. The conscious thought is the part of the mind that does the observing. Hence, when the mind or brain is dysfunctional, an individual loses consciousness, and hence, the feeling. It also means that the part of their self-awareness and self-concept no longer exists. The body can exist without the mind but the person loses the identity and personality. It is important to acknowledge that the mind is the rational part that represents an individual.
Many philosophers have disagreed with the dualism idea and instead claim that the mind and body are monistic. Ryle takes a different perspective from Cartesians’ view of the mind being completely distinct from the body. Ryle brings forth the “Concept of Mind” by revealing that the “official doctrine” is not necessarily the right one. As long as the body possesses the mind, then when people talk about the body or the mind, they are talking about the same thing (Ryle 12). Ryle further argues that the idea of dualism is the “Ghost in the Machine” doctrine of philosophical and psychological thought. He argues that the relationship between the mind and the body suggested by Descartes is absurd. Hence, as long as the mind resides in the body, the two are not simply related, but are one and the same thing.
Paul Churchland counters the idea of dualism by suggesting that materialism is the only applicable theory since nothing but matter exists. Hence, something, such as the mind, which cannot be conceptualized by the senses does not exist (Churchland 5). Leibniz argues that since the mind and the body works in unison, it is impossible to separate the two (Leibniz et al. 34). For example, the foot moves when one decides that it should. Therefore, the body and the mind is one and the same thing. The authors discount the Cartesian theory defined by Descartes claiming, “mental acts determine physical acts, and that volitional acts of the body must be caused by volitional acts of the mind.” On the other hand, Ryle came up with theory of “official doctrine” which he claims that “it represents the facts of mental life as if they belonged to one logical type/category, when they actually belong to another.” However, the arguments that counter dualism are unsubstantiated because the body and the mind are separate as Descartes argues. For instance, if doctors were able to come up with a way to successfully transplant people’s brain, would “the mental life” still be the same to the person who received a new brain implant? If the answer is no, then Descartes view would be more relevant.
In order to understand the difference between making decisions based on our mind or bodies, it is important to recognize how the brain and body interact. Whenever a decision has to be made or one thinks about something, it is the brain that performs the function. The process happens in the brain in a circular causality relation (Freeman). Meaning that when the brain makes the decision, the person acts on the decision but the outcome of that resolution will affect the way of thinking. People decide using the brain and the decisions made can affect them either positively or negatively; gaining confidence or regretting the decision. According to Freeman, “Intentional acts do not require awareness, whereas voluntary acts require self-awareness.” Therefor, by awareness, the author means consciousness of the self and its actions.
Having awareness about the decisions plays a huge role in the circular causality relation in the brain. Most of the bad choices happen because the actor was not aware of the decision made. While the person might know what he or she is doing, such as retaliating when another person punches, the retribution means that one did not take time to act rationally. It indicates that the actor did not take time to think deeply about it and its outcome. Decisions that require awareness are made in the mind, while resolutions that do not entail awareness are made by the body.
There is a big difference between the mind and the body. Most importantly is to know the difference between making decisions based on our mind and making choices based on the body. Decisions made by the mind are those that include deep awareness, while decisions based on the body are done because of feeling and the forgetfulness in thinking deeply about the consequences of the choice and the related action. Whenever making a decision, it is important to ask if one is making it based on the feeling or by deeply considering the decision and its effects on the people it might affect, including the self. Many decisions that we make and end up regretting are decisions based on how one feels. Therefore, every person should make decisions on how he or she thinks more than how one feels. Hence, in this approach, there will be no regrets based on decisions made and individuals will always tend to do the right thing. From the discussion, it is critical to think about the working of the mind separate from the body to make rational decisions.