The mind-body problem
What are peoples solutions of the mind-body problem? I tend to go with a reductive or eliminative position (although I am open to an non-reductive/emergent explanation). I regard the ‘mind’ to be a ‘by-product’ of processes in the brain. Huxley made a similar argument for epiphenomenalism. He argued that mental states are like the steam coming off a train. The steam plays no causal role in the train moving forward; it is merely a by-product of the actual causation occurring in the engine. Now I don’t necessarily agree with epiphenomenalism however what I am saying relates to it somewhat: the underlining physical processes in the brain are what provide causality, while the mental states are mere superficial by-products; they don’t physically exist nor do they play a role in causality just like the steam doesn’t play a part on the functions that cause the train to move.
But if they don’t physically exist, how can they have been caused? Well I think that while they don’t exist, we intuitively think they do, and this intuitive thought is the by-product I am talking about.
From here the eliminativist would say we should eliminate the mental states, however while we may be able to do this, I think our interpersonal/social interaction is based on this commonsense/intuitive notion of mental states, so I think they still have a purpose despite being superficial. As such, I don’t think they exist, but I think there is value to them, if that makes any sense. So the only purpose of mental states is in our social context.
I’d love to hear people’s views of the mind-body problem. I’ve become quite interested in this whole area recently and I know there are such diverse proposed solutions. I think part of the interest is neuroscience and the understanding of the brain is one of the developing sciences so it is interesting to be here now as it is happening. I guess it could kind of be like Darwin developing the theory of evolution, or Newton developing the law of motion in that we may see a major development in science regarding the brain.
"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring" -- Carl Sagan