Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the ontology and nature of the mind and its relationship with the body. The mind-body problem is a paradigmatic issue in philosophy of mind, although a number of other issues are addressed, such as the hard problem of consciousness and the nature of particular mental states. +more Aspects of the mind that are studied include mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and its neural correlates, the ontology of the mind, the nature of cognition and of thought, and the relationship of the mind to the body.

Dualism and monism are the two central schools of thought on the mind-body problem, although nuanced views have arisen that do not fit one or the other category neatly.

* Dualism finds its entry into Western philosophy thanks to René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance dualists like Descartes argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas property dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance. +more * Monism is the position that mind and body are ontologically indiscernible entities, not dependent substances. This view was first advocated in Western philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th century BCE and was later espoused by the 17th-century rationalist Baruch Spinoza. Physicalists argue that only entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that mental processes will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve. Physicalists maintain various positions on the prospects of reducing mental properties to physical properties (many of whom adopt compatible forms of property dualism), and the ontological status of such mental properties remains unclear. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind. Neutral monists such as Ernst Mach and William James argue that events in the world can be thought of as either mental (psychological) or physical depending on the network of relationships into which they enter, and dual-aspect monists such as Spinoza adhere to the position that there is some other, neutral substance, and that both matter and mind are properties of this unknown substance. The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and functionalism.

Most modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive physicalist or non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, especially in the fields of sociobiology, computer science (specifically, artificial intelligence), evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences. +more Reductive physicalists assert that all mental states and properties will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological processes and states. Non-reductive physicalists argue that although the mind is not a separate substance, mental properties supervene on physical properties, or that the predicates and vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level explanations of physical science. Continued neuroscientific progress has helped to clarify some of these issues; however, they are far from being resolved. Modern philosophers of mind continue to ask how the subjective qualities and the intentionality of mental states and properties can be explained in naturalistic terms.

However, a number of issues have been recognized with non-reductive physicalism. First, it is irreconcilable with self-identity over time. +more Secondly, intentional states of consciousness do not make sense on non-reductive physicalism. Thirdly, free will is impossible to reconcile with either reductive or non-reductive physicalism. Fourthly, it fails to properly explain the phenomenon of mental causation.


Mind-body problem

The mind-body problem concerns the explanation of the relationship that exists between minds, or mental processes, and bodily states or processes. The main aim of philosophers working in this area is to determine the nature of the mind and mental states/processes, and how-or even if-minds are affected by and can affect the body.

Perceptual experiences depend on stimuli that arrive at our various sensory organs from the external world, and these stimuli cause changes in our mental states, ultimately causing us to feel a sensation, which may be pleasant or unpleasant. Someone's desire for a slice of pizza, for example, will tend to cause that person to move his or her body in a specific manner and in a specific direction to obtain what he or she wants. +more The question, then, is how it can be possible for conscious experiences to arise out of a lump of gray matter endowed with nothing but electrochemical properties.

A related problem is how someone's propositional attitudes (e. g. +more beliefs and desires) cause that individual's neurons to fire and muscles to contract. These comprise some of the puzzles that have confronted epistemologists and philosophers of mind from the time of René Descartes.

Dualist solutions to the mind-body problem

Dualism is a set of views about the relationship between mind and matter (or body). It begins with the claim that mental phenomena are, in some respects, non-physical. +more One of the earliest known formulations of mind-body dualism was expressed in the eastern Samkhya and Yoga schools of Hindu philosophy (c. 650 BCE), which divided the world into purusha (mind/spirit) and prakriti (material substance). Specifically, the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali presents an analytical approach to the nature of the mind.

In Western Philosophy, the earliest discussions of dualist ideas are in the writings of Plato who suggested that humans' intelligence (a faculty of the mind or soul) could not be identified with, or explained in terms of, their physical body. However, the best-known version of dualism is due to René Descartes (1641), and holds that the mind is a non-extended, non-physical substance, a "res cogitans". +more Descartes was the first to clearly identify the mind with consciousness and self-awareness, and to distinguish this from the brain, which was the seat of intelligence. He was therefore the first to formulate the mind-body problem in the form in which it still exists today.

Arguments for dualism

The most frequently used argument in favor of dualism appeals to the common-sense intuition that conscious experience is distinct from inanimate matter. If asked what the mind is, the average person would usually respond by identifying it with their self, their personality, their soul, or another related entity. +more They would almost certainly deny that the mind simply is the brain, or vice versa, finding the idea that there is just one ontological entity at play to be too mechanistic or unintelligible. Modern philosophers of mind think that these intuitions are misleading, and that critical faculties, along with empirical evidence from the sciences, should be used to examine these assumptions and determine whether there is any real basis to them.

The mental and the physical seem to have quite different, and perhaps irreconcilable, properties. Mental events have a subjective quality, whereas physical events do not. +more So, for example, one can reasonably ask what a burnt finger feels like, or what a blue sky looks like, or what nice music sounds like to a person. But it is meaningless, or at least odd, to ask what a surge in the uptake of glutamate in the dorsolateral portion of the prefrontal cortex feels like.

Philosophers of mind call the subjective aspects of mental events "qualia" or "raw feels". There are qualia involved in these mental events that seem particularly difficult to reduce to anything physical. +more David Chalmers explains this argument by stating that we could conceivably know all the objective information about something, such as the brain states and wavelengths of light involved with seeing the color red, but still not know something fundamental about the situation - what it is like to see the color red.

If consciousness (the mind) can exist independently of physical reality (the brain), one must explain how physical memories are created concerning consciousness. Dualism must therefore explain how consciousness affects physical reality. +more One possible explanation is that of a miracle, proposed by Arnold Geulincx and Nicolas Malebranche, where all mind-body interactions require the direct intervention of God.

Another argument that has been proposed by +more_Lewis'>C. S. Lewis is the Argument from Reason: if, as monism implies, all of our thoughts are the effects of physical causes, then we have no reason for assuming that they are also the consequent of a reasonable ground. Knowledge, however, is apprehended by reasoning from ground to consequent. Therefore, if monism is correct, there would be no way of knowing this-or anything else-we could not even suppose it, except by a fluke.

The zombie argument is based on a thought experiment proposed by Todd Moody, and developed by David Chalmers in his book The Conscious Mind. The basic idea is that one can imagine one's body, and therefore conceive the existence of one's body, without any conscious states being associated with this body. +more Chalmers' argument is that it seems possible that such a being could exist because all that is needed is that all and only the things that the physical sciences describe about a zombie must be true of it. Since none of the concepts involved in these sciences make reference to consciousness or other mental phenomena, and any physical entity can be by definition described scientifically via physics, the move from conceivability to possibility is not such a large one. Others such as Dennett have argued that the notion of a philosophical zombie is an incoherent, or unlikely, concept. It has been argued under physicalism that one must either believe that anyone including oneself might be a zombie, or that no one can be a zombie-following from the assertion that one's own conviction about being (or not being) a zombie is a product of the physical world and is therefore no different from anyone else's. This argument has been expressed by Dennett who argues that "Zombies think they are conscious, think they have qualia, think they suffer pains-they are just 'wrong' (according to this lamentable tradition) in ways that neither they nor we could ever discover!" See also the problem of other minds.

Interactionist dualism

Interactionist dualism, or simply interactionism, is the particular form of dualism first espoused by Descartes in the Meditations. In the 20th century, its major defenders have been Karl Popper and John Carew Eccles. +more It is the view that mental states, such as beliefs and desires, causally interact with physical states.

Descartes's argument for this position can be summarized as follows: Seth has a clear and distinct idea of his mind as a thinking thing that has no spatial extension (i. e. +more, it cannot be measured in terms of length, weight, height, and so on). He also has a clear and distinct idea of his body as something that is spatially extended, subject to quantification and not able to think. It follows that mind and body are not identical because they have radically different properties.

Seth's mental states (desires, beliefs, etc.) have causal effects on his body and vice versa: A child touches a hot stove (physical event) which causes pain (mental event) and makes her yell (physical event), this in turn provokes a sense of fear and protectiveness in the caregiver (mental event), and so on.

Descartes' argument depends on the premise that what Seth believes to be "clear and distinct" ideas in his mind are necessarily true. Many contemporary philosophers doubt this. +more For example, Joseph Agassi suggests that several scientific discoveries made since the early 20th century have undermined the idea of privileged access to one's own ideas. Freud claimed that a psychologically-trained observer can understand a person's unconscious motivations better than the person himself does. Duhem has shown that a philosopher of science can know a person's methods of discovery better than that person herself does, while Malinowski has shown that an anthropologist can know a person's customs and habits better than the person whose customs and habits they are. He also asserts that modern psychological experiments that cause people to see things that are not there provide grounds for rejecting Descartes' argument, because scientists can describe a person's perceptions better than the person herself can.

Monist solutions to the mind-body problem

In contrast to dualism, monism does not accept any fundamental divisions. The fundamentally disparate nature of reality has been central to forms of eastern philosophies for over two millennia. +more In Indian and Chinese philosophy, monism is integral to how experience is understood. Today, the most common forms of monism in Western philosophy are physicalist. Physicalistic monism asserts that the only existing substance is physical, in some sense of that term to be clarified by our best science. However, a variety of formulations (see below) are possible. Another form of monism, idealism, states that the only existing substance is mental. Although pure idealism, such as that of George Berkeley, is uncommon in contemporary Western philosophy, a more sophisticated variant called panpsychism, according to which mental experience and properties may be at the foundation of physical experience and properties, has been espoused by some philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead and David Ray Griffin.

Phenomenalism is the theory that representations (or sense data) of external objects are all that exist. Such a view was briefly adopted by Bertrand Russell and many of the logical positivists during the early 20th century. +more A third possibility is to accept the existence of a basic substance that is neither physical nor mental. The mental and physical would then both be properties of this neutral substance. Such a position was adopted by Baruch Spinoza and was popularized by Ernst Mach in the 19th century. This neutral monism, as it is called, resembles property dualism.


Some philosophers take an epistemic approach and argue that the mind-body problem is currently unsolvable, and perhaps will always remain unsolvable to human beings. This is usually termed New mysterianism. +more Colin McGinn holds that human beings are cognitively closed in regards to their own minds. According to McGinn human minds lack the concept-forming procedures to fully grasp how mental properties such as consciousness arise from their causal basis. An example would be how an elephant is cognitively closed in regards to particle physics.

A more moderate conception has been expounded by Thomas Nagel, which holds that the mind-body problem is currently unsolvable at the present stage of scientific development and that it might take a future scientific paradigm shift or revolution to bridge the explanatory gap. Nagel posits that in the future a sort of "objective phenomenology" might be able to bridge the gap between subjective conscious experience and its physical basis.

Linguistic criticism of the mind-body problem

Each attempt to answer the mind-body problem encounters substantial problems. Some philosophers argue that this is because there is an underlying conceptual confusion. +more These philosophers, such as Ludwig Wittgenstein and his followers in the tradition of linguistic criticism, therefore reject the problem as illusory. They argue that it is an error to ask how mental and biological states fit together. Rather it should simply be accepted that human experience can be described in different ways-for instance, in a mental and in a biological vocabulary. Illusory problems arise if one tries to describe the one in terms of the other's vocabulary or if the mental vocabulary is used in the wrong contexts. This is the case, for instance, if one searches for mental states of the brain. The brain is simply the wrong context for the use of mental vocabulary-the search for mental states of the brain is therefore a category error or a sort of fallacy of reasoning.

Today, such a position is often adopted by interpreters of Wittgenstein such as Peter Hacker. However, Hilary Putnam, the originator of functionalism, has also adopted the position that the mind-body problem is an illusory problem which should be dissolved according to the manner of Wittgenstein.

Naturalism and its problems

The thesis of physicalism is that the mind is part of the material (or physical) world. Such a position faces the problem that the mind has certain properties that no other material thing seems to possess. +more Physicalism must therefore explain how it is possible that these properties can nonetheless emerge from a material thing. The project of providing such an explanation is often referred to as the "naturalization of the mental". Some of the crucial problems that this project attempts to resolve include the existence of qualia and the nature of intentionality.


Many mental states seem to be experienced subjectively in different ways by different individuals. And it is characteristic of a mental state that it has some experiential quality, e. +moreg. of pain, that it hurts. However, the sensation of pain between two individuals may not be identical, since no one has a perfect way to measure how much something hurts or of describing exactly how it feels to hurt. Philosophers and scientists therefore ask where these experiences come from. The existence of cerebral events, in and of themselves, cannot explain why they are accompanied by these corresponding qualitative experiences. The puzzle of why many cerebral processes occur with an accompanying experiential aspect in consciousness seems impossible to explain.

Yet it also seems to many that science will eventually have to explain such experiences. This follows from an assumption about the possibility of reductive explanations. +more According to this view, if an attempt can be successfully made to explain a phenomenon reductively (e. g. , water), then it can be explained why the phenomenon has all of its properties (e. g. , fluidity, transparency). In the case of mental states, this means that there needs to be an explanation of why they have the property of being experienced in a certain way.

The 20th-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger criticized the ontological assumptions underpinning such a reductive model, and claimed that it was impossible to make sense of experience in these terms. This is because, according to Heidegger, the nature of our subjective experience and its qualities is impossible to understand in terms of Cartesian "substances" that bear "properties". +more Another way to put this is that the very concept of qualitative experience is incoherent in terms of-or is semantically incommensurable with the concept of-substances that bear properties.

This problem of explaining introspective first-person aspects of mental states and consciousness in general in terms of third-person quantitative neuroscience is called the explanatory gap. There are several different views of the nature of this gap among contemporary philosophers of mind. +more David Chalmers and the early Frank Jackson interpret the gap as ontological in nature; that is, they maintain that qualia can never be explained by science because physicalism is false. There are two separate categories involved and one cannot be reduced to the other. An alternative view is taken by philosophers such as Thomas Nagel and Colin McGinn. According to them, the gap is epistemological in nature. For Nagel, science is not yet able to explain subjective experience because it has not yet arrived at the level or kind of knowledge that is required. We are not even able to formulate the problem coherently. For McGinn, on other hand, the problem is one of permanent and inherent biological limitations. We are not able to resolve the explanatory gap because the realm of subjective experiences is cognitively closed to us in the same manner that quantum physics is cognitively closed to elephants. Other philosophers liquidate the gap as purely a semantic problem. This semantic problem, of course, led to the famous "Qualia Question", which is: Does Red cause Redness?.


Intentionality is the capacity of mental states to be directed towards (about) or be in relation with something in the external world. This property of mental states entails that they have contents and semantic referents and can therefore be assigned truth values. +more When one tries to reduce these states to natural processes there arises a problem: natural processes are not true or false, they simply happen. It would not make any sense to say that a natural process is true or false. But mental ideas or judgments are true or false, so how then can mental states (ideas or judgments) be natural processes? The possibility of assigning semantic value to ideas must mean that such ideas are about facts. Thus, for example, the idea that Herodotus was a historian refers to Herodotus and to the fact that he was a historian. If the fact is true, then the idea is true; otherwise, it is false. But where does this relation come from? In the brain, there are only electrochemical processes and these seem not to have anything to do with Herodotus.

Philosophy of perception

Philosophy of perception is concerned with the nature of perceptual experience and the status of perceptual objects, in particular how perceptual experience relates to appearances and beliefs about the world. The main contemporary views within philosophy of perception include naive realism, enactivism and representational views.

Philosophy of mind and science

Humans are corporeal beings and, as such, they are subject to examination and description by the natural sciences. Since mental processes are intimately related to bodily processes (e. +moreg. , embodied cognition theory of mind), the descriptions that the natural sciences furnish of human beings play an important role in the philosophy of mind. There are many scientific disciplines that study processes related to the mental. The list of such sciences includes: biology, computer science, cognitive science, cybernetics, linguistics, medicine, pharmacology, and psychology.


The theoretical background of biology, as is the case with modern natural sciences in general, is fundamentally materialistic. The objects of study are, in the first place, physical processes, which are considered to be the foundations of mental activity and behavior. +more The increasing success of biology in the explanation of mental phenomena can be seen by the absence of any empirical refutation of its fundamental presupposition: "there can be no change in the mental states of a person without a change in brain states. ".

Within the field of neurobiology, there are many subdisciplines that are concerned with the relations between mental and physical states and processes: Sensory neurophysiology investigates the relation between the processes of perception and stimulation. Cognitive neuroscience studies the correlations between mental processes and neural processes. +more Neuropsychology describes the dependence of mental faculties on specific anatomical regions of the brain. Lastly, evolutionary biology studies the origins and development of the human nervous system and, in as much as this is the basis of the mind, also describes the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of mental phenomena beginning from their most primitive stages. Evolutionary biology furthermore places tight constraints on any philosophical theory of the mind, as the gene-based mechanism of natural selection does not allow any giant leaps in the development of neural complexity or neural software but only incremental steps over long time periods.

The methodological breakthroughs of the neurosciences, in particular the introduction of high-tech neuroimaging procedures, has propelled scientists toward the elaboration of increasingly ambitious research programs: one of the main goals is to describe and comprehend the neural processes which correspond to mental functions (see: neural correlate). Several groups are inspired by these advances.

Computer science

Computer science concerns itself with the automatic processing of information (or at least with physical systems of symbols to which information is assigned) by means of such things as computers. From the beginning, computer programmers have been able to develop programs that permit computers to carry out tasks for which organic beings need a mind. +more A simple example is multiplication. It is not clear whether computers could be said to have a mind. Could they, someday, come to have what we call a mind? This question has been propelled into the forefront of much philosophical debate because of investigations in the field of artificial intelligence (AI).

Within AI, it is common to distinguish between a modest research program and a more ambitious one: this distinction was coined by John Searle in terms of a weak AI and strong AI. +more The exclusive objective of "weak AI", according to Searle, is the successful simulation of mental states, with no attempt to make computers become conscious or aware, etc. The objective of strong AI, on the contrary, is a computer with consciousness similar to that of human beings. The program of strong AI goes back to one of the pioneers of computation Alan Turing. As an answer to the question "Can computers think?", he formulated the famous Turing test. Turing believed that a computer could be said to "think" when, if placed in a room by itself next to another room that contained a human being and with the same questions being asked of both the computer and the human being by a third party human being, the computer's responses turned out to be indistinguishable from those of the human. Essentially, Turing's view of machine intelligence followed the behaviourist model of the mind-intelligence is as intelligence does. The Turing test has received many criticisms, among which the most famous is probably the Chinese room thought experiment formulated by Searle.

The question about the possible sensitivity (qualia) of computers or robots still remains open. Some computer scientists believe that the specialty of AI can still make new contributions to the resolution of the "mind-body problem". +more They suggest that based on the reciprocal influences between software and hardware that takes place in all computers, it is possible that someday theories can be discovered that help us to understand the reciprocal influences between the human mind and the brain (wetware).


Psychology is the science that investigates mental states directly. It uses generally empirical methods to investigate concrete mental states like joy, fear or obsessions. +more Psychology investigates the laws that bind these mental states to each other or with inputs and outputs to the human organism.

An example of this is the psychology of perception. Scientists working in this field have discovered general principles of the perception of forms. +more A law of the psychology of forms says that objects that move in the same direction are perceived as related to each other. This law describes a relation between visual input and mental perceptual states. However, it does not suggest anything about the nature of perceptual states. The laws discovered by psychology are compatible with all the answers to the mind-body problem already described.

Cognitive science

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does, and how it works. +more It includes research on intelligence and behavior, especially focusing on how information is represented, processed, and transformed (in faculties such as perception, language, memory, reasoning, and emotion) within nervous systems (human or other animals) and machines (e. g. computers). Cognitive science consists of multiple research disciplines, including psychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and education. It spans many levels of analysis, from low-level learning and decision mechanisms to high-level logic and planning; from neural circuitry to modular brain organization. Over the years, cognitive science has evolved from a representational and information processing approach to explaining the mind to embrace an embodied perspective of it. Accordingly, bodily processes play a significant role in the acquisition, development, and shaping of cognitive capabilities. For instance, Rowlands (2012) argues that cognition is enactive, embodied, embedded, affective and (potentially) extended. The position is taken that the "classical sandwich" of cognition sandwiched between perception and action is artificial; cognition has to be seen as a product of a strongly coupled interaction that cannot be divided this way.

Near-death research

In the field of near-death research, the following phenomenon, among others, occurs: For example, during some brain operations the brain is artificially and measurably deactivated. Nevertheless, some patients report during this phase that they have perceived what is happening in their surroundings, i. +moree. that they have had consciousness. Patients also report experiences during a cardiac arrest. There is the following problem: As soon as the brain is no longer supplied with blood and thus with oxygen after a cardiac arrest, the brain ceases its normal operation after about 15 seconds, i. e. the brain falls into a state of unconsciousness.

Philosophy of mind in the continental tradition

Most of the discussion in this article has focused on one style or tradition of philosophy in modern Western culture, usually called analytic philosophy (sometimes described as Anglo-American philosophy). Many other schools of thought exist, however, which are sometimes subsumed under the broad (and vague) label of continental philosophy. +more In any case, though topics and methods here are numerous, in relation to the philosophy of mind the various schools that fall under this label (phenomenology, existentialism, etc. ) can globally be seen to differ from the analytic school in that they focus less on language and logical analysis alone but also take in other forms of understanding human existence and experience. With reference specifically to the discussion of the mind, this tends to translate into attempts to grasp the concepts of thought and perceptual experience in some sense that does not merely involve the analysis of linguistic forms.

Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, first published in 1781 and presented again with major revisions in 1787, represents a significant intervention into what will later become known as the philosophy of mind. Kant's first critique is generally recognized as among the most significant works of modern philosophy in the West. +more Kant is a figure whose influence is marked in both continental and analytic/Anglo-American philosophy. Kant's work develops an in-depth study of transcendental consciousness, or the life of the mind as conceived through the universal categories of understanding.

In Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Philosophy of Mind (frequently translated as Philosophy of Spirit or Geist), the third part of his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Hegel discusses three distinct types of mind: the "subjective mind/spirit", the mind of an individual; the "objective mind/spirit", the mind of society and of the State; and the "Absolute mind/spirit", the position of religion, art, and philosophy. See also Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit. +more Nonetheless, Hegel's work differs radically from the style of Anglo-American philosophy of mind.

In 1896, Henri Bergson made in Matter and Memory "Essay on the relation of body and spirit" a forceful case for the ontological difference of body and mind by reducing the problem to the more definite one of memory, thus allowing for a solution built on the empirical test case of aphasia.

In modern times, the two main schools that have developed in response or opposition to this Hegelian tradition are phenomenology and existentialism. Phenomenology, founded by Edmund Husserl, focuses on the contents of the human mind (see noema) and how processes shape our experiences. +more Existentialism, a school of thought founded upon the work of Søren Kierkegaard, focuses on Human predicament and how people deal with the situation of being alive. Existential-phenomenology represents a major branch of continental philosophy (they are not contradictory), rooted in the work of Husserl but expressed in its fullest forms in the work of Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. See Heidegger's Being and Time, Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, Sartre's Being and Nothingness, and Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex.

Topics related to philosophy of mind

There are countless subjects that are affected by the ideas developed in the philosophy of mind. Clear examples of this are the nature of death and its definitive character, the nature of emotion, of perception and of memory. +more Questions about what a person is and what his or her identity have to do with the philosophy of mind. There are two subjects that, in connection with the philosophy of the mind, have aroused special attention: free will and the self.

Free will

In the context of philosophy of mind, the problem of free will takes on renewed intensity. This is the case for materialistic determinists. +more According to this position, natural laws completely determine the course of the material world. Mental states, and therefore the will as well, would be material states, which means human behavior and decisions would be completely determined by natural laws. Some take this reasoning a step further: people cannot determine by themselves what they want and what they do. Consequently, they are not free.

This argumentation is rejected, on the one hand, by the compatibilists. Those who adopt this position suggest that the question "Are we free?" can only be answered once we have determined what the term "free" means. +more The opposite of "free" is not "caused" but "compelled" or "coerced". It is not appropriate to identify freedom with indetermination. A free act is one where the agent could have done otherwise if it had chosen otherwise. In this sense a person can be free even though determinism is true. The most important compatibilist in the history of the philosophy was David Hume. More recently, this position is defended, for example, by Daniel Dennett.

On the other hand, there are also many incompatibilists who reject the argument because they believe that the will is free in a stronger sense called libertarianism. These philosophers affirm the course of the world is either a) not completely determined by natural law where natural law is intercepted by physically independent agency, b) determined by indeterministic natural law only, or c) determined by indeterministic natural law in line with the subjective effort of physically non-reducible agency. +more Under Libertarianism, the will does not have to be deterministic and, therefore, it is potentially free. Critics of the second proposition (b) accuse the incompatibilists of using an incoherent concept of freedom. They argue as follows: if our will is not determined by anything, then we desire what we desire by pure chance. And if what we desire is purely accidental, we are not free. So if our will is not determined by anything, we are not free.


The philosophy of mind also has important consequences for the concept of "self". If by "self" or "I" one refers to an essential, immutable nucleus of the person, some modern philosophers of mind, such as Daniel Dennett believe that no such thing exists. +more According to Dennett and other contemporaries, the self is considered an illusion. The idea of a self as an immutable essential nucleus derives from the idea of an immaterial soul. Such an idea is unacceptable to modern philosophers with physicalist orientations and their general skepticism of the concept of "self" as postulated by David Hume, who could never catch himself not doing, thinking or feeling anything. However, in the light of empirical results from developmental psychology, developmental biology and neuroscience, the idea of an essential inconstant, material nucleus-an integrated representational system distributed over changing patterns of synaptic connections-seems reasonable.

Further reading

[url=http://www. ucl. +moreac. uk/philosophy/LPSG/]The London Philosophy Study Guide[/url] offers many suggestions on what to read, depending on the student's familiarity with the subject: [url=http://www. ucl. ac. uk/philosophy/LPSG/Mind. htm]Philosophy of Mind[/url] * Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, 1980), p. 120, 125. * Pedro Jesús Teruel, Mente, cerebro y antropología en Kant (Madrid, 2008). . * David J. Ungs, Better than one; how we each have two minds (London, 2004). * Alfred North Whitehead Science and the Modern World (1925; reprinted London, 1985), pp. 68-70. * Edwin Burtt The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, 2nd ed. (London, 1932), pp. 318-19. * Felix Deutsch (ed. ) On the Mysterious Leap from the Mind to the Body (New York, 1959). * Herbert Feigl [url=http://ditext. com/feigl/mp/mp. html]The "Mental" and the "Physical": The Essay and a Postscript (1967)[/url], in H. Feigl et al. , (eds. ), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science (Minneapolis, 1958), Vol. 2, pp. 370-497, at p. 373. * Nap Mabaquiao, Jr. , [url=https://web. archive. org/web/20170331021010/http://www. vibebookstore. com/mind-science-and-computation. html]Mind, Science and Computation[/url] (with foreword by Tim Crane). Manila: De La Salle University Publishing House, 2012. * Celia Green The Lost Cause: Causation and the Mind-Body Problem. (Oxford: Oxford Forum, 2003). Applies a sceptical view on causality to the problems of interactionism. * Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Understanding the Mind: The Nature and Power of the Mind, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed. , 1997) * [url=https://web. archive. org/web/20160304105534/https://www. uibk. ac. at/psychologie/humanethologie/einfuehrung-in-die-humanethologie/dateien/medicus_engl_cover. pdf]Gerhard Medicus. Being Human - Bridging the Gap between the Sciences of Body and Mind. Berlin (2015): VWB[/url] *Scott Robert Sehon, [url=https://web. archive. org/web/20121011021421/http://mitpress. mit. edu/catalog/item/default. asp?ttype=2&tid=10693]Teleological Realism: Mind, Agency and Explanation[/url]. Cambridge: MIT University Press, 2005.