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What is the Philosophy of the Mind? Definition, history and applications

What is the Philosophy of the Mind? Definition, history and applications

March 17, 2023

The Philosophy of the Mind one of the forms that has taken the problem of the mind-body relationship . In other words, it is one of the areas of study of philosophy that is responsible for studying the relationship between mental processes and the body (the brain in particular), and therefore, the link between the mind and behavior.

Under this area are grouped a set of works that add different proposals to the question about what is the mind ?, Which has led them to reflect also on the relationship that exists between mental processes and processes that occur within the brain.

Origins and object of study of the Philosophy of the Mind

The concepts that Philosophy of the Mind studies have been essential for modern philosophy and have many of their antecedents in classical philosophy, however, it is from the second half of the twentieth century when they have gained fundamental importance, especially from of the rise of cognitive sciences and computational sciences.

Already from the first half of the twentieth century, the Philosophy of the Mind appeared as a specialized branch within the same philosophy, whose content was especially around "the mental" (perception, intentions, representations). At that time "the mind" was already a fairly widespread and naturalized concept, even in the language of everyday life.

To give an example, thanks to this extension is that they could legitimize and develop many practices, ranging from the development of research, theories and cognitive therapies, to the development of alternative practices that used the concept of "mind" and its contents, to also develop theories and ways to intervene on this mind.

But it happened that, in the middle of the 20th century, the problem of the study of the Philosophy of the Mind became more acute, because cognitive psychology and computer science had a parallel boom, especially related to the development of artificial intelligence systems, and also because of advances in neurosciences.

Some questions were even added to the discussion about whether animals have minds or not, and whether computers have minds or not . Without losing validity or legitimacy, "the mind" and its processes (perceptions, sensations, desires, intentions, etc.) ceased to be a precise term to become rather a vague concept that was worth discussing.

Finally, after the 80s, when neuroscience reached an even greater peak, along with computer systems that became more and more sophisticated and that promised to imitate the set of neural networks of the human brain; Philosophy of the Mind became an area of ​​study with special relevance. With this, the science of the 21st century begins with a new object of study in the center: the brain.

The mind or the brain?

As we have seen, the discussion about what constitutes us as human beings, and about concepts related to this, such as decision, intentions, reason, responsibility, freedom, will, among others, have been the subject of philosophical discussion for a long time.

From the above question, naturally many questions arise, which have to do with the intentional content of our mental states, with beliefs or with desires. In turn, this is derived from how these mental states include, or not, in our behavior and in our actions.

For example, What determines our actions? It is one of the key questions for the Philosophy of the Mind, and from there different answers have come. On the one hand it may be that the actions are caused by the individual intentions of the people, which reduces them to be a consequence of a mental state, which also means that there are physical processes that can not be explained by physical or natural laws , with which, those physical processes would have to be underestimated.

Or, it may be that the actions are provoked and determined simply by a set of physical processes, with which, everything that has to do with "the mental" can be explained through physical laws that are not modified by the intentions, but by physico-chemical laws like those suggested by neuroscience.

As we can see, the answers to these questions vary according to the position adopted by each author and each reader, with which we could hardly speak of a single answer, but of different versions that can be useful to think and act on some things, and not for others.

From cognitive sciences to neurosciences?

Consequently, the Philosophy of the Mind, and more specifically the cognitive sciences, have become a set of interdisciplinary theoretical approaches. In fact, recently the very concept of Philosophy of the Mind has begun to be transformed into that of Neurophilosophy, or Philosophy of Neurosciences, where they have begun to absorb some of the most traditional concepts of cognitive psychology, such as cognitive processes or the conscience, for its study.

As expected, the previous thing has repercutido not only in the theoretical development of the sciences of the cognition and the conduct , but it has even influenced discussions that have to do with bioethics, and without going so far we can see its influence on the current trend of using the prefix "neuro" to legitimize, and even make marketable, a series of practices that range from business marketing to interventions in psychological crises.

Bibliographic references:

Sanguineti, J.J. (2008). Philosophy of the Mind. Published in June 2008 in Philosophica, online philosophical Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 25, 2018. Available at // % 3DFilosofia_de_la_mente._Voz_de_Diccionari.pdf Moya, C. (2004). Philosophy of the Mind. PUV: University of Valencia Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (1999). The Philosophy of Neuroscience. Retrieved April 25, 2018. Available at // Kim, J. (1996). Philosophy of Mind. Routledge Taylor & Francis: England

Existentialism: Crash Course Philosophy #16 (March 2023).

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