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Wellness with Lisa Group

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Samuel Wright
Samuel Wright


The mind is the set of faculties responsible for all mental phenomena. Often the term is also identified with the phenomena themselves.[2][3][4] These faculties include thought, imagination, memory, will, and sensation. They are responsible for various mental phenomena, like perception, pain experience, belief, desire, intention, and emotion. Various overlapping classifications of mental phenomena have been proposed. Important distinctions group them according to whether they are sensory, propositional, intentional, conscious, or occurrent. Minds were traditionally understood as substances but it is more common in the contemporary perspective to conceive them as properties or capacities possessed by humans and higher animals. Various competing definitions of the exact nature of the mind or mentality have been proposed. Epistemic definitions focus on the privileged epistemic access the subject has to these states. Consciousness-based approaches give primacy to the conscious mind and allow unconscious mental phenomena as part of the mind only to the extent that they stand in the right relation to the conscious mind. According to intentionality-based approaches, the power to refer to objects and to represent the world is the mark of the mental. For behaviorism, whether an entity has a mind only depends on how it behaves in response to external stimuli while functionalism defines mental states in terms of the causal roles they play. Central questions for the study of mind, like whether other entities besides humans have minds or how the relation between body and mind is to be conceived, are strongly influenced by the choice of one's definition.


Mind or mentality is usually contrasted with body, matter or physicality. The issue of the nature of this contrast and specifically the relation between mind and brain is called the mind-body problem.[5] Traditional viewpoints included dualism and idealism, which consider the mind to be non-physical.[5] Modern views often center around physicalism and functionalism, which hold that the mind is roughly identical with the brain or reducible to physical phenomena such as neuronal activity[6][need quotation to verify] though dualism and idealism continue to have many supporters. Another question concerns which types of beings are capable of having minds.[citation needed][7] For example, whether mind is exclusive to humans, possessed also by some or all animals, by all living things, whether it is a strictly definable characteristic at all, or whether mind can also be a property of some types of human-made machines.[citation needed] Different cultural and religious traditions often use different concepts of mind, resulting in different answers to these questions. Some see mind as a property exclusive to humans whereas others ascribe properties of mind to non-living entities (e.g. panpsychism and animism), to animals and to deities. Some of the earliest recorded speculations linked mind (sometimes described as identical with soul or spirit) to theories concerning both life after death, and cosmological and natural order, for example in the doctrines of Zoroaster, the Buddha, Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient Greek, Indian and, later, Islamic and medieval European philosophers.

Psychologists such as Freud and James, and computer scientists such as Turing developed influential theories about the nature of the mind. The possibility of nonbiological minds is explored in the field of artificial intelligence, which works closely in relation with cybernetics and information theory to understand the ways in which information processing by nonbiological machines is comparable or different to mental phenomena in the human mind.[8] The mind is also sometimes portrayed as the stream of consciousness where sense impressions and mental phenomena are constantly changing.[9][10]

The original meaning of Old English gemynd was the faculty of memory, not of thought in general.[11] Hence call to mind, come to mind, keep in mind, to have mind of, etc. The word retains this sense in Scotland.[12] Old English had other words to express "mind", such as hyge "mind, spirit".[13]

The meaning of "memory" is shared with Old Norse, which has munr. The word is originally from a PIE verbal root *men-, meaning "to think, remember", whence also Latin mens "mind", Sanskrit manas "mind" and Greek μένος "mind, courage, anger".

The mind is often understood as a faculty that manifests itself in mental phenomena like sensation, perception, thinking, reasoning, memory, belief, desire, emotion and motivation.[2][15] Mind or mentality is usually contrasted with body, matter or physicality. Central to this contrast is the intuition that minds exhibit various features not found in and maybe even incompatible with the material universe as described by the natural sciences.[16][15] On the traditionally dominant substantialist view associated with René Descartes, minds are defined as independent thinking substances. But it is more common in contemporary philosophy to conceive minds not as substances but as properties or capacities possessed by humans and higher animals.[15][17]

Despite this agreement, there is still a lot of difference of opinion concerning what the exact nature of mind is and various competing definitions have been proposed.[2] Philosophical definitions of mind usually proceed not just by listing various types of phenomena belonging to the mind but by searching the "mark of the mental": a feature that is shared by all mental states and only by mental states.[16][15] Epistemic approaches define mental states in terms of the privileged epistemic access the subject has to these states. This is often combined with a consciousness-based approach, which emphasizes the primacy of consciousness in relation to mind. Intentionality-based approaches, on the other hand, see the power of minds to refer to objects and represent the world as being a certain way as the mark of the mental. According to behaviorism, whether an entity has a mind only depends on how it behaves in response to external stimuli while functionalism defines mental states in terms of the causal roles they play. The differences between these diverse approaches are substantial since they result in very different answers to questions like whether animals or computers have minds.[2][16][15]

There is a great variety of mental states. They fall into categories like sensory and non-sensory or conscious and unconscious.[18][15] Various of the definitions listed above excel for states from one category but struggle to account for why states from another category are also part of the mind. This has led some theorists to doubt that there is a mark of the mental. So maybe the term "mind" just refers to a cluster of loosely related ideas that do not share one unifying feature.[15][16][17] Some theorists have responded to this by narrowing their definitions of mind to "higher" intellectual faculties, like thinking, reasoning and memory. Others try to be as inclusive as possible regarding "lower" intellectual faculties, like sensing and emotion.[19]

In popular usage, mind is frequently synonymous with thought: the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on "inside our heads".[20] Thus we "make up our minds", "change our minds" or are "of two minds" about something. One of the key attributes of the mind in this sense is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access. No one else can "know our mind". They can only interpret what we consciously or unconsciously communicate.[21]

One way to respond to this worry is to ascribe a privileged status to conscious mental states. On such a consciousness-based approach, conscious mental states are non-derivative constituents of the mind while unconscious states somehow depend on their conscious counterparts for their existence.[16][22][23] An influential example of this position is due to John Searle, who holds that unconscious mental states have to be accessible to consciousness to count as "mental" at all.[24] They can be understood as dispositions to bring about conscious states.[25] This position denies that the so-called "deep unconscious", i.e. mental contents inaccessible to consciousness, exists.[26] Another problem for consciousness-based approaches, besides the issue of accounting for the unconscious mind, is to elucidate the nature of consciousness itself. Consciousness-based approaches are usually interested in phenomenal consciousness, i.e. in qualitative experience, rather than access consciousness, which refers to information being available for reasoning and guiding behavior.[16][27][28] Conscious mental states are normally characterized as qualitative and subjective, i.e. that there is something it is like for a subject to be in these states. Opponents of consciousness-based approaches often point out that despite these attempts, it is still very unclear what the term "phenomenal consciousness" is supposed to mean.[16] This is important because not much would be gained theoretically by defining one ill-understood term in terms of another. Another objection to this type of approach is to deny that the conscious mind has a privileged status in relation to the unconscious mind, for example, by insisting that the deep unconscious exists.[23][26]

Intentionality-based approaches see intentionality as the mark of the mental.[15][16][18] The originator of this approach is Franz Brentano, who defined intentionality as the characteristic of mental states to refer to or be about objects.[29][30] One central idea for this approach is that minds represent the world around them, which is not the case for regular physical objects.[18][31] So a person who believes that there is ice cream in the fridge represents the world as being a certain way. The ice cream can be represented but it does not itself represent the world. This is why a mind is ascribed to the person but not to the ice cream, according to the intentional approach.[15] One advantage of it in comparison to the epistemic approach is that it has no problems to account for unconscious mental states: they can be intentional just like conscious mental states and thereby qualify as constituents of the mind.[32] But a problem for this approach is that there are also some non-mental entities that have intentionality, like maps or linguistic expressions.[15][33] One response to this problem is to hold that the intentionality of non-mental entities is somehow derivative in relation to the intentionality of mental entities. For example, a map of Addis Ababa may be said to represent Addis Ababa not intrinsically but only extrinsically because people interpret it as a representation.[32][34] Another difficulty is that not all mental states seem to be intentional. So while beliefs and desires are forms of representation, this seems not to be the case for pains and itches, which may indicate a problem without representing it.[30][33] But some theorists have argued that even these apparent counterexamples should be considered intentional when properly understood.[35][36] 041b061a72


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