Philosophy of the Mind-Body Problem

Subject: Philosophy
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 6
Word count: 1719
Topics: Humanism, Body Image, Human Nature, Identity

In an article entitled The Relationship between Mind-Body Dualism and Personal Values, Grankvist Gunne and Kajonius Petri provide an extensive analysis of an empirical study they carried out to establish the significance of personal values in the explanation of the concept of dualism primarily as an approach to the mind-body problem. The scholars recognised that the mind-body problem is a critical philosophy that influences the behaviour of people. As such, they investigate personal values with the view to explaining the relationship that exists between individual values and the dualist approach. In the study, the scholars found out that the importance that people attach to personal values could help explain the strength of their belief in dualism.

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Personal values are the enduring beliefs that an end state or a mode of conduct is either socially or personally preferable to an opposite. As such, personal values encompass personal belief systems and codes of ethics. Own values influence the behaviours and motivations of the individual. Personal values have extensive empirical support as established in the study by the three authors. The ten most common values and their motivational goals include power. Power is a value characterised by the ability to influence others. Some of its motivational goals include control over people, prestige, social status and resources among others (Gunne, Petri and Björn 2016, pg. 128). Achievement is yet another value whose primary motivational factors include personal success achieved through demonstration of competence. Hedonism is yet another value whose motivations are pleasures and sensual gratification. Other values include self-direction, universalism and tradition among others. Everyone has fundamental beliefs about the values. The beliefs influence their behaviours and motivations in life about every value.

In their study, the three scholars concentrated on power. Power is an important value that everyone easily relates to in his or her daily interactions. Personal beliefs and motivations to power follow the basic motivations like social status, control, prestige and resources. People attach varying levels of significance to the power value. Some people have minimal interest in gaining influence and control over others while some other people attach immense importance to the need to control people and achieve social status. Personal attachments to the values correlate to beliefs that people have on the mind-body problem. In the report, the authors employed a self-report inventory to measure the beliefs and values thereby establishing that the strength that people have to the power value varies with some having strong attachments while others exhibit weak attachments (Gunne, Petri & Björn 2016, pg. 126).

The study established that respondents with stronger dualistic beliefs tend to attach less importance to the power value while those with weak dualistic beliefs attach immense significance to power. The scholars explain that findings arise from the ability of the dualists to separate the mind from the body thereby developing minimal attachments with things that not part of the body. Psychological dualism posits that the mind and the body are radically different things. Dualists observe that while the mental and the physical are equally real, the two cannot fuse into each other to form one new and real thing. Similarly, substance dualism hypothesises that matter and the mind involve different types of substances (Foss 1987, pg. 521). The body, for example, belongs to the physical world while the mind belongs to a non-physical world. The two worlds are different thus informing the differences that characterise both the mind and the body.

The separation of the mind from the body helps explain the findings of the study (Boring 1932, pg. 35). Power is a value that has immense significance in the physical world. Those with immense power have significant resources and have tremendous influence and control over large groups of people. As such, power provides gratifications and comfort to the body. The mind tends to find peace and stability without relating to the physical world. In fact, studies show that amassing immense wealth and having a lot of control fills the mind with worry thereby denying an individual the psychological peace and stability (Bunge 1980, pg. 76). Property dualism underscores the separation of the mind from the body by arguing that while the world is a single substance, the substance has both physical and mental properties. As such, the respondents who exhibited strong dualistic mindsets attached less importance to the power value. 

Monism is yet another approach utilised in understanding the mind-body problem. Just as the name suggests, monists believe that only one thing exists. Materialism is a subset of monism, which asserts that nothing exists besides the material world (O’Connor 1969, pg. 9). According to materialists, the mind or consciousness is a function of the brain. The theory appears practical and relies on the basic human anatomy. The mind is an abstract concept that does not exist in any physical form. Physical processes that take place inside a brain can explain every mental process since the mental processes occur inside the central nervous systems. The theory thus concludes that human beings are complex physiological organisms. Ion and David (2016, pg. 101) assert that materialism attempts to explain personal values through the mental processes taking place inside a nervous system. The disparity that exists in individual values thereby arises from differences in hormones that result in aggressiveness thus resulting in some people who attach immense significance to power while others attach of minimal importance to the power value. 

Phenomenalism or idealism is yet another type of monism that believes that only mental objects exist. The theory reduces physical events and objects into mental events, objects and properties. Idealists argue that the body is a just a perception of the mind. The theory borrows from an extensive study carried out by a group of hemiplegic stroke victims who argued that contrary to the mirror evidence, which shows that they can never move their hands, they could move both their hands. The respondents in the study showed that movements are results of the mind’s perception. The theory appears and sounds preposterous since visible evidence exists to prove the existence of the physical world. The physical world is tangible. As such, while the respondents in the study claimed that they could move their hands they could not attest to touching the mirror. The approach is likely to have a unique explanation on the concept of personal values. Personal values are indeed mental properties that exist in varying levels in every individual.

Type physicalism or the mind-brain theory is yet another approach to the mind-body problem that can help explain the empirical study. The physicalist theory argues that mental events belong to groups and types that correlate to various physical events that take place in the brain. The theory appears similar to the materialist approach, which argued that only the brain exists and the mental events arise from biological processes that take place in the brain (Feigl 1967, pg. 89). However, the identity theory of the mind groups mental events into groups like psychological pain which in turn correlates with physical activities taking place in the brain such as C-fiber firings. In such a case, the term mental pain thus is a description of C-fiber firings. 

An explanation of personal values and its ties to dualism is, therefore, a complex process. While the study establishes that strong dualists have a minimal attachment to the power value, a significant number of scholars contradict the view. Behaviorists, for example, believe that psychology should focus on observable actions that have adequate evidence to prove a pattern of behaviour. Everyone has personal values, which influence both their beliefs and motivations. Behavior and beliefs are acquired concepts that arise from the environment in which people exist. The relativity of the environment and backgrounds of people validate the relativity of the attachment that people have with the power value. Behaviorists thus ignore the mind a feature that reveals their monism nature. 

Humanists on the other hand dispute materialism monism and argue that studying human behaviour should rely on subjective experiences. Such experiences can help explain the position of personal values in the life of a person. Subjective experiences in the course of a person influence their values. The attachment to the power value will vary depending on the experiences of a person. Furthermore, the attachment to the power value varies depending on the prevailing circumstances and the subjective experiences that are equally dynamic in the course of life. However, cognitive psychologists recognize the existence of the mind. They explain that the mind is like a computer memory, which permits multiple programs to run any one moment (After 1970, pg. 75). As such, humans tend to analyze situations differently thereby developing unique values and attachments to personal values.

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In retrospect, the empirical study evaluated the significance of personal values and the relationship that exists between the values and dualism. While the incorporation of dualism in the study appeared to restrict the analysis, it provided equally interesting ways of relating personal values to the other theories of the mind and body problems. Every theory adopts a unique explanation. People with strong dualistic beliefs had less attachment to the power value. The other approaches to the problem were equally radical. Monism infused the values to the functions of the brain. The same is the case with idealism, which argues that the mind does not exist. 

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  1. After, M. 1970. The computer simulation of behavior. New York: Harper & Row.
  2. Boring, E. G. 1932. The physiology of consciousness. Science, 75, 32–39.
  3. Bunge, M., 1980.The mind-body problem: A psychobiological approach. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
  4. Feigl, H. 1967. The “mental” and the “physical.” (2nd. ed.) Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.
  5. Foss, J., 1987. Is the Mind-Body Problem Empirical? Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 17(3): 505-532.
  6. Gunne, G., Petri, K. & Björn, P., 2016. The Relationship between Mind-Body Dualism and Personal Values. International Journal of Psychological Studies, 8(2):126-132. Doi 10.5539/ijps.v8n2p126.
  7. Ion, M. G. & David, R., 2016. The mind body problem, part three: ascension of sexual function to cerebral level. Journal of Mind and Medical Sciences,  3(1): 1-12. 
  8. O’Connor, J. (Ed.) 1969. Modern materialism’. Readings on mind-body identity. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
  9. Tibbetts, P., 1973. The Mind-Body Problem: Empirical or Conceptual Issue? The Psychological Record, 23(1): 111–120. 
  10. Westphal, J. (2016). The mind-body problem. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
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