Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul Part 2

This week, I want to focus on the mind. This isn’t an easy topic this week.  The views on mind are less theological and more philosophical as the mind, although discussed in the Bible, is not discussed in great detail.  It leaves a lot of room for us to think on what the mind truly is.

The mind is usually thought of in contrast to the body, but they each get their definitions through various disagreements in various theories that surround them.  Descartes was really the one who defined the concept of mind in the modern day.

It all started with Plato.  He was the first to note differences between mind and body.  He proposed that the mind was able to rule over the body.  Aristotle took it a step further.  He proposed that the body is made of matter which is in relation to the soul and held the same form as the body.  This view was held by experts such as Aquinas.  Descartes came along and started to put together the relationship, and more precisely the interrelationship, between the mind and the body.  Out of Descartes postulating came various other theories, of which a few are of significant importance.

The first is the Mental Substance Theory.  Although both the body and mind were both substances, they were completely different.  The body is “extended and unthinking” while the mind is the mental attribute and the source of ego.  Any feelings that we have come from the mind.  All doubt, all understanding, all aspects of feeling come from the mind.  The big counterpoint to this theory is that substance is not in feelings.  2 Corinthians 10:3-6 would go along with this theory.  “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ….”

Second, the Bundle Theory, takes everything that the mind does and turns it into a “bundle” of perceptions.  These perceptions occur rapid-fire, one after the other, and are constantly changing.  If these perceptions disappear, then nothing exists.  Kind of goes along with the “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  Sadly, this theory is disproven through the simplicity of the mind.  The fact that the mind has an identity makes it somewhat simple.

Third, the Stream of Consciousness Theory picks a middle ground between the first two theories.  Everything that comes out of the mind is part of a “stream of consciousness.”  Unfortunately, there are also states of unconsciousness that this theory does not explain.

So therefore, since the mind has been virtually impossible to define, many philosophers look at mental state rather than the overall mind.  Unfortunately, it makes it very simple to make snap judgments about mental state that one things happens after another without any inference.

This has led to one final view.  Franz Brentano has said that the mind is able to create, whether real or imagined, something to become the object of the mind.  Therefore, the mind can easily imagine a purple sky or flying monkeys.  Quite a few scriptures can go along with this view:  2 Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4:4-9, and Romans 12:1-2 to name a few.

As is seen, there are a lot of things that need to be figured out about the mind and what makes it distinctive from everything else.  So now that there is some view of what the mind, or mental state, is, we are able to now break down some theories about the mind and the body.  There are two views that head these theories:  monistic and dualistic.

With monistic theories, we find that there are a few that are important to understand.  First is materialism.  This is the oldest of the monistic theories.  Basically, matter is central and everything that exists is dependent upon it.  This would mean that everything dealing with the mind translates into a material form.  Since it is impossible to translate all matters of the mind as a material form, this theory is shown as false.

Another monistic theory is that of identity theory.  In identity theory, the mental and physical realms have very different connotations but scientifically have the same denotations.  A denotation can be seen as a hard-core definition while a connotation would be seen as an example of the definition.  So, in my mind, I see a pink Cadillac.  In my mind, that pink Cadillac can be seen in many different ways but in both cases, it is still a pink Cadillac.

A third monistic theory is called idealism.  In this view, everything hinges upon the mental state.  In order to exist, you need to either perceive or be the perceiver.  A physical object only exists in the ability to perceive it.  Since we know that physical objects exist outside of our minds, idealism is seen as false.

Now let’s look at the dualistic theories.    Dualistic means that both mental and physical are unique and separate.  The first theory is the one Descartes put out there.  It is called interactionism.  In interactionism, mental events can cause physical events and vice versa.  For example, when you get on a roller coaster, you feel fear, a mental state.  That mental state of fear causes your heart to pump and your adrenaline to rush, a physical state.  This is seen as false because of energy conservation.  It would physically tire one to feel mental states.

Another theory is occasionalism.  Occasionalist see God as the intermediary between mental and physical states.  God becomes the one and only cause in the events surrounding both mental and physical states.  If you want to swing a baseball bat, you do so only because God desires the baseball bat to be swung.  Because both mental and physical reality are so similar, there can be no natural cause as to why these events occur, therefore God is only given cause.  Since we know that God has given us freedom of will, this theory is proven false.

A third dualistic theory is called parallelism.  In parallelism, both the mind and the body work together but without any relationship.  Mind and body working together is seen as completely accidental.  Through scientific research, it has been proven that chance leads to randomness, not perfect unity.  That means this theory is false.

Next, is a big word that I will never be able to pronounce.  The fourth theory is that of epiphenomenalism.  The easiest way to think about this view is that the body acts first, then the mind.  Mental  views are simply effects of the physical reality.  If the mental is seen to come first, then it would be viewed as simply an illusion.

Christianity has been dualistic in tradition.  Man has a material part and an immaterial part.  Lately, rather than the dichotomous relationship between mental and physical, a trichotomous relationship has been viewed, that of the body, soul, and spirit.  Romans 12:1-2 is again key in understanding this.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk lately about unitarian view.  This is not the view of the church of the same name.  This could simply be another term for monistic theory.  If so, then there is a question as to what survives at death, which is why most adherents of monistic theories are annihilistic in nature.  However, if this view is not monistic but simply means that mind and body cannot be separated without destroying the man, then both mind and body become parts of a greater whole.

Next week, I will focus on the body.

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