What is a mind?
It’s important to realise that a mind isn’t obviously a thing (like a handbag, a hammer, or a head). Creatures with minds are simply creatures with mental/psychological states: beliefs, desires, fears, hopes, dreams, pains, emotions, and so on.
Click on the drop down boxes to the right find out what different philosophers have thought about the mind:
We talk as if people have beliefs, desires, fears, hopes, intentions, and so on, but that’s just because it’s good enough for practical purposes. Strictly speaking, there are no such things.
People really do have beliefs, desires, fears, hopes, intentions, and so on. It’s useful to talk as if they do because they really do.
A person has an immaterial mind that interacts with the material world by animating an unconscious body.
The universe is not divided into two distinct realms – the mental realm and the physical realm. Idealism and materialism are both kinds of substance monism.
There is no distinction between the mental realm and the physical realm – what appear to be physical objects like tables and brains are really just ideas.
People really have beliefs, desires, fears, hopes, intentions, and so on, but not because they have an immaterial mind. People are entirely composed of physical matter.
A full account of the mind can be given ultimately by physics, since mental properties such as beliefs and desires are really just physical properties. Logical behaviourism and the mind-brain identity theory are forms of reductive materialism.
This is a form of reductive materialism. To have a mind is just to behave in certain ways. Being in pain is just being disposed to wince, cry, seek help, and so on. Pain doesn’t cause you to wince – the wincing just is part of being in pain.
Mental properties are just properties of the brain.
Our bodies have physical properties, such as weight and height, and also mental properties such as beliefs and desires. There is no purely physical account of mental properties even though we are composed of physical matter.
Every time you have a belief, that belief is in fact just a brain-state. Two people in the same overall brain-state will have exactly the same beliefs, desires, fears, hopes, intentions and so on.
People are entirely composed of physical matter, but mental properties are not identical to properties of the brain, and mental states are not identical to brain-states. Two people in the same overall brain-state might have different beliefs, desires, fears, hopes and intentions because their mental states are about different things in the world.