Monday, December 27, 2004

substantial view

A leading exponent of the substantial view was George Berkeley, an 18th century Anglican bishop and philosopher. Berkeley argued that there is no such thing as matter and what humans see as the material world is nothing but an idea in God's mind, and that therefore the human mind is purely a manifestation of the soul. Few philosophers take an extreme view today, but the view that the human mind is of a nature or essence somehow different from, and higher than, the mere operations of the brain, continues to be widely held.
Berkeley's views were attacked, and in the eyes of many demolished, by T.H. Huxley, a 19th century biologist and disciple of Charles Darwin, who agreed that the phenomena of the mind were of a unique order, but argued that they can only be explained in reference to events in the brain. Huxley drew on a tradition of materialist throught in British philosophy dating to Thomas Hobbes, who argued in the 17th century that mental events were ultimately physical in nature, although with the biological knowledge of his day he could not say what their physical basis was. Huxley blended Hobbes with Darwin to produce the modern materialist or functional view.
Huxley's view was reinforced by the steadily expansion of knowledge about the functions of the human brain. In the 19th century it was not possible to say with certainty how the brain carried out such functions as memory, emotion, perception and reason. This left the field open for substantialists to argue for an autonomous mind, or for a metaphysical theory of the mind. But each advance in the study of the brain during the 20th century made this harder, since it became more and more apparent that all the components of the mind have their origins in the functioning of the brain.
The mind is the term most commonly used to describe the higher functions of the human brain, particularly those of which humans are subjectively conscious, such as personality, thought, reason, memory, intelligence and emotion. Although other species of animals share some of these mental capacities, the term is usually used only in relation to humans. It is also used in relation to postulated supernatural beings to which human-like qualities are ascribed, as in the expression "the mind of God."
There are many theories of what the mind is and how it works, dating back to Plato, Aristotle and other Ancient Greek philosophers. Pre-scientific theories, which were rooted in theology, concentrated on the relationship between the mind and the soul, the supposed supernatural or divine essence of the human person. Modern theories, based on a scientific understanding of the brain, see the mind as a phenomenon of psychology, and the term is often used more or less synonymously with consciousness.
The question of which human attributes make up the mind is also much debated. Some argue that only the "higher" intellectual functions constitute mind: particularly reason and memory. in this view the emotions - love, hate, fear, joy - are more "primitive" or subjective in nature and should be seen as different in nature or origin to the mind. Others argue that the rational and the emotional sides of the human person cannot be separated, that they are of the same nature and origin, and that they should all be considered as part of the individual mind.


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