Throughout history, and even up to present day, few topics have generated scholarly debate as the topic of mind versus brain. The topic goes back to the days of Aristotle, one of the first people to think through it and explain a theory. Aristotle proposed a theory that the mind is the seat of wisdom and far removed from the body. Rene Descartes, a philosopher seemed to disagree with Aristotle’s view. Instead, his suggestion was that the brain, rather than the mind is the seat of intelligence. Nevertheless, the views and arguments of these giants have enabled us see beyond and get new and reliable information on the brain and the mind. This essay highlights the belief that the occurrences in the brain constitute the mind and that emotion and feelings are in fact, chemical processes and reactions in the brain.
There are two theories proposed by scientists and philosophers, monism and dualism. The theory of monism suggests that there is no distinction between the brain and mind and that the only thing that exists is the physical brain. A belief in this theory requires ignorance of the existence of such things as emotions, thoughts and feelings, as they are non- existent. On the other hand, the theory of dualism suggests that there is a boundary between the brain and the mind and that the mind is largely immaterial, shapeless and intangible, unlike the brain. Rene Descartes has fame for his concept on dualism, in which he attempts to differentiate the body from the mind. However, there is a misinterpretation of the concept by many authors. Critics of the concept cite inconsistency and contradictory statements as the questionable aspects of the theory. In his theory, Descartes sets apart the mind from the body, labeling the mind/soul the “thinking thing” and the body the “unthinking thing”. Descartes goes ahead and suggests that it is possible to doubt physical nature, but never doubt that the thought. Essentially, he translates it that his ability to doubt that he is physical relates to the physical aspect of his body and the thinking aspect of it, to his mind. At a time when tension was high due the difference in the opinion between scientists and the religious leaders, he manages to strike a balance between both groups in his hypothesis, thus avoids the wrong side by either group. The propositions put forward by Descartes to support the theory have some contradictory aspects. However, the same propositions bring out some thoughtful and wise reasoning and one has to agree that the theory of dualism has more weight in comparison to that of monism. (Descartes).
“The brain is the organ by which we think that we think”, is a famous quote (by Ambrose Bierce) that gives a clue on the function of the human brain. The brain is an organ whose importance cannot be underestimated, has sophisticated and complex group of systems that the human body is. The brain is part of the body that differentiates human beings from the other animals. It conceives and interprets internal information and influences the external output bodily, by involving other systems including the skeletal and endocrine systems among others (Sala 45). It triggers the search for answers about material aspects; therefore, everything needed in understanding the mind is within the brain. The mind, on the other hand, is a product of the nervous system working in close association with the brain to perceive and effect changes in the environment (Moore and Kenneth 25). The brain is a divine aspect that communicates through feelings in the body. Presumably, the brain also possesses the ability to interconnect with other minds, to share and that it is non-physical. Some scientists and philosophers consider brain as a physical representation of mind while others maintain that the mind is quite similar to the body and in essence, the brain. To bring out the relationship between the two more clearly, it is necessary to analyze the origin of both.
Most scientists argue that, without the brain, the mind is non-existent. True to this suggestion, the mind appears to be part of a complex network of feelings, emotions and perceptions. At the centre of this network is the brain, which coordinates, analyses, interprets and even stores information. The brain has divisions called lobes each with a different function. Some of these functions include storage of information, interpretation of feelings and emotions. Interpretation of such feelings involves various chemical reactions at the nerve terminals. These interpretations constitute and produce the mind. The brain is a center of all bodily functions and processes ((Sala 5). In some instances, the relationship between the mind and the brain likens to that between a car, its engine and a driver. In this relationship, the brain assumes the role of the engine, the driving force behind the whole set up that coordinates and propels it. The body resembles a car itself, being the controlled aspect and housing the brain and the driver who in this case, relates to the mind. If the engine stalls, there is remarkably little chance that the driver can do much to get the car back on the road. However, the driver controls the speed, and this; he can only do if the engine is working efficiently. Likewise, in humans, the brain perceives and allows the mind to react, bringing an interconnection between it and the driving seat in the whole arrangement. This proves the belief that the mind and the brain work in close association.
In conclusion, the brain and the mind are two aspects, which are closely related in their functions and contribution to the functioning of the “car” and are, in fact, connected. The mind is simply events occurring in the brain. The close relationship between the two aspects points to the fact that they work collectively to give the personality of a human being. Their closeness in the association also comes by the fact that a good number of people confuse the two, thus using the two words, brain and mind, interchangeably.