Historical Conceptions

Historical Conceptions of an Enduring Issue


The problem of the relationship between mind and body is regarded within the concept of dualism. The latter states that particular mental issues have no connection with physical features. Therefore, the mental nature and the physical one are not the same, and there are differences between body and mind and soul. For the first time, the relationship between them was seriously studied in the works of Aristotle, who shared the views of Plato and considered the concept of multiple souls. However, he gave the major attention to the differences among them and to their specific features. In his work called On Souls, Aristotle defines three kinds of souls, namely relational, vegetative, and sensitive (Cahn, 2011). Another outstanding theorist of the dualism theory is Rene Descartes, who is closely connected with this area of philosophy and psychology. He stated that soul is not a physical matter. Moreover, it was Descartes, who was the first to formulate a contemporary mind-body problem. That is why it is important to compare and contrast the ideas and theories of these two scientists, the founders of the concept of the relationship between body and mind and soul. The difference between their theories criticizing each other represents the real issue for research by modern psychology.

In his works, Aristotle concentrated on the interrelations between soul and body and the result of this personal identity. He considered soul to be the sum of all physical actions of human beings and a higher form of the body that accumulates the body structure and the organization of all processes. He also adhered to the hierarchical system. According to it, plants were regarded to have only the vegetative soul, animals were considered to be at a higher level because they have feelings, emotions and instincts, and human beings were at the highest level with the power of reason. In his work, Aristotle tries to explain his understanding of body and soul through the comparison of these categories with an axe. According to the philosopher, if an axe would have been a living creature and have soul, his body had been made from metal and wood. However, the soul would have given the body the main ability of an axe - to chop. If the latter loses the soul, it will not be therefore an axe, but just a piece of wood and metal. He continues the researches of Plato by concluding that a human being has two dimensions or expressions of oneself that are the body as a reason and the soul as a form (Davenport, 2004). Therefore, there is something more in this relation than just the cooperation of two separate materials. The soul is not a separate substance, due to it defines the main function of the human body and provides the reasons for all physical actions and the general purpose of being. However, according to this theory, it also can be seen that the soul is considered to be generated and therefore dependent on time. It can define Aristotle as the first functionalist that opposes the dualistic idea.

Another important figure considering the problem appeared in the Enlightenment period. Rene Descartes claimed that a human being consists of the body and soul. The latter is defined as a kind of a thinking substance that is not material. In his understanding of body and soul, Descartes was different from Aristotle, due to he considered them to be united. He underlines that human bodies are not components that actually make people human beings. The weak side of the theory was that Descartes did not explain how body and soul are connected. He put forward an idea that there was no clearly defined type of connection and that the body influences the mind directly. However, the fact that they are so closely connected determines that the latter has to be untied with the physical body. Concerning this point of view, Descartes is also close to Plato in his ideas that finally fail to explain the relation between body and soul in its nature. It is similar to Aristotle, who also used to found his researches on the concepts proposed by his teacher. This misunderstanding of the relationship character is more typical for materialism. This theory is another opposing one to dualism. Together with the Descartes understanding of dualism, it produced behaviorism (Carson, 2006). These new approaches tried to study the connection between mind and brain, due to some emotions were identified to be similar to the reaction produced by the brain, and therefore were typical of a human being. Besides, one of the questions discussed in connection with materialism and a series of the latter theories was the place of thoughts, pain, and love.

Another issue that will be discussed within this paper is contrasting the views and ideas of John Locke and Immanuel Kant on the role of nature versus nurture in knowledge acquisition. These two men were the most outstanding philosophers in the history of Western philosophy and both of them produced the basic concepts and theories that are now widely used and implemented. That is why it is so important to study their works and ideas and to understand the concepts they have been putting forward to be able to research all other theories based on the philosophies of these researchers (Guyer, 1987).

In his theories, Kant was seriously influenced by his predecessor, although Locke was a representative of British philosophy. Both focused on a lot of similar concepts and views, despite the fact that there can be numerous differences in the theories of these two scientists. John Locke believed that all human thoughts had their beginning in sensation and reflection ideas. The latter are so simple that all other theoretical issues can originate from them. He also paid attention to happiness and peoples prosecution of that stance. He saw happiness prosecution as the main aim of human life, the purpose of all actions and the reason for all ideas and thoughts. Moreover, this motivation is a moving force of science, moral values and religious beliefs. The latter determine a comfortable life of society and its mental health. According to his views, all human thoughts and ideas, and the understanding of the entire world, come from senses. For instance, Locke explained his claim by giving an example of a child that got to know what a dog was only when his mother showed him the one and told that this was a dog. Therefore, he sees the dog and hears how it is called (Flikschuh, 2008). The use if senses plays a decisive role in world perception and all mental processes according to the Lockes theory. Therefore, in this theory, the role of nature is decisive and gives push to nurturing, due to without senses there will be no learning.

Although these ideas were quite popular at that time, now we know the weak nature of such an approach. That can be seen in the following theory of Immanuel Kant, who continued to study the problem of knowledge and improved the theoretical base launched by John Locke. Kant gave the leading role to the concept of nurture by determining that knowledge went before other activities of the human mind, and even more, it gives the possibility of all other activities to be set in the human mind. The latter in its turn determines all conditions of getting personal experience from the outside world. Kant was right in his ideas, due to he understood that the human mind was active, not passive. It does not wait for experience to come, but creates an environment for receiving it. That also explains the main purpose of minds activity to gain experience and to understand the world around people. These categories have been evolving for the period of the development of human beings and human personality. Due to people receive some information through their genes, it results in more developed brains and a higher scale of intellectual potential (Caruth, 1991). Thus, the force of nature comes as the second one, pushed by the activity of the mind. However, it is known that America was founded on the theory of John Locke, not Immanuel Kant, although the former had a lot of weak sides in his approach that was later fixed by Kant and therefore his name cannot be forgotten.

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