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It is known that our thoughts are energy and originate from the mind. Our mind and thoughts are seperate from our brains and our physical body. So my question is what keeps the whole unit together, what's keeps our thoughts and mind attached to our physical brain and body?

May 15, 2013

Response from Allen Stairs on May 16, 2013
You say "Our minds and thoughts are separate from our brains and our physical bodies," but in fact that's controversial, and I dare say that most of the philosophers on this panel don't believe it. Roughly, the view that's widely held among philosophers these days is that thinking, feeling, etc. are actually complex activities of the brain/body. Whether or not thinking, feeling, etc. is the same as computing, the analogy is useful. The computing is realized in/embodied in/amounts to a complicated set of physical goings-on in the computer. If we look at the mind in this way, then your question doesn't arise. What keeps the thoughts "attached to" our brains and bodies is that the thinking amounts to physical events in those bodies.

If you reject this sort of view and say that minds are distinct from bodies, then there is an obvious puzzle: what keeps the body and the mind in sync? The most plausible general answer is that the two are causally related to one another: the brain/body has a causal influence on the mind and vice-versa. But while causal links can explain in general how various sorts of things stay coordinated, we typically can say something about the details of the causal links. The problem for the picture of the mind that you're assuming is that the links seem completely mysterious. If the mind is a non-physical thing (I take it that's what you're assuming) then more or less by definition we won't be able to specify some sort of mechanism that accounts for how the mind influences the body and vice-versa. And in fact, this is one of many reasons why dualism (roughly, the view that the mind is non-physical) is not a popular view among philosophers these days: it raises more questions than it answers.


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