And How Do We Learn?
On the subject of Mind the most interesting aspect is what has been called the Mind-Brain Problem. It was never a problem for those that had a proper metaphysical understanding of the concept and the reality behind it. The progression of the dementia sufferer is perhaps the best illustration. This is an area of familial experience, as I have been a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s sufferer for 13 years. Alzheimer’s has been called the Disappearing Person disease. It is an understandable and unfortunate moniker. The person does not disappear, they go into involuntary hiding. My point here is that it is the brain that (slowly) disappears, not the Mind. I have seen it myself so many times. I read a book some years ago about Alzheimers titled ‘Still Alice’. The title was apt. The person is still in there. The Mind is awake. This is what makes Alzheimer’s and pathological dementia so devastating. The brain has let the mind down. I can think of no laboratory or clinical setting that would demonstrate this reality like spending years with a person that is suffering the progression of this devastating disease.
Great post, and a very important question in the headline that does not get the proper attention it deserves. The late, great Dr. Thomas Szasz (a psychiatrist) wrote an absorbing book titled "The Meaning of Mind." He concluded that mind is a verb, not a noun proper, and that we lead ourselves into a morass of misunderstanding when we treat it as a noun and reify it. He argued, very plausibly in my view, that the concept of "mind" arose only in the late Middle Ages as a legal fiction and that the concept is not continuous with the ancient concept of "soul." To my knowledge, no one in ancient philosophy has ever read his book, but they should. It is very clearly written and begins with a terrific chapter about the experience of Helen Keller.
Here's a link if anyone wants to check it out/sneak-peek it: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Meaning_of_Mind/IcljKrApZq4C?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=the+meaning+of+mind+szasz&printsec=frontcover
Loved this, thank you
These ideas have been top of mind for me recently as I have been rediscovering William Blake and Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception. Huxley specifically references back to Plato’s ideas regarding perception and abstraction, though not wholly in agreement. To Huxley, the role of language in structuring thought is central. Huxley refers to languages as implicit philosophies and contends that while we benefit in terms of survival from these philosophies being foisted upon us, they also limit our awareness of the world around us. In other words, language “petrifies” consciousness. Huxely contends that transcending language and survival mode (via mystical experience) one can (momentarily) cleanse the doors of perception, giving us access to a glimpse of the infinite and eternal — the most fundamental reality.
A most interesting article on what is arguably the most important subject of all. We only experience reality because of our mind's participation, but very few people ever stop to question what that mind is? Our Buddhist explanation of how we know things seems very similar to the one described: direct perception, inference based on experience (e.g. smoke coming out of a chimney suggests fire), and relying on someone else who we trust. In Buddhism, mind is defined as "a formless continuum of clarity and cognition" - clarity being the aspect of mind that enables anything to arise, and cognition being that which cognises. Ultimately, through mind watching mind meditation, we arrive at the same point: that all phenomena, our 'selves' included, are ultimately illusion-like. According to the Buddhist perspective, which I believe may well have influenced Classical Greek philosophers, letting go of the need to grasp at such illusion-like appearances is the path to inner peace.
Great article! We (my wife and I) wonder about dreaming and how the mind works so differently while we sleep. The comments here were great as well!