Divided Essay, Research Paper
Are body and mind one and the same or are they two different entities that in a sense inhabit the same space? This is a philosophical question that no doubt many have tried to come up with an answer to. The mind is the center of our whole being. Our mind helps us to understand the world around us, as well as the person we are inside. The mind is our subconscious and conscious desires all wrapped up in one neat little package. Our mind is our hopes and our dreams that push us forward in life and gives us purpose for our actions in everyday life. The mind also helps us to define and understand our body, which is one of the most complex things in the universe. Our body is one of the most fascinating works of art known to man. It works continuously and smoothly in coordination with all its parts. Afterall, if our lungs stopped breathing in oxygen then our organs especially the heart would quickly die of asphyxiation due to loss of oxygenated blood. Everything in our body has to work together in union in order for to function properly. Our body is what allows us to do everything we do. Without a body, we would be unable to walk or run because of the lack of legs, or we would be able to draw or paint because we would have no arms. Our body allows us to live each day of our lives fully because it gives us the parts necessary to live and function. The big question though is whether the body can truly be considered a separate entity from the mind. Are the body and the mind unified or do they function separately? That is what we are going to try and determine now by looking at both perspectives with the help of Descartes and some of his philosophical ideals as well as some personal thoughts.
The body is sometimes in complete control of us without our knowledge. The example that demonstrates this ideal is the autonomic nervous system in our bodies. The autonomic nervous system is what allows us to survive each day. The autonomic nervous system is in no way controlled by our mind. No one person in this world consciously thinks about causing themselves to breathe each night as they sleep. Breathing is a natural response of our body that allows us to live. We as humans don t think about what the autonomic nervous system is actually doing each day, thus our mind has no control over it. I don t think about perspiring when I do it nor do I intentionally cause myself to digest food when I need to do it. The body does all of these actions and more without me even contemplating them happening. When we are in danger, the autonomic nervous system puts our fight or flight response into action as well. At this time, people can do amazing things. People have been known to lift cars or jump out of 3 story buildings in order to survive or to save other lives. People do not put thought or understanding into these actions, they just do them. People s bodies at this time have in a sense a mind of their own, better known as instinct. Instinct is not something that is thought up or understood, it is not our mind because no thought or understanding spills forth from it just a desire to protect oneself or others. Instinct plays no role in our hopes, dreams, and understanding of the world around us. The mind has no control here in the realms of instinct and the autonomic nervous system, only the body.
Descartes also had a good argument for the idea that the mind was a separate entity entirely from the body itself. Descartes, in one of his arguments for the idea of the separate parts between mind and body, states that the mind is indivisible while the body is a divisible entity. This statement itself really proves nothing to the argument, but the facts behind it do. Our mind is made of our understanding, hopes, drives, and sensory perceptions that are all wrapped up together, but can not be considered separate. The mind is not something that can be broken down into parts because each of these units interact with one another to form what is known as the mind. If the mind were to be broken down as such, then we would not be able to survive or function properly in the world because our mind is what strives us to live each day and each of the components that shape it must exist with one another in harmony. If the mind is damaged, then we are nothing more than a lifeless husk. The body, however, can be broken down into parts. People can survive without an arm, a leg, or our sense of hearing due to a damaged eardrum. The body will compensate for such deficiencies. These facts about the mind and the body prove though that even though a part of the body may be lost, the mind is not in any way effected by such loss. Our mind is not damaged from a lost limb because we still have our hopes and will to live. We still understand the world around us even if we can no longer walk or talk. Life does go on when the body is damaged because as Descartes would say in this argument the body is completely separate from the mind because nothing has been taken from the mind. And vice-versa can also be said, the mind may not be able to be broken down into parts without being damaged, but if the mind were destroyed or damaged the body can still function properly by breathing and surviving even though the purpose or will to live is now gone. The mind and body here are
truly two different entities.
The mind and body though can be argued to be one and the same entities that work together in harmony in our lives. Once again going back to the example of our nervous system we can gain opposite proof for this viewpoint rather than the one above. The Somatic Nervous System better known as our voluntary nervous system easily shows how our mind works and interacts along with the body to understand and perceive the world around us. The Somatic Nervous System helps our mind by giving it the outlet it needs in the physical body to accomplish its wishes, hopes, and desires which in turn gives our lives the will to keep going on. The Somatic Nervous System is controlled by our will and thoughts. In the Somatic Nervous System, we control our limbs to move and coordinate with one another. The body through this nervous system is controlled by the mind. Our thoughts, feelings, desires, and hopes all control what the body does in the real world. Our physical body allows our mind to slip into reality. Every motion of the body is dictated by the mind because an arm is only moved because of a certain purpose it has been dictated such as to fulfill a wish to draw something. Each movement that the body does has some purpose given to it from the mind. The body is the outlet for the mind and the mind is the purpose for the body.
Descartes also had a very good argument for this perspective as well. If the mind and the body were not one and the same, then we would be nothing more than thinking creatures and we know that is not true. As Descartes explains nature gives us warnings of problems or needs of our body. Our body is in pain when something is wrong and our stomach growls when we are hungry. If the mind were truly separate from our body then our body would feel these sensations and then have no way of understanding what they mean. Similarly, if we were just thinking creatures then we would not feel pain from an injury, yet we would perceive the damage only through intellect. Both the mind and the body do interact with one another because if they did not then we would be incomplete. Our mind understands the world around us, but our body gives us the sensations of the world around us to be understood. Would we truly be complete without feeling and just understanding? We are not simply thinking creatures because we do feel things.
I believe that there is no clear-cut answer to this debate. I believe that both perspectives are correct in some way. There are times when our mind is truly not in control of the actions of our body, but there are also many times when our mind truly does control and interact with our body to achieve some purpose or goal. Primarily, the conclusion that should be drawn is that the body and the mind are usually one and the same because they interact with one another throughout most of our lives to fulfill our will to live, but there are exceptions to that rule. The body does act without the mind in many cases as well, for example if we always had to think about breathing then we would be in BIG trouble because I don t think that it could be done. The body and the mind are both entities that are the same and one, yet are also different and separate. The body and mind do not fit in one set category and they never will because they fit in both categories. The body and mind are separate and one and will always be such.