The mind-body problem is a philosophical and psychological question looking at whether or not the mind and body are different entities. While our brains are undoubtedly part of our bodies, our minds, the conscious part of us that thinks, are thought of as existing on a separate plane, detached from the physical presence of the body.
However, the question arises that if the body and the mind are in separate planes of existence, how do they interact? This is the crux of the Mind-Body Problem.
Dualism is the concept that humans have both physical and nonphysical traits. This separates us from objects that are purely physical, such as wood. Our ability to reach consciousness raises the question of how the material and immaterial can interact.
René Descartes postulated that the pineal gland in the brain is where the mind and body interact. It is through that gland that the mind tells the body what to do, and it is also where the body influences the mind. This idea of a two-way street between the mind and the body is known as Cartesian dualism, and it differs from many previous dualistic beliefs that there was only a one-way street.
Monism is the concept that the mind and body are the same, and everything is either physical or mental, but not both. The concept of everything being physical is called Materialism. This concept suggests that our minds operate as physical processes of our brains, and there is no immaterial element of it.
Another type of Monism is called Phenomenalism or Subjective Idealism, and this suggests that everything exists only in the mind. Everything that appears to be physical, meanwhile, is just our mind’s perception.
Debate Among Experts
Psychologists have long debated the relationship between the mind and body. Behaviorism suggests that only observable actions such as stimulus and response matter, and there is no reason to attempt to analyze how the mind works as there is no scientific or objective basis for it. Some go as far as to say that there is no mind, and many biologists support this, as no physical structure of the mind exists. Rather, what we call the mind is simply the brain, and its biological elements are what constitutes what we believe the mind to be. These behaviorist and biological views both fall under the concept of Materialism.
While Materialists believe that the scientific facts are on their side, proponents of Phenomenalism have their own set of supporting evidence for their views that everything is a function of the mind. A famous study was done by Hilgard and Orne where they had individuals in a state of a hypnotic trance. They told these individuals that they were going to receive a sensation on their skin with smoldering hot metal. Although they were touched with ordinary pencils, their skin still reacted with water blisters, as though they got burned. This shows the power of mind over matter.