How do you define mind

theme - Body

In order to achieve higher things, Plato wants to control desires

Life in the matrix - the ancient Greek thinker Plato made this idea clear in the allegory of the cave: There people are chained in a cave and only see images of the real world - as shadows that a fire casts into the cave from outside. What we perceive with our senses is only a flawed copy of a perfect world that exists independently of space and time. A sphere is round, this truth always applies, regardless of whether all seemingly round objects have dents and corners under the microscope. Reality is thus divided into two parts (“dualism”): into an eternally immaterial “world of ideas” and a physically perishable “world of senses”. While the latter can deceive us as in the allegory of the cave, infallible knowledge lies in the world of ideas, where the idea of ​​a sphere or the "beautiful in itself" exists objectively. We only get there from the cave through our thinking - because our spirit lives in the immortal soul, which is temporarily trapped in the body, but actually comes from the world of ideas. If we use our reason, the soul can remember the ideas and thus also recognize what is good and just. But the body also plays a central role in Plato's educational ideal. Through sport we learn to control our body with its desires and thus also train our soul.

According to Aristotle, there is no thinking without a body

Aristotle wants to turn the philosophy of his teacher Plato upside down on its feet. For him, the essence of things does not lie in the ideas, but in the things themselves. Without football and all the apparently round objects, we would not come up with the idea of ​​rounding things off. So the idea reflects what the senses perceive. With this, Aristotle rehabilitates sensory perception - and introduces an immortal soul through the back door. For Aristotle, as for Plato, this is a universal principle that breathes life into the body, but is itself immaterial. A part of the soul, the “active spirit”, is even immortal - if only as a kind of cosmic principle that breaks free from every individuality after human death. Because here Aristotle is again a materialist - and empiricist: thoughts are only filled with content through perception. So there is no thinking without a body, no knowledge without experience.

Of course you can think without a body, Descartes believes

The French René Descartes was a notorious skeptic. Because not only the senses deceive us, but also our intellect, for example when we dream, Descartes questioned everything. What remained was the doubt - and the thinking: “I think, therefore I am.” So thinking is also possible without a body, because the world breaks down into two independent substances: the soul as the immaterial inner world of free thinking (“res cogitans ") As well as the physical (" res extensa "), which as pure matter follows natural laws. Contrary to ancient beliefs, however, the soul does not need it for life. Perception and movement are mechanical - with which (unreasonable) animals become “machines”. But the human being is a double being with body and immortal soul. The aim is to give the reasonable mind control over the weak body. But how do mind and body actually interact? Because Descartes asked himself this question, he is considered the father of the “body-soul problem” - which he was only able to solve in an unsatisfactory manner. To substantiate the mutual influence of body and mind, he claimed that the soul sits in the middle of the brain in the pineal gland.

For Marx, property and power relations shape our ideals

For the famous critic of capitalism Karl Marx, thinking depends on the economy. “It is not people's consciousness that determines their being, but their social being that determines their consciousness.” In “dialectical materialism” being and consciousness are indeed in a kind of reciprocal relationship, but ultimately social and individual beliefs depend above all on it economic, historical and social conditions. Ownership and power relations thus significantly shape our ideals of beauty as well as ideas of justice or freedom. Because in capitalism this often serves to maintain power structures instead of the well-being of the people, Marx also speaks of “false consciousness”. But the world is not determined: a change in conditions is possible.

There is agreement that the body has influence over the mind

In 1979, the American neurophysiologist Benjamin Libet caused a sensation with an experiment. Subjects should raise their hands at a freely chosen time. The measurement of the brain activity showed that the unconscious neural impulse to move was present before the conscious decision. Are the human mind and consciousness materialistically reducible to nerve activities? This would reduce our free will and also the jurisprudence based on the question of guilt ad absurdum. Other scientists are more cautious because the experiment has a weak point: the test subjects already knew what action to take, and an active decision was no longer necessary. In another experiment recently, the researcher John-Dylan Haynes showed that our consciousness can veto unconscious decisions. In any case, the debate continues to this day, especially philosophers disagree with neuroscientists. They doubt that complex rational decisions can be explained in the same way as simply raising one's arm. What the brain researchers remind us in any case is the influence of the body on our mind.

The body is punished and trimmed by the powerful, says Foucault

The French philosopher Michel Foucault sees the body determined by social power structures - and disciplined by those in power. The Church preaches abstinence and fidelity and makes human sexuality the subject of religious laws and discussions. In the Middle Ages and under absolutism, confessions were extracted under torture and physical torture was a widespread punishment. The destruction of the body of a delinquent was also a popular discipline. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the obvious brutality increasingly disappeared from discipline, and according to Foucault, the body is now made more subtle in public institutions, in prisons, but also in schools, orphanages, clinics and in the military. In this way, power structures are internalized by the individual. The aim is, as it were, their submission and the increase in economic usefulness. “The human body enters a machine of power that penetrates, dissects and reassembles it. […] In this way the discipline fabricates subjugated and trained bodies, docile and docile bodies. ”For Foucault, the body is the surface on which power is inscribed.

Spivak sees the female body as exploited in capitalism

For Gayatri Spivak, a co-founder of the post-colonial theory, who sees the current balance of power as a continuation of colonial structures of rule and strives to overcome them, the female body in countries in the global south is the scene of patriarchal supremacy and sufferers of global inequality. Transnational corporations realize their profits on the backs of the workers in the low-wage countries. In the context of unrestrained capitalism, women become objects of exploitation, without the possibility of political participation or self-representation - because, if at all, others are talking about them. According to Spivak, this is also to be understood as a criticism of the hegemonic tradition of many supposed liberation discourses by Western intellectuals.

According to Butler, the body and mind are subject to cultural norms

According to contemporary philosopher Judith Butler, physical reality is also shaped by how we talk about something. As soon as the midwife says: "This is a boy", many allegedly follow typical male attributions. As early as the 1970s, feminists took up the distinction between biological (sex) and social sex (gender), which originated in psychoanalysis and sociology, in order to point out the oppression of women and the fact that gender roles are socially constructed. Butler, herself a feminist, rejects the Descartes-related dualism between supposedly unchangeable nature (sex) and culture (gender) - ultimately between body and mind. This maintains the separation between “man” and “woman” and the associated power relations. For them, it's more about breaking up strict constructs - including rethinking our bodies.