Chapter 04



A. Chapter Summary and Goals
B. Discussion Text

4.A. Ancient Western Views on Body, Soul and Mind.
4.B. Classic Hindu Views on Soul, Self and God
4.C. Modern Views on Mind and Body
4.D. 20th Century views on Mind and Body
4.E. Intentionality
4.F. Minds and Machines

C. Discussion and Essay Questions
D. Topical Links, Web Links and Activities
E. Self-Test Questions and Answers
F. Suggestions for Further Reading

A. Chapter Summary and Goals

Summary: Few things concern us more than our "states of mind" or "the condition of our souls." Thoughts, moods, hopes, pains, loves and hates are the stuff of human life. They seem to be close to, or to be in or part of, our real core selves, our souls. Perhaps they are close to God also, or even part of God, for it seems natural to think of them as immaterial, and it has seemed natural to many to think of God as immaterial also. In fact there is an ancient tradition which links the soul or mind to what is morally highest in a person. Other traditions, especially eastern ones, sometimes go so far as to identify the core self with God. Even if we somehow disassociate soul or mind from religious or moral conceptions, a certain mystery remains. How are we to understand "states of the mind?" Do only humans have them? Are they located somewhere? Perhaps it makes no more sense to ask for their location than it would to ask for the location of Wednesday, or the number 2. On the other hand, it could be that they are nothing but states of the brain. But if they are states of the brain, then it might seem that beings with different kinds of brains, or non-physical beings (such as God, assuming there is one) could not have thoughts, or thoughts like human thoughts. But that seems implausible. One way out of some of these difficulties is to identify thoughts and other mental states with functions. What matters is not the stuff involved but the function performed, just as what matters most for a doorstopper is that it functions to keep a door open, not that it be made of any particular material. It has seemed quite natural to move on from thinking of minds as physical, or as functional states, to thinking that machines too might have minds. The temptation to do that is greatly reinforced by new technologies, such as computers or robots that seem to think, remember, plan and learn. Yet it is far from clear that such things could actually think or remember, as opposed to merely simulating thinking or remembering.


  • Understand ancient Western views on body, soul and mind
  • Understand classic Hindu views on soul, self and God
  • Understand modern views on mind and body
  • Understand 20th century views on mind and body
  • Understand the notion of intentionality
  • Understand the relation between minds and machines

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