Mind collectively refers to the aspects of intellect and consciousness manifested as combinations of thought, perception, memory, emotion, will and imagination; mind is the stream of consciousness. It includes all of the brain's conscious processes. This denotation sometimes includes, in certain contexts, the working of the human sub-conscious or the conscious thoughts of animals. "Mind" is often used to refer especially to the thought processes of reason.
There are many theories of the mind and its function. The earliest recorded works on the mind are by Plato, Aristotle, Adi Shankara, the Buddha, and other ancient Greek and Indian philosophers. Pre-scientific theories, based in theology, concentrated on the relationship between the mind and the soul, the supposed supernatural, divine or god-given essence of the person. Modern theories, based on scientific understanding of the brain, theorise that the mind is a phenomenon of the brain and is synonymous with consciousness.
The question of which human attributes make up the mind is also much debated. Some argue that only the "higher" intellectual functions constitute mind: particularly reason and memory. In this view the emotions - love, hate, fear, joy - are more "primitive" or subjective in nature and should be seen as different from the mind. Others argue that the rational and the emotional sides of the human person cannot be separated, that they are of the same nature and origin, and that they should all be considered as part of the individual mind.
In popular usage mind is frequently synonymous with thought: It is that private conversation with ourselves that we carry on "inside our heads." Thus we "make up our minds," "change our minds" or are "of two minds" about something. One of the key attributes of the mind in this sense is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access. No-one else can "know our mind." They can only know what we communicate.
Aspects of mind
Thought is a mental process which allows beings to model the world, and so to deal with it effectively according to their goals, plans, ends and desires. Words referring to similar concepts and processes include cognition, sentience, consciousness, idea, and imagination. Thinking involves the cerebral manipulation of information, as when we form concepts, engage in problem solving, reason and make decisions. Thinking is a higher cognitive function and the analysis of thinking processes is part of cognitive psychology.
There is a strain in modern philosophy Contentless Thought which argues that thought cannot have any content, irreducible substrate, or essence. This strain argues that thought has no content i.e thought is not in language or images or concepts or anything else. This philosophy argues that thought can have no 'thing', or essence as a necessary truth. In consequence it agues the utter untenability of a mentalist realist philosophy of mind as well as the untenability of the analytic philosophical tradition of Dummett- which argues there can be no thought without language. Thus the debates between cognitivist and communicative theorists as to whether thought has an essence such as language, or images, or concepts, and or anything else is brought to an end. As a corollary to this it is argued untenability of any program, like Newspeak, as instigated in Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, to control thinking, by delimiting thought, by controlling the content of thought
Memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and subsequently recall information. Although traditional studies of memory began in the realms of philosophy, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century put memory within the paradigms of cognitive psychology. In recent decades, it has become one of the principal pillars of a new branch of science called cognitive neuroscience, a marriage between cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
Imagination is accepted as the innate ability and process to invent partial or complete personal realms within the mind from elements derived from sense perceptions of the shared world. The term is technically used in psychology for the process of reviving in the mind percepts of objects formerly given in sense perception. Since this use of the term conflicts with that of ordinary language, some psychologists have preferred to describe this process as "imaging" or "imagery" or to speak of it as "reproductive" as opposed to "productive" or "constructive" imagination. Imagined images are seen with the "mind's eye". One hypothesis for the evolution of human imagination is that it allowed conscious beings to solve problems (and hence increase an individual's fitness) by use of mental simulation.
Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one's environment. It is a subject of much research in philosophy of mind, psychology, neuroscience, and cognitive science. Some philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness, which is subjective experience itself, and access consciousness, which refers to the global availability of information to processing systems in the brain. Phenomenal consciousness is a state with qualia. Phenomenal consciousness is being something and access consciousness is being conscious of something.
Philosophy of mind
- Main article: Philosophy of mind
Philosophy of mind is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body. The mind-body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as the central issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues concerning the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the physical body.
Dualism and monism are the two major schools of thought that attempt to resolve the mind-body problem. Dualism is the position that mind and body are in some way separate from each other. It can be traced back to Plato, Aristotle and the Sankhya and Yoga schools of Hindu philosophy, but it was most precisely formulated by René Descartes in the 17th century. Substance dualists argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas Property dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.
Monism is the position that mind and body are not ontologically distinct kinds of entities. This view was first advocated in Western Philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th Century BC and was later espoused by the 17th Century rationalist Baruch Spinoza. Physicalists argue that only the entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that the mind will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind. Neutral monists adhere to the position that there is some other, neutral substance, and that both matter and mind are properties of this unknown substance. The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and functionalism.
Many modern philosophers of mind adopt either a reductive or non-reductive physicalist position, maintaining in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. These approaches have been particularly influential in the sciences, particularly in the fields of sociobiology, computer science, evolutionary psychology and the various neurosciences. Other philosophers, however, adopt a non-physicalist position which challenges the notion that the mind is a purely physical construct. Reductive physicalists assert that all mental states and properties will eventually be explained by scientific accounts of physiological processes and states. Non-reductive physicalists argue that although the brain is all there is to the mind, the predicates and vocabulary used in mental descriptions and explanations are indispensable, and cannot be reduced to the language and lower-level explanations of physical science. Continued neuroscientific progress has helped to clarify some of these issues. However, they are far from having been resolved, and modern philosophers of mind continue to ask how the subjective qualities and the intentionality (aboutness) of mental states and properties can be explained in naturalistic terms.
Science of mind
Psychology is the scientific study of human behavior. As both an academic and applied discipline, Psychology involves the scientific study of mental processes such as perception, cognition, emotion, personality, as well as environmental influences, such as social and cultural influences, and interpersonal relationships, in order to devise theories of human behavior. Psychology also refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human activity, including problems of individuals' daily lives and the treatment of mental health problems.
Psychology differs from the other social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology) due to its focus on experimentation at the scale of the individual, as opposed to groups or institutions. Historically, psychology differed from biology and neuroscience in that it was primarily concerned with mind rather than brain, a philosophy of mind known as dualism. Modern psychological science incorporates physiological and neurological processes into its conceptions of perception, cognition, behavior, and mental disorders.
Social psychology and group behaviour
Social psychology is the study of how social conditions affect human beings. Scholars in this field are generally either psychologists or sociologists. Social psychologists who are trained in psychology tend to focus on individuals as the unit of study; sociologists tend to favor the study of groups and larger social units such as societies, although there are exceptions to these general tendencies in both fields. Despite their similarity, the disciplines also tend to differ in their respective goals, approaches, methods, and terminology. They also favor separate academic journals and societies.
Like biophysics and cognitive science, social psychology is an interdisciplinary area. The greatest period of collaboration between sociologists and psychologists was during the years immediately following World War II (Sewell, 1989). Although there has been increasing isolation and specialization in recent years, some degree of overlap and influence remains between the two disciplines.
In animals the brain, or encephalon (Greek for "in the head"), is the control center of the central nervous system, responsible for thought. In most animals, the brain is located in the head, protected by the skull and close to the primary sensory apparatus of vision, hearing, equilibrioception, taste and olfaction. While all vertebrates have a brain, most invertebrates have either a centralized brain or collections of individual ganglia. Primitive animals such as sponges do not have a brain at all. Brains can be extremely complex. For example, the human brain contains more than 100 billion neurons, each linked to as many as 10,000 others.
By analogy with the health of the body, one can speak metaphorically of a state of health of the mind, or mental health. Merriam-Webster defines mental health as "A state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use his or her cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life." According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no one "official" definition of mental health. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how "mental health" is defined. In general, most experts agree that "mental health" and "mental illness" are not opposites. In other words, the absence of a recognized mental disorder is not necessarily an indicator of mental health.
One way to think about mental health is by looking at how effectively and successfully a person functions. Feeling capable and competent; being able to handle normal levels of stress, maintaining satisfying relationships, and leading an independent life; and being able to "bounce back," or recover from difficult situations, are all signs of mental health.
Psychotherapy is an interpersonal, relational intervention used by trained psychotherapists to aid clients in problems of living. This usually includes increasing individual sense of well-being and reducing subjective discomforting experience. Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building, dialogue, communication and behavior change and that are designed to improve the mental health of a client or patient, or to improve group relationships (such as in a family). Most forms of psychotherapy use only spoken conversation, though some also use various other forms of communication such as the written word, art, drama, narrative story, or therapeutic touch. Psychotherapy occurs within a structured encounter between a trained therapist and client(s). Purposeful, theoretically based psychotherapy began in the 19th century with psychoanalysis; since then, scores of other approaches have been developed and continue to be created.
Developmental history of the human mind
The nature and origins of hominid intelligence is of natural interest to humans as the most successful and intelligent hominid species. As nearly a century of archaeological research has shown, the hominids evolved from earlier primates in eastern Africa. Like some non-primate tree-dwelling mammals, such as opossums, they evolved an opposable thumb, which enabled them to grasp and manipulate objects, such as fruit. They also possessed front-facing binocular vision.
Around 10 million years ago, the earth's climate entered a cooler and drier phase, which led eventually to the ice ages. This forced tree-dwelling animals to adapt to their new environment or die out. Some primates adapted to this challenge by adopting bipedalism: walking on their hind legs. This gave their eyes greater elevation and the ability to see approaching danger further off. At some point the bipedal primates developed the ability to pick up sticks, bones and stones and use them as weapons, or as tools for tasks such as killing smaller animals or cutting up carcases. In other words, these primates developed the use of technology, an adaptation no other animals have attained. Bipedal tool-using primates became hominids, of which the earliest species, such as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, are dated to about 7 million years ago.
From about 5 million years ago, the hominid brain began to develop rapidly, because an evolutionary loop had been established between the hominid hand and brain. The use of tools conferred a crucial evolutionary advantage on those hominids which had this skill. The use of tools required a larger and more sophisticated brain to co-ordinate the fine hand movements required for this task. By 2 million years ago Homo habilis had appeared in east Africa: the first hominid to make tools rather than merely use them. These hominids developed language, and the range of activities we call culture, including art and religion.
About 200,000 years ago Europe and the Near East were colonised by hominids known to us as Neanderthal man. They decorated their tools for aesthetic pleasure and buried their dead in way which suggest spiritual beliefs. Despite these modern characteristics, the Neanderthals were no match for the more numerous homo sapiens when he entered the region about 40,000 years ago, and by 25,000 years ago they were extinct. Between 120,000 to 165,000 years ago Homo sapiens had reached his modern physical form in Africa, and was already the unchallenged master of the physical environment, able to hunt and kill any other terrestrial animal and (almost) immune to predators.
Animal cognition, or cognitive ethology, is the title given to a modern approach to the mental capacities of animals. It has developed out of comparative psychology, but has also been strongly influenced by the approach of ethology, behavioral ecology, and evolutionary psychology. Much of what used to be considered under the title of animal intelligence is now thought of under this heading. Animal language acquisition, attempting to discern or understand the degree to which animal cognistics can be revealed by linguistics-related study, has been controversial among cognitive linguists.
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The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was first used by John McCarthy who considers it to mean "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines". It can also refer to intelligence as exhibited by an artificial (man-made, non-natural, manufactured) entity. AI is studied in overlapping fields of computer science, psychology, neuroscience and engineering, dealing with intelligent behavior, learning and adaptation and usually developed using customized machines or computers.
Research in AI is concerned with producing machines to automate tasks requiring intelligent behavior. Examples include control, planning and scheduling, the ability to answer diagnostic and consumer questions, handwriting, natural language, speech and facial recognition. As such, the study of AI has also become an engineering discipline, focused on providing solutions to real life problems, knowledge mining, software applications, strategy games like computer chess and other video games. One of the biggest difficulties with AI is that of comprehension. Many devices have been created that can do amazing things, but critics of AI claim that no actual comprehension by the AI machine has taken place.
The debate about the nature of the mind is relevant to the development of artificial intelligence. If the mind is indeed a thing separate from or higher than the functioning of the brain, then hypothetically it would be much more difficult to recreate within a machine, if it were possible at all. If, on the other hand, the mind is no more than the aggregated functions of the brain, then it will be possible to create a machine with a recognisable mind (though possibly only with computers much different from today's), by simple virtue of the fact that that such a machine already exists in the form of the human brain.
Judaism sees the human mind as one of the great wonders of Yahweh's creation. Christianity has tended to see the mind as distinct from the soul (Greek nous) and sometimes further distinguished from the spirit. Western esoteric traditions sometimes refer to a mental body that exists on a plane other than the physical.
Hinduism's various philosophical schools have debated whether the human soul (Sanskrit atman) is distinct from, or identical to, Brahman, the divine reality. Buddhism attempted to break with such metaphysical speculation, and posited that there is actually no distinct thing as a human being, who merely consists of five aggregates, or skandas. The Indian philosopher-sage Sri Aurobindo attempted to unite the Eastern and Western psychological traditions with his integral psychology, as have many philosophers and New religious movements. Swami Parmanand Ji Maharaj of Bhagwat Bhakti Ashram also gave a very good discourse on The Mind.
New age and alternative perspectives
According to the Parapsychological Association, parapsychology is the scientific study of certain types of paranormal phenomena, or of phenomena which appear to be paranormal. The term is based on the Greek para (beside/beyond), psyche (soul/mind), and logos (account/explanation) and was coined by psychologist Max Dessoir in or before 1889. Its first appearance was in an article by Dessoir in the June 1889 issue of the German publication Sphinx. J. B. Rhine later popularized "parapsychology" as a replacement for the earlier term "psychical research", during a shift in methodologies which brought experimental methods to the study of psychic phenomena. In contemporary research, the term 'parapsychology' refers to the study of psi, a general blanket term used by academic parapsychologists to denote anomalous processes or outcomes.
The scientific reality of parapsychological phenomena and the validity of scientific parapsychological research is a matter of frequent dispute and criticism. The field is regarded by critics as a pseudoscience. Parapsychologists, in turn, say that parapsychological research is scientifically rigorous. Despite criticisms, a number of academic institutions now conduct research on the topic, employing laboratory methodologies and statistical techniques, such as meta-analysis. The Parapsychological Association is the leading association for parapsychologists and has been a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1969.
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