It happens quite often in our daily conversations that when we want to talk about the “essence” of people, we are talking about their minds.
The film (Martín Hache), for example, popularized one of the proclamations that best expresses this idea applied to attraction: what is interesting is not the bodies themselves, but the intellectual facet of the human being, something like his psyche. In other cases, we think that although the passage of the years changes our appearance, there is something that stays more or less the same, and that it is the mind, which identifies us as thinking individuals.
However … Do we know anything about what we call the mind? Where is it located, to begin with? It is a delicate question which gives rise to rather provocative reflections.
The location of the spirit in the body
Decades pass in the history of psychology and neuroscience, but we still do not attribute a specific place to the mind; at most, the brain is the set of organs to which we attribute, rather vaguely, this ability to house mental life. But is it true? To understand this, let’s go to the origins of the question of where the mind comes from.
Descartes’ dualistic theory is perhaps the first great effort in human history to locate this mental life in human anatomy: the French proposed the pineal gland as the structure from which our thoughts emanate. However, the entire concept building was sold by the time we deny the possibility that the soul exists. Not for nothing, Descartes was a strong supporter of the division between body and mind, which is not scientifically proven.
But although in theory the ideas of Descartes are rejected by modern science, we generally assume that the right thing to do is to think like this philosopher did, although change the concept of the soul to that of the spirit. Human beings have an innate tendency to create categories for any phenomenon and any plot of reality, and that is why we believe that there is something called “mind” from which all thoughts emanate from emotions, decisions. , etc. And, by assigning a place to this source from which the whole psyche comes, we choose the brain, just like Descartes.
The mind beyond the brain
As we have seen, we have an almost instinctive tendency to believe that spirits are in our heads, piloting our bodies as if they were tiny men. In turn, many scientists, both in psychology and neuroscience, assume that the mind is located in a specific place in the body. For example, great importance is usually given to the frontal lobe, as this part of the brain plays a very important role in decision making and in initiating movements.
Another researcher did the opposite, associating the mind with larger places. Beyond the pseudoscientific theories that talk about cosmic spirits that hold memories of past lives, there are proponents of other ways of thinking that the mind is beyond the nervous system. For example, from the theory of embodied cognition, it is considered that the positions, the movements of the body, as well as the stimuli they pick up, are part of mental life, because they condition what we think and what we feel.
On another side, authors like Andy Clark, proponents of the theory of extended mind, They believe that it goes beyond the individual body of people, and is also found in the environment with which we interact, as these external elements and certain parts of our body are essential for the mind to behave as it behaves. must. and now. Computers, for example, are places where we store information and the way we work and include it entirely as part of paged memory.
The fundamental question: does the spirit exist?
So far we have seen attempts to locate the mind, but in order to ask where the mind is, one must first make sure that there are sufficient reasons to consider that it exists.
Behavioral psychologists have been characterized precisely by rejecting the existence of something called mind… or at least one that can be located somewhere. Just as the movement of a train or the money we have in our account cannot be understood as something limited to one place, so can the mind.
From this point of view, believing that the mind is something like an object or a subject is the result of having fallen into a conceptual trap. The mind is not a thing, it is a process; a set of arrangements that make sense when a series of responses to stimuli is given. Hence the concept of mereological error, the tendency to attribute to a place (in this case, usually in the brain), something which is characterized by being a set of changes.
And it is that if there is anything that characterizes our experiences and the way we behave, it is because it always happens in different circumstances. Just as spring is not in a particular landscape or country, so what we call spirit should not be understood as a name.
Perhaps the idea that the mind does not exist seems provocative, but it is nonetheless true that we assume that it exists as dogma, without stopping to think that it really has right. What is clear is that this is a subject that gives rise to long debates. And you what do you think?