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The Philosophy of Mind studies the nature of the mind and its relationship to the body. This includes ideas of mental functions, consciousness, and the effects, if any, the mind and body can have on one another. The philosophy constitutes a significant branch of modern analytic philosophy.

Dualism, one major school of thought regarding the relationship of the body and mind, posits that the mind and body are separate entities and that the mind, the non-physical, controls the body, the physical. This approach dates back to Plato and Aristotle, and was later more precisely formulated by René Descartes in the seventeenth century.

Monism, the other major school of thought on this subject, regards the mind and body as a single entity, that is, the mind can be reduced to the brain, or God, or energy, etc. The variety of interpretations that this approach allows has lead to the emergence of many associated sub-schools. Monism was first advocated in Western philosophy by Parmenides in the fifth century BC and later by rationalist Baruch Spinoza in the seventeenth century.

A common subgroup of the Philosophy of Mind during the Victorian age was phrenology, the hypothesis that mental functions belonged to certain regions of the brain and that personality traits of a person could be determined by the shape of their skull. The scientific credibility of the approach deteriorated, though, as people began consulting phrenologists for trivial day-to-day matters.

Carlyle bemoans the Philosophy of Mind's fall among contemporary philosophers in "Signs of the Times," claiming that contemporary thought lacks a strong psychological science, which by his definition addresses metaphysics and moral science. It seems that at the time phrenology most closely resembled the Philosophy of Mind, but phrenology takes a physical, (pseudo-)scientific approach to the subject, rather than the metaphysical one for which Carlyle calls.

Bibliography

“Dualism (The Philosophy of Mind).” Wikipedia. Viewed March 23, 2010.

"Monism." Wikipedia. Viewed March 23, 2010.

“The Philosophy of Mind.” Wikipedia. Viewed March 23, 2010.

“Phrenology.” Wikipedia. Viewed March 23, 2010.


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Last modified 25 March 2010