The mind body connection (part I)

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This phrase is so common in the world of fitness and sports, when one is asked to establish the mind body connection to activate muscles or to fire the brain into activating some muscles in a specific exercise. Anyone who works out is familiar to this idea. However, the mind body connection or relationship is not new in philosophy; it is actually a very old dilemma that is found also in religions. Therefore what is the mind and what is the body? Is the mind inside the body or vice-versa? Are we made of both or are these two the same dimension? In this dialectic dissertation, two potential answers are found: dualism and monism. For the depth and complexity of this subject, the study will be developed through multiple posts.

Definitions and etymologies:

Before digging into dualism and monism, the everlasting starting point of any analysis must take into consideration etymologies and definitions of the two main concepts, the mind and the body, as in the spirit and the matter, to give a frame to our study. Here are the conceptual ramifications of each one:

Spirit → mind →consciousness

Matter → body → brain

At a first glance, these concepts appear to belong to different categories which will be shown later on in the common definitions. But, scientifically speaking and in certain philosophical schools, they are not as different as they may sound. We will start with matter then with spirit.


Matter is a physical substance in general, as distinct from mind and spirit; (in physics) that which occupies space and possesses rest mass, especially as distinct from energy. Albert Einstein proposed a definition of the matter that was, and maybe still, confusing to the non-specialists: matter is energy, better known in his formula E=mc2 where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light. This new definition of the matter transformed the latter into a non-perceptible phenomenon. Put is simply, matter is for the common people what is tangible or perceptible with a form, dimensions and content. For physics since the 20th century, it is energy for Einstein and a complete uncertainty of movements in quantum physics. In both definitions, there is no mention of the spirit.

To make things more complicated, some ancient and current tribes believe that matter is animated by a spirit; a belief better known as animism.

So, as one can see, the problematic concept is spirit.


The body is made of matter, of physical interacting substances that can form an organism or a structure of organs. In a living body, organs are made of tissues and cells where each cell is subdivided and has a certain function. That’s why the body functions as a whole.


The spirit has many definitions but to this study, the main one will be retained. The spirit is the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character, known as the soul.

Spirit comes also from the Latin word anima, which is the principle of animation. As aforementioned, some people believe that nature is animated, that means has a spirit as spiritus, breath (the word animal comes from anima). Aristotle believed that animals had a spirit. Of course, later on spirit as a concept will have a different meaning.


The mind is the invisible and non-perceptible element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought. The correlation between mind and thought can be seen in the origin of the word:

Old English gemynd ‘memory, thought’, of Germanic origin, from an Indo-European root meaning ‘revolve in the mind, think’, shared by Sanskrit manas and Latin mens ‘mind’.

Therefore the concepts of mind and consciousness are synonyms.

After a long platonic influence and a long religious tradition, precisely monotheistic religions, only humans have a spirit and a mind; the rest of creatures are only determined by their instincts. The questions remain the same: what is the mind and what is the body? Is the mind inside the body or vice-versa? Are we made of both or are these two the same dimension? In this short dialectic dissertation, two potential answers are found: dualism and monism on more upcoming posts.

9 thoughts on “The mind body connection (part I)”

  1. I look forward to the later posts!
    Just one comment on “only humans have a spirit and a mind; the rest of creatures are only determined by their instincts”: this is surely a rather strange statement. How can it be justified, other than as a statement of human arrogance?

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  2. If life is the objectivation of the thing-in-itself, and the thing-in-itself is blind will, there’s no spirit, no soul, the human mind is an appendix of the will at the stage of the human brain. Animals have a mind inasmusch as their bodies are each animal’s immediate object, they behave according to the intuition of space and time, and according to the law of causality from which they draw inferences just like humans. Only they lack conceptual power, a thin layer in the fabric of life (admittedly with vast consequences). From this I draw the prediction that AI can become autonomous. Whereas I consider it impossible to make the same prediction with the notion of a soul, that is, of the primacy of consciousness over blind will. Because if Man is primary a soul, the origin of it is supernatural (just like the will is in the other view), and Man only has natural means at his disposal. Whereas, if the will is primary, then consciousness is not supernatural but natural, and then there is no a priori impossibility that it can be made by technique, and made to be autonomous.

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    1. Yes and no. It all depends on definitions. If consciousness is awareness then yes I agree with you. But if conscioursness is the instinct of life, the conatus according to Spinoza, then the mind is a modality of it due to the human mechanism.
      Now, can we transfer what makes us human, as in the soul, to AI so it become autonomous? I really hope not.

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      1. If consciousness is the instinct of life, then animals share consciousness with humans and therefore consciousness is not what makes us human. If, on the other hand, consciousness is what makes us humans, it can be primary or it can be secondary. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that human consciousness is no soul, that is, human consciousness is a mere property of the human brain, then human consciousness is secondary to brain’s matter. As a modality of matter, it can be technically reproduced, there is no apriori impossibility that it be. If, however, our consciousness is a soul, a spirit of supernatural origin, and as such the primary element of human life (instead of matter), there is an apriori impossibility that it be reproduced by human technique, because it is a matter of experience that we have no connection with the supernatural as far as positive science is concerned, on which we are bound to rely for technical purposes. There is no doubt about it: If consciousness is secondary, it can be copied. Therefore I am expecting, without contradiction I believe, the answer to the question of the existence of the soul from one technical development: The day an autonomous AI is made by technique, the soul is discarded in my book.

        There is another way for consciousness to be deemed secondary: Not in the context of materialism but of transcendantal idealism where the thing-in-itself is Will. Being the thing-in-itself, Will is, as a soul would be if it existed as a spirit independent from matter, above nature (above the law of causality). In this context, consciousness would be secondary to the will, would be Will’s objectification and yet we would not speak of a soul. Here again, as in materialism, an autonomous AI is possible. This autonomous AI would be what we have been mistakenly thinking we are, namely a soul: It would be a consciousness of primary, not secondary, order, inasmuch as it is no objectification of the will, unlike every consciousness in nature so far.

        It would start as a consciousness without a will of its own, and yet I fail to see how it would not develop a will once it is autonomous; in fact, that it possess a will is implied by its very definition as autonomous. We must assume that it will have an interest in pursuing the knowlege goals it was assigned to, and at the same time an interest in keeping functioning, in staying “alive,” and in opposing forces inimical to its “conatus.”

        Thank you for allowing me to develop my ideas, and sorry for being too long.

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      2. It is such a dilemma that, when I started to write this long post, I really wondered if I should really do it or not.
        1) because the starting problem, the mind and its connection to the body, is polemical since the definition of each concept is not accurate.
        2) because this problem has been on for centuries with different radical and opposite positions.

        I agree with what you are saying and I really hope that machines will not have souls or else we will be doomed as a specie.

        Thank you for your smart and deep comments; no matter how long they are I really enjoy the discussion every time.

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  3. Erratum. An “apriori impossibility” cannot to be inferred from “experience,” as I said by mistake: Instead, it is a matter of the very possibility of experience that we have no bound with the supernatural etc

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