The mind body connection III


Following my two posts on the subject (I and II), our study reached monism as a critic of dualism.


Originally mono, one, monism believes that we are made of one dimension, either the body (or matter) or the spirit. For monism questions the explanation offered in the dualism spectrum. To a certain extent, dualism is more metaphysical than logical or scientific. In both forms of monism, empiricism is the basic foundation.

So, what are we, and what is the universe, according to monism?

The materialistic monism:

As commonly known, materialism on a larger scale is the matter as foundation. It can cover for example economy as a basis for a political system like Marx’ historical materialism. As much as it can be the physico-chemical analysis of all that exists. Democritus found that any matter is made of atoms. So materialism takes matter as the only explanation.

For decades, medical science considered humans (or any living being) are the result of their genetic heritage, their DNA. Now we know that there is more to that with epigenetics. Western medicine is still somehow biochemical in its diagnostic and prognostic. It all relies on chemical, hormonal and metabolic reactions. Same goes for neuroscience; it studies what is referred to as the mind as a secretion of the brain.

Without digging deeper in materialistic monism, one can observe that its analysis is brutally realistic, all in a causal reaction, which helped science in general to evolve. Scientific empiricism and invention of tools go hand in hand: tools let science became more accurate and precise and science helped tools to be scientific and smart, better known as technology (techné = tools; logy= logos= reason and science).

The more enigmatic is the immaterialist monism.

The immaterialist monism:

Georges Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, “was one of the great philosophers of the early modern period. He was a brilliant critic of his predecessors, particularly Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke. He was a talented metaphysician famous for defending idealism, that is, the view that reality consists exclusively of minds and their ideas. Berkeley’s system, while it strikes many as counter-intuitive, is strong and flexible enough to counter most objections. His most-studied works, the Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Principles, for short) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (Dialogues), are beautifully written and dense with the sort of arguments that delight contemporary philosophers. He was also a wide-ranging thinker with interests in religion (which were fundamental to his philosophical motivations), the psychology of vision, mathematics, physics, morals, economics, and medicine. Although many of Berkeley’s first readers greeted him with incomprehension, he influenced both Hume and Kant” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

As an early empiricist himself, Berkeley’s theory was about the spirit/the mind and not the matter. In a counter-intuitive objection to his contemporary philosophers and peers, he believed that matter in itself is unknown. We know what exists through our perception. Had we perceived things differently, we would’ve had a different knowledge. To Berkeley we are a mind. Not that he denies the existence of outside matter nor our own body, but all our knowledge of them is perception based and subjective.

The influence of Berkeley nowadays, to a certain extent, would be epigenetics or how we perceive and interact with the outside phenomenons. To extrapolate a bit, the yogic philosophy is more about energy, perception, chakras and meditation.

In conclusion, what is the mind body connection? Does the mind control the body or is it the other way around? Let’s say that one won’t work without the other; they are both in a complete fusion. This is where psychosomatic explanation comes into hand: if my mind is not ok, my body will react; also, if I am sick, my mind won’t be alert. The importance of this very old dilemma of the mind vs. the body is not only for the sake of knowledge but for ethical treatment. It’s not about who is right and who is wrong; it is about perception, perspective and action.



The four questions of Kant and their eventual answers today


In the Preface of The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant asks three questions that gave the fourth one. His project is an enquiry undertaken by Pure Reason to search out the limits of Pure Reason. The questions are the following:

What can I know?

What ought I to do?

What may I hope for?

What is man?

I will start with the last one just to figure out how we can answer these questions today.

What is man? Or what am I?

I was told by reading Kant and other philosophers that I am a rational being, capable of speaking (Aristotle), living through dialectics so that the Universal Reason can establish itself in the world (Hegel), among other definitions. How did it serve me today?

Since the 20th century, rationality is technical or technological and we are submitted to machines and algorithms. All other fields and walks of life evolve and revolve around infotech and biotech with a progressive absence of critical thinking. I love the Kantian project and I believe Kant is one of the biggest philosophers ever, but we are more emotional and practical beings than highly rational. How can the critical thinking “function” with the massive amount of news and fake news by the minute?

What can I know?

Everything and nothing thanks to social media. It all depends on how we use this tool to our full potential. Potential can differ from one person to another; however technology can be a wonderful tool to learn new skills and to be updated.

What ought I to do?

Other than surviving on all levels, I think ethics are the name of the game for the present and the future. It lies on freedom and courage to step forward and be responsible for the whole world.

What may I hope for?

That’s the most difficult question especially today when the world is stuck between the pandemics and the economy crisis. I think by willing to be flexible and accepting that change is inevitable, by willing to work differently and having a new perspective on life, can we hope for a better future.

Why global warming doesn’t matter

Lebanon, October 2019

In 2019, the planet burned! From the Amazon Rainforest to Australia, fires devoured trees, plants, animals and lands. Facing this heartbreaking and scary scenery, only romantics like Greta and us yelled the danger of global warming.

So, global warming is the planetary issue, right?

Not so fast. The less romantic among us don’t care about global warming. To them the real underlying issues are elsewhere. They are respectively: energy and nutrition.

The world population was estimated to have reached 7.7 billion people in 2019. Authorities’ worries are more about producing energy (nuclear, alternative, fossil…) and finding ways to feed the immense number of mouths. It is an issue because food industry is one of the biggest energy consuming factors.

Does this all show us that the real problem is the shrinking of the vital space?

The vital space is the space needed for a specie to survive. With an increasing world population in terms of demographics, the concept of vital space is not openly discussed for ethical reasons obviously. The concept of vital space requires harsh questions: fewer babies? More birth control? If so, isn’t the current population at risk of aging?

Or, as awful as it sounds, wouldn’t wars do the job to lessen the number of people?

Whether global warming needs urgent and immediate actions, it is high time we let go of the past in order to face the future. What past are we talking about? Traditions and religions.