Mind - the gap
The mind is a curious thing. What is it − just a product of the electrochemical circuitry of the brain? The materialist will say so and many a neuroscientist, with MRI scanner at hand, will show us some lit-up areas of our brains corresponding to particular thoughts. Is that it then? Is that conscious thought?

Well – it is clearly not as simple as that. This article is a rapid tour of the main philosophical positions concerning the mind over the past few centuries. As a mere introduction it may whet appetites to read the original works of some fine minds.

Let us start with Descartes (1596-1650). In his ‘Meditations’ 1 he came to the strong dualist conclusion that the mind is distinct from the body (which includes the brain). Greek philosophers held similar dualist views. As a ‘thinking thing’ Descartes concluded that everything physical is ‘extended’ – in other words the body and all else that is material has dimensions; something the mind lacks. He also concluded that the mind was indivisible, whereas all material things are divisible. These thoughts made him certain that the mind is not material; even if intimately linked to and ‘intermingled with’ the brain. His philosophy of mind remains powerful and many of the twists and turns of modern philosophy are based on the idea that he must be wrong; how could a non-material mind have causal effect on the material body? His claim that the mind is indivisible is supported, interestingly, by certain forms of neuro-surgery.2 When the Corpus Callosum (the bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two brain hemispheres) is severed, the hemispheres are isolated from one another and yet this has no effect on the integrity of any such patient’s personality or continuity as one person.