Brains & Minds

Philosophy of Mind: An Overview

Laura Weed takes us on a tour of the mind/brain controversy.

In the twentieth century philosophy of mind became one of the central areas of philosophy in the English-speaking world, and so it remains. Questions such as the relationship between mind and brain, the nature of consciousness, and how we perceive the world, have come to be seen as crucial in understanding the world. These days, the predominant position in philosophy of mind aims at equating mental phenomena with operations of the brain, and explaining them all in scientific terms. Sometimes this project is called ‘cognitive science’, and it carries the implicit assumption that cognition occurs in computers as well as in human and animal brains, and can be studied equally well in each of these three forms.

Before the mid-twentieth century, for a long time the dominant philosophical view of the mind was that put forward by Ren é Descartes (1596-1650).

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