Comparative Essay on the Nature of the Mental

The nature of the mental is often the subject matter of modern psychological theories. Its discussion is overtly positivistic in approach the mental is perceived as a phenomenon of the human body which can be thoroughly explained by relevant theories in the social sciences. However, the mental has a philosophical dimension this is the subject matter of this essay.

Gilbert Ryle Descartes Myth
Official doctrine states that every human being has both a body and a mind. Some thinkers argue that every human being is both a boy and a mind. This pantheistic definition of humanity is still popular in Western thought.  Now, both body and the mind are harnessed together, but after the death of the body, the mind continues to exist and function.

The mind has another characteristic which defies common sense and rationality. According to official doctrine, minds are situated not in space their activities are not subject to mechanistic laws of the universe. The workings of the mind cannot be observed by individuals. Indeed, the operation of the mind is beyond the faculty of human beings. An individual therefore lives two parallel histories one with his body, and the other one with his mind.

This conception of being, of the dual nature of the human being, is somehow theoretically problematic. When the mind wills, the tongue, legs, and eyes execute what an individual perceives has something to do with his mental structure. Even his religious activities are somehow related to the way his mind operates. However, the concrete transactions between the episodes of private history and public history remain mysterious and vague. This is so because any activity can belong to neither series. An inner biography would be lacking as that of a normal autobiography. It does not define the totality of an individual.

The official doctrine is flawed. Cartesian philosophy reduced the mental construct to an incomplete categorical initiative. The error is that assumption that since mental-conduct words are not to be construed as signifying the occurrence of mechanical processes, they must be construed as signifying the occurrence of non-mechanical processes. The error continues since mechanistic laws explain spatial movement, other laws must explain non-spatial movements or activities of the mind. Now, the difference in human behavior must be a difference in their causation. The rigidity of this framework is the result of accruing false analogies. Indeed, in the history of the mind, analogies served to simplify that which cannot be readily understood.

Armstrong The Nature of the Mind
It is essential to define the mental because it is in every essence assumed to be part of the human nature. Here, advocates of materialism defined the mental as offshoot of immediate material consciousness. Behaviorists, on the other hand, defined the mental as constructions of immediate behavior. Note the parallelism between the two schools of thought. The mind is assumed to be an offshoot of something. In the study of the mental, one should be cautious of accepting such claims, whether from the materialist side or from the behaviorists. It is possible to create a hybrid definition a definition which is broad in application and specific in speculation. Now, the mental state may be regarded as a state of the person apt for producing certain ranges of behavior.

The problem of consciousness is another pervasive issue in the study of the mental. Behaviorists relegated consciousness as a form of behavior. Materialist theorists argued that consciousness is the outcome of physical existence. It is possible to sketch a crude definition of consciousness based on a generalized theory of the inner state. Consciousness is but an awareness of the state of our mind.

Ryle vs. Armstrong
Generally, both Armstrong and Ryle agree that the mind is dispositional in nature. Armstrong, however, argues that Ryles conception of a disposition is flawed. For Ryle, a disposition is a tendency to behave  to create behavioral movements, to engage in meaningful activities. For Armstrong, however, disposition refers to something internal which causes behavior.

Therefore, to truly understand the nature of a disposition, an individual must know the internal state or constitution of the thing in question  assumed to cause the behavior. Armstrong added that the best candidate for what mental dispositions will turn out to be is the state of the nervous system. The nervous system, especially the brain, is the center of activities indeed, it is the center of the human body. The brain creates, defines, commands, and requests information from the body. It is the organ responsible for creating identities.

Indeed, according to Armstrong, identity is almost synonymous with consciousness. If the nervous system is the internal structure, then its activity is a sketch of consciousness. In short, what defines consciousness is evolution. The way human beings think and behave is controlled by the mental structure.


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