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Mind-Body Philosophy

Mind-Body Philosophy

Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook

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Mind-Body Philosophy

Course No. 4932
Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
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5 out of 5
12 Reviews
91% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 4932
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover the ways in which the physical body affects the mind.
  • Explore the relationship between memories and the concept of self.
  • Examine creative thought experiments that teach us about consciousness.

Course Overview

Many people have heard the term “mind-body philosophy” used to describe the relationship between physical wellness and mental wellbeing. But mind-body philosophy in its truest form is so much more. It’s a philosophical inquiry that has engaged great minds for centuries, going far beyond the simple idea of a physical mind-body connection, and seeking answers for some of the most complex questions of human existence.

The question of consciousness has mystified humanity for millennia. Even those of us who do not specialize in philosophy or science may be prompted to examine these all-consuming mysteries, asking questions like: how does the three pounds of gray matter in each of our skulls creates all the subjective experiences of our lives every single day, and define the experiences we call reality?

We know it is the mind that allows us to witness and process the changes at every stage of life—and question them. But how does it work? And how much of our existence is defined by our physical substance versus our mental reality? Is the mind part of the body? Or could the body be part of the mind? And if they are separate, what is it that allows them to work together so seamlessly? These questions and more comprise the puzzle known as the mind-body problem.

In Mind-Body Philosophy, Professor Patrick Grim of the State University of New York at Stony Brook leads an intellectually exhilarating tour through questions and theories addressing one of life’s greatest mysteries. These 24 lectures address enduring mysteries through the lenses of both philosophy and its offspring, science. You will learn how some of the greatest thinkers have addressed and attempted to solve the mind-body problem. But you won’t just be a spectator; Dr. Grim thoroughly engages with the questions from all sides and encourages you to come to your own conclusions.

With an easygoing conversational manner, a contagious passion for his subject—and supported by illustrations, infographics, brain scans, videos, demonstrations, and on-screen text—Dr. Grim breaks down even the most complex theories into easily accessible parts. He guides you through a multidisciplinary search for truth using multiple philosophical lenses as well as neuroscience, mathematics, psychology, metaphysics, theology, and more.

The History of the Mind-Body Question

As you look into the 20th century and beyond, you will examine how the fields of psychology and neuroscience have contributed to the discussion. Through the lens of modern thought, you will look at:

  • How the physical body affects the mind, although we usually think of the mind “being in charge of” the body.
  • How the fields of psychology and neuroscience have contributed to the mind-body discussion and what solutions each has to offer.
  • How dreams, hallucinations, and experiences under anesthesia help us better understand consciousness.
  • How we create memories and explore the relationship between memories and the concept of self.
  • How the latest research on the complex relationships between mind, body, and emotions reveals surprising conclusions about the role of emotions in our lives and thoughts.
  • How the exciting recent discoveries of neuroscience relate to our perceptions of the world.
  • How binding in the brain could relate to consciousness and the mind-body problem.

Lessons in Consciousness through Computers

In the early 20th century, philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and mathematician Alan Turing both asked the question: “Is it possible for machines to think?” While Wittgenstein examined the role of language, Turing focused on machines and their prospects for computation. All contemporary computers—along with the fields of artificial intelligence and computational neural networks—trace their history back to Turing’s vision. Computers now exist everywhere in our daily lives. But can they “think?” Dr. Grim presents many of the theories that attempt to answer this question, including:

  • Wittgenstein’s theories addressing the brain and language;
  • The Turing test, which asks whether or not we could build a machine that would be indistinguishable from a human under specific conditions;
  • Why some of the earliest developers of Artificial Intelligence believed they had solved the mind-body problem, and where they went wrong;
  • Whether or not we can now claim to have intelligent machines, given that some computer programs can teach themselves new information;
  • What computer science and information theory have taught us about the mind, intelligence, and consciousness.

Fascinating Thought Experiments

In Mind-Body Philosophy, Dr. Grim provides exciting analyses via thought experiments—mental exercises philosophers and scientists use to learn about the world around them. From Plato to Einstein, great thinkers in a variety of disciplines have used thought experiments to validate disparate theories. Dr. Grim also encourages us to develop our own thought experiments and, in a humorous but well-accepted philosophical line of inquiry, he suggests we consider . . . zombies. After all, zombies are just like us but without consciousness, making them particularly well-suited subjects for the mind-body problem.

In addition, Dr. Grim shares the enthralling classic thought experiments:

  • Jackson’s “Mary’s Room,” exploring the non-physical nature of knowledge and mental states
  • Leibnitz’ “Giant Head,” examining whether or not perception and thought can be explained in purely mechanical terms
  • Wittgenstein’s “Beetle Boxes,” exploring the relationship between language and meaning, and public and private language
  • Searle’s “Chinese Room,” exploring whether or not a computer—even one that seems extremely human-like—can have a mind or consciousness
  • Block’s “China Brain,” which asks if it’s possible for something to be functionally equivalent to a human being and yet have no conscious experience.

The big questions explored in this course don’t have easy answers. What you get instead is a new look at how our minds work, empowering you to draw your own philosophical conclusions based on scientific findings. And, as Dr. Grim points out, even without a formative solution, the passionate and informed pursuit of truth is a crucially important enterprise in itself.

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24 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    Mind, Body, and Questions of Consciousness
    The 3.5 pounds of gray matter in your skull processes all the information you need to live and thrive-from the functioning of your physical body to your relationships with loved ones. But how can the physical matter of the brain create the subjective experience of your life? That is the mind-body problem. x
  • 2
    Mind and Body in Greek Philosophy
    Humans have been asking this question for thousands of years: exactly how are we related to the world around us? Learn what modern Western thought inherited from the Greeks and how the theories of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle still affect our thinking and questioning today. x
  • 3
    Eastern Perspectives on Mind and Body
    Western philosophers want to understand how the physical brain produces the reality of subjective experience. But Hindu and Buddhist traditions don't recognize that same dualism. Unlike the Western attempt to discover the truth of how things are, Eastern philosophy takes a more practical line of inquiry, examining how to best live. x
  • 4
    Using the Body to Shape the Mind
    We tend to think of the mind being in charge of, and giving instructions to, the body. But is it possible for the body to direct the mind? Learn how the Eastern practical disciplines of yoga and meditation and Western habits of physical exercise can affect the brain and the mind. x
  • 5
    History of the Soul
    While the concept of the soul has been of great philosophical importance over the millennia, it is not addressed by contemporary brain science or philosophy of the mind. Learn why William James encouraged people to believe in the soul if they wanted to, but exiled" the subject from the concerns of modern psychology." x
  • 6
    How Descartes Divided Mental from Physical
    How can you know with absolute certainty that you exist? Rene Descartes famously answered: "I think; therefore I am." He also suggested a complete split between the mind and the physical body. The vast and sharply divided responses to Descartes' dualism still influence the ways in which we address the mind-body problem today. x
  • 7
    Mistakes about Our Own Consciousness
    One thing we know we can count on is the validity of our everyday experiences. After all, we know what we see, hear, feel, and think on a daily basis, right? You'll be surprised to learn how wrong we can be even about the realm of experience itself and our own everyday consciousness. x
  • 8
    Strange Cases of Consciousness
    The study of individuals with unusual brains-e.g., those with split brains, color-blindness, face-blindness, synesthesia-has revealed brain modularity, differentiation, blending, and other mechanisms of consciousness. Do we really see with our eyes? Learn how the brain's organization affects even our most basic perception of the world around us. x
  • 9
    Altered States of Consciousness
    Learn what dreams, lucid dreams, hallucinations, and other altered states teach us about brain structure and function. Why do so many hallucinations include the same geometric shapes? And after thousands of years of inquiry, do we finally understand the purpose of our dreams? Do dreams help us remember-or forget? x
  • 10
    Memory, Mind, and Brain
    Philosopher John Locke suggested it is your continuous sequence of memories that allows you to be "you." But what is memory and how is it related to our emotions and dreams? Learn about the many different ways in which the brain stores the information we later retrieve and experience as memory. x
  • 11
    Self-Consciousness and the Self
    Throughout the centuries, philosophers and scientists have tried to come to a definitive understanding of the self and self-consciousness-and failed. The exciting intellectual journey through these theories and experiments will lead you to a new way of seeing yourself and the world around you. x
  • 12
    Rival Psychologies of the Mind
    William James, Sigmund Freud, and Wilhelm Wundt all aimed for a science of consciousness in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, differing significantly in ideas and methodology. Learn why Wundt left the strongest mark on contemporary psychology, with the neuroscience revolution of the early 21st century picking up where he left off. x
  • 13
    The Enigma of Free Will
    Our daily experiences tell us we are acting with a free will. But you'll be surprised to learn what quantum mechanics and the latest studies in readiness potential reveal about our decision making. Is it possible that scientific inquiry is just not germane to the ongoing philosophical conundrum of free will and determinism? x
  • 14
    Emotions: Where Mind and Body Meet
    We all know emotions can affect the body-e.g., heart-pounding fear, tears of joy. But can the physical body affect emotions as well? And could emotions be a requirement for rationality itself? You'll be surprised by the latest research on the very complex relationships between body, mind, and emotions. x
  • 15
    Could a Machine Be Conscious?
    Twentieth-century mathematicians Alan Turing and Ludwig Wittgenstein both asked: Could machines think?" Learn how they addressed the complex concepts of language, thinking, intelligence, and consciousness. All contemporary computers and the fields of artificial intelligence and neural networks trace their origin to Turing. But Wittgenstein seems to have the last word." x
  • 16
    Computational Approaches to the Mind
    Since the development of computers, philosophers and scientists have wondered what we could learn about our own intelligence by building intelligent machines. What would a deeper understanding of computerized information processing teach us about the brain? Learn how these lines of inquiry have led to revelations about the differences between mind and machine. x
  • 17
    A Guided Tour of the Brain
    We've made great strides in understanding the workings of the human brain-from our hundred billion neurons and trillions of synapses, to more than fifty neurotransmitters. We've mapped the brain and described each part's functions, evolutionary history, and methods of processing information. What have we not found?" Consciousness." x
  • 18
    Thinking Body and Extended Mind
    We believe our thinking occurs in our head. But that's not entirely correct. In some cases, cognition requires the mind and the body. Learn how the autonomic, sympathetic, and enteric nervous systems are linked to the brain, integrated into the body, and even connected to the outside world. x
  • 19
    Francis Crick and Binding in the Brain
    After co-discovering the structure of DNA, Francis Crick turned his research attention to mind-body issues. He believed in an underlying physical structure of consciousness. Was he correct? Learn about Crick's spatial and temporal hypotheses, the binding problem, and the reasons he pinned his research hopes on the brain's claustrum. x
  • 20
    Clues on Consciousness from Anesthesiology
    Is it possible to be certain that an anesthetized patient who seems to be unconscious during surgery really feels no pain? Our current knowledge of the brain, anesthetics, and consciousness at the physiological level, lead us to believe in the possibility of building a consciousness monitor." But would even that answer the question?" x
  • 21
    Of Mind, Materialism, and Zombies
    Distinguished philosophers and scientists have put forth their theories about the mind, brain, and consciousness. But each of us has our own views, too. Zombie thought experiments" can help identify and clarify your personal views. Are you a materialist, a reductionist, an anti-behaviorist, a dualist? Find out with the aid of your zombie scorecard." x
  • 22
    Thought Experiments against Materialism
    Physicists and philosophers have relied on thought experiments for thousands of years. But how can we know that the conclusions of thought experiments are correct? Learn what Leibniz' "giant head" and Searle's "Chinese room" can tell us about materialism-and about the potential limits of our own imaginations. x
  • 23
    Consciousness and the Explanatory Gap
    What is consciousness? Some scientists describe it as a result of emergence, much as wet" emerges from a particular combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Others propose that neuroscience will answer the question-or already has. But is it possible that the human mind will never be able to fully understand its own consciousness?" x
  • 24
    A Philosophical Science of Consciousness?
    If the fields of brain science, philosophy, and artificial intelligence alone cannot adequately explain the relationship between body, mind, and consciousness, where should we look for answers? Explore an exciting step-by-step approach that could lead to a richer understanding of the process of consciousness and its evolutionary benefit. x

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Your professor

Patrick Grim

About Your Professor

Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
Dr. Patrick Grim is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He graduated with highest honors in anthropology and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was named a Fulbright Fellow to the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, from which he earned his B.Phil. He earned his Ph.D. from Boston University. Professor Grim is the recipient of several...
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Reviews

Mind-Body Philosophy is rated 5.0 out of 5 by 12.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Journey into the Mind I ordered this course based upon my interest in philosophy, however I was so pleased at the journey it took me through a better understanding of the way the mind works. It satisfied both my interest, philosophy and life science.
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring knowledge I completed up to lecture 12 and have learned so much in just a few days. I would want to re-listen to the lectures for a second time, just in case I missed anything.
Date published: 2017-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable This is a very enjoyable and accessible course where the ideas are clearly explained. I would like to see more courses from Prof. Grim such as a 36 lecture course explaining all the ideas of the great philosophers. Having said that the best Prof. for explaining philosophical ideas is Prof. Phillip Cary. I would love a 48 lecture course by Cary he is that good.
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! I have purchased many products from Great Courses and "Mind-Body Philosophy" is one of my favorite courses. Moreover, I have two other offerings by Professor Grim and rank him among my three favorite professors.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Learning Trip With Professor Grim Having very much enjoyed Dr Grim's other courses I was not surprised to find that this was extremely informative and at the forefront of Mind/Brain research. We go from the ancient Philosophers through Eastern Traditions to AI and Neurobiology in our search for what Consciousness might be and what it is needed for. Lesson 24 posits a possible research path starting with "Why do we need Consciousness?" and was it an evolutionary selection or did it just come along for the ride with subjectivity and perception. I would recommend this for anyone wondering how the lump of flesh in their skull can produce subjective vision, hearing, feeling and thoughts.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Human consciousness is a multilevel phenomena Video download. • COGNITIVE THEORY is the study of "intelligence and behavior, with a focus on how nervous systems represent, process, and transform information" (Wikipedia) • PHILOSOPHY OF MIND is a "branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain". (Wikipedia again) Dr. Grim's MIND-BODY PHILOSOPHY is an overview of how these two disciplines co-operate and co-evolve to some extent. Where have they led us at this point? We all experience a rich array of perceptions, fears, hopes, and memories every day. And yet the organ responsible for processing these crucial elements of "who we are" is an unimpressive three-and-a-half pound bundle of nerves nestled in our skull. Given this material reality, how is human consciousness possible? ________________________ As other reviewers have pointed out (see BGZRedux for more detail), most of this course is taken up with cognitive theory experiments touching sense perception, memory, altered states and so on. Philosophy's role is to analyse cognitive terminology for logical problems. Philosophy also contributes a rich history of mind-body speculation since the ancient Greeks, some parts of which were blind alleys. The concept of "soul", for example, quickly lost currency in cognitive psychology because it added nothing to the debate. Word analysis alone, however, without well-designed experiments, can only get you so far. Too often, pre-modern philosophy created magnificent conceptual castles that were undisprovable, and therefore scientifically useless. ________________________ Given Dr Grim's background in philosophy, I was surprised that he did not try harder to define what he meant by "human consciousness" early on. In common parlance, and speaking as a humble non-expert, human consciousness to me refers to two interrelated yet distinct faculties: LEVEL 1: Like animals, we perceive, emote, remember, seek pleasure and avoid pain. MIND-BODY PHILOSOPHY is mostly concerned with this level of consciousness, and there is still much that remains unexplained. Perhaps a paradigm shift is required. LEVEL 2: Unlike animals, we are also conscious of our consciousness. To use a car driving analogy, our brain pilots our body around, accumulating experiences and memories. But at the same time, part of that mind occupies a back seat, commenting and judging every impression created by Level 1. Level 2 is a pattern-seeking chatterbox obsessed with social appearances and standing. It also brings a narrative quality to self-awareness, where our past is reinterpreted in light of a shifting, anticipated future. This creates most of our stresses and anxieties. Obviously, Level 2 depends on material provided by Level 1. Without Level 1, there is no Level 2. But both levels are different. ____________________ If you are primarily interested in Level 1, this is a great course. Dr Grim is a clear and eloquent lecturer. As this is an idea-driven course, audio platforms are sufficient if supplemented by Wikipedia. The course guidebook is also very helpful with a good annotated bibliography. _____________________ As for Level 2, refer instead to four other courses by TGC. • MIND-BODY MEDICINE, • SCIENCE OF MINDFULNESS, • PRACTICING MINDFULNESS and • COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY Unlike MIND-BODY PHILOSOPHY, these four courses are primarily therapeutic. They focus on how we can better manage our wayward minds, and not the brain's neurological relationship to consciousness. The point is stress reduction. If Level 1 consciousness is still a mystery physiologically, imagine Level 2! Dr Grim doesn't really touch that subject or apply philosophy to it.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How can 3 pounds of matter produce consciousness? Wow! I was greatly impressed by this course. For example, two lectures are outstanding: Lecture 17 "A guided tour of the brain", this lecture covers in around 30 minutes beautiful explanations about the brain from the neurons to complex relations between brain modules. Lecture 14: this lectures covers emotions an their role as a linkage between mind an body. At last I had a nice explanation about the James-Lange hypothesis "The truth isn’t that we run because we are afraid. The truth is that we’re afraid because we run".
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Beautifully Taught (Watched on DVD. Some anatomic and functional diagrams of the brain were quite helpful, but course would be fine on audio. The Course Guidebook is excellent - very complete, with an extensive annotated bibliography.) This is a wonderful course, almost continuously fascinating, and extremely well-taught. It covers millenia of humanity's analyses of the relationship between our minds and our bodies, giving both an historical overview and remarkably clear insights into the ideas - some profound and some, in retrospect, rather silly - which many of our greatest thinkers have offered. Be aware that a large part of the course is not philosophy per se, but rather cognitive science, the study of the biological functioning of our brains and the relationship of this to our subjective experience. The scientists are admirably candid in admitting that they are not studying consciousness directly, but rather the "neurological correlates of consciousness." Ay, there's the rub. We learn of the astonishing progress which has been made in understanding the physiology of our nervous system, but neither this nor the work of many brilliant philosophers gets us any closer to fathoming consciousness and subjective experience in and of themselves. This is known, with quite extraordinary understatement, as "the hard problem." At the very end of the course our professor tackles this conundrum directly. He notes that some respected philosophers, who apparently go by the name of 'mysterians' (not to be confused with the 1957 Japanese science fiction film), believe that the nature of consciousness "is a problem we cannot solve, ever and in principle." But he urges that we reject that conclusion, because it might inhibit us from further progress. And he provides an outline of his own approach for going forward. Now, I happen to be a mysterian, but I would certainly want to keep searching. The more we learn about the neurological correlates of consciousness the better, both because the knowledge is wonderful in itself, and because it will enable us to progress in our understanding and treatment of neurological disorders. But I truly cannot see any way that consciousness can ever be understood from the outside; all we can ever know about subjective experience is our subjective experience. Professor Grim is a gifted lecturer. He is clear and eloquent, extremely well-organized, and deeply knowledgeable in an extraordinarily wide range of related fields. Just a couple of minor quibbles: - As another reviewer noted, early on Professor Grim throws out an off-handed comment about not being a fan of Nietzsche. As it happens, I consider Nietzsche to be the most brilliant and insightful philosopher of all time (except for his inexcusable misogyny). His work was vastly distorted by his anti-semitic sister after his death, as well as by the National Socialists, whom he would have detested. I am rather tired of hearing thoughtless slurs regarding him, without even a pretence of an attempt at justification. - Our professor also manages to insult my other most admired philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Aside from stating (in Lecture 15) that "Wittgenstein is always obscure", which is utter nonsense, Professor Grim ascribes Wittgenstein's "enormous impact" largely to "the force of a charismatic personality and a dramatic air of ascetic philosophical intensity," rather than to the brilliance of his work. No, Dr. Grim, very wrong again, as anyone unbiased would find after reading "Philosophical Investigations." These points aside, however, this is a truly outstanding course. It has my highest recommendation for any with an interest in the philosophy or science of mind-body interactions.
Date published: 2017-02-14
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