Mind-Body Philosophy

Course No. 4932
Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook
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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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  • 24 Lectures on 12 CDs
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  • 288-page printed course guidebook
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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 4.9 out of 5 by 25.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Fantastic course. Professor Carrol is an excellent lecturer. He makes very complex idea understandable to the non-physicist. For whatever reason, I have a fascination with entropy, which plays a recurring role in the whole discussion. His explanation and discussion of the concept and its role in cosmology is the best I've heard. As intellectually demanding as the material is, I will listen to the entire series again.
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Professor! This professor made scholarly and difficult materials very accessible. Good examples and great presentation.
Date published: 2018-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlighting I purchased this a couple weeks ago and absolutely love it. I am so excited every day to learn more about how our mind and body work.
Date published: 2018-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A mariage of Philosophy and Science As a "Philosophy Course facillitator" of U3A Coffs Harbour, Australia, this course is extremely helpful in formulating subjects for discussion. U3A is a voluntary, not for profit,adult education organisation, formed for the benifit of seniors in our comunity. By using this course, with your permission, I am sure will result in more purchases. Gerrit Breunis
Date published: 2018-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and concise I am a reasonably well-read autodidact in this stuff, and bought the course to see if I'd missed anything. Much of what he had to say I already knew, but even when he covered familiar territory I was grateful for the fresh perspective. I picked up quite a bit from the lectures on brain function, for example. I did spot what I believe are two mistakes. On his diagram of evolutionary history, he had fishes at a billion years ago, whereas they came after the Cambrian explosion, about 500 million years ago. Also, he says that quantum entanglement allows information to be transmitted faster than the speed of light. It's true that a measurement at point A can imply something about a measurement at point B, perhaps light years away, but that can't serve as an instantaneous quantum telegraph between here and Alpha Centauri. Neither of these are especially serious. Anything missing? I would like to have heard his views on Thomas Aquinas, whom he waves off. I''m not a Thomist, but I'd still have liked to have heard his explanation of Thomas's views on the soul and, presumably, his criticisms thereof. These however are nits. Overall I thought it was excellent in content and presentation and would recommend it to anyone interested in the philosophy of mind.
Date published: 2017-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Philosophy or science? When I bought this course, I did so with some concerns that it would be a lot of wooly minded New Age, "let's just meditate" stuff. The catalog write up convinced me to go ahead anyway. In the end, it was much better. While I wouldn't call it difficult material, it clearly had some clarity to it. A number of the topics covered were very interesting and raised new issues for me. A good bit of mind stretching. My rating is only four stars because I felt that there was no cohesion to the overall course. For example, the topic of phantom limbs was raised in the first lecture. A very juicy topic for this course, in my humble opinion. But the course never got back to it in any of the subsequent lectures. "Hey, this is interesting" seemed to be the approach to quite a few topics, but there was nothing that tied them all together. The lecturer had no apparent personal opinion on a lot of the material. That's fine in, say, a political course, where you may feel that what's being espoused is trying to justify a priori political opinions. In this course, however, there didn't seem to be any conclusions even at the end. (A number of the individuals lectures also seemed to end pretty abruptly, almost mid-paragraph in some cases.)
Date published: 2017-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, Structured, Profound -and Entertaining I have 197 courses in my TC library. So I am devoted. Of these none have given me so much of that pleasure that comes in learning. And none lays out so clearly our nature as sentient beings.
Date published: 2017-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind-Body Philosophy I bought this course as an audio download on sale, and feared that it would more or less be a slightly repackaged rehash of the same professor's excellent 2009 offering, Philosophy of Mind. Happily, such is not the case. Although the major positions in the philosophy of mind (e.g.physicalism, functionalism, dualism, eliminative materialism, et al.) are presented clearly, this course also explores such topics as Eastern religions, the etymology and history of the concept, "soul" in Western religion and philosophy and an intriguing lecture on what can be learned about consciousness and unconsciousness from the study of General anesthetics (which in one way or another induce unconsciousness in real-time under observable circumstances). I listened to the lectures in sequence which worked well; and have since enjoy single lectures on a stand-alone basis. I think the course can be approached either way (i.e. Sequentially or as set of stand-alone lectures). Professor Grim the good lecturer with a knack for illustrating abstract points by way of example and the analogy. The series can be enjoyed by the curious newbie as well as those like me with the philosophy background. If you have an interest in the philosophy of mind, psychology or mind-body theories and practices, there will probably be something in these lectures for you. Best of all, at least from my experience, lectures are fun rather than dry, which is really saying something when the topic is something as potentially dry as the philosophy of mind and issues of mind-body relationship. Recommended for those with an interest in the topics I have mentioned.
Date published: 2017-10-07
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