This statement, “We are all basically physical beings” puts the point across that everybody has just a body and no non-physical aspect. This also shows that our body can be defined as the mass of matter whose weight is your weight. It has size, shape, mass, spatial and temporal position, but it has no non-physical spiritual aspect.
The mind-body problem concerns the explanation of the relationship that exists between minds, or mental processes, and bodily states or processes. The main aim of philosophers working in this area is to determine the nature of the mind and mental states/processes, and
whether the mind is part of the body, or the body is part of the mind? If they are distinct, then how do they interact? And which of the two is in charge?
The non-material element is usually called the soul, spirit or mind It should also be stated that many argue for soul and mind being different, in that soul represents the spiritual aspect of man, whilst the mind is more linked to the brain and related to reasoning.
There are many different opinions to this statement, for example believers of dualism will have a very different view on this statement than people who believe materialism. Dualists, will disagree with the statement ‘We are all basically physical beings’ as they believe that people have both a mind and a physical body.
The Greeks saw the body as a tomb or prison from the soul. The ultimate destiny of the soul was to be released from the body. This sort of idea is inherent in the Hindu idea of reincarnation, where the aim of the soul is not to be reincarnated into another body, but to be absorbed into the oneness of God. In contrast the traditional Christian view is expressed in terms of resurrection of the body. The relationship envisaged could be phased as ‘ My Body is my soul’s proper home, my soul is my body’s proper master.’ However it should be noted that recent Christian thinking has tended to emphasise the person as a whole.
The classic presentation of dualism is by Descartes. He argued that the body is spatial and in no sense conscious, whilst the mind is non-spatial and is conscious, having thoughts, feelings and desires for example, a regards the interrelationship of the body and the mind, Descartes favoured interactionism. This holds that states of consciousness can be causally affected by states of the body, and states of he body can be causally affected by states of consciousness. In other words, the mind and body can interact. An example would be drugs changing my perception and a nightmare causing me to scream out. Descartes further reasoned out that the point of interaction was in the brain. To be more precise, he sited it in the pineal gland, the one structure in the brain that is not duplicated. As to how these natures interact Descartes remained agnostic.
Another variation is epiphenomenalism. This holds that bodily events can cause mental events. However, mental events cannot cause physical events, i.e. the mind cannot control the body. Indeed, what happens is that the mind is a by-product of brain activity. Electrical impulses move between brain cells and produce ‘thinking’, ‘imagining’ etc. Thinking etc. is not the electrical impulse. The mental is ‘above’ those more fundamental processes of the brain. A popular analogy is that of a shadow to the person. The shadow cannot affect the person. The causation is one-way.
Another account that dualist sometimes give of the relationship between mind and body is parallelism. Like occasionalism, this view denies that mind and body actually interact but focuses on the fact mental states and events are very highly and systematically correlated with physical ones.
Since it is not interaction between minds and bodies it must be a cause common to them both, namely the will of God. Just as the chiming of my clock is not the cause of the arrival of my punctual student so the blue physical object in front of me is not the cause of my sensation of blue. The chiming and its correlated arrival are both caused by the fact that it is four o’clock. The fact that there is a blue object located just there is caused, like the fact that I have a sensation of blue just now, by the immensely complex pre-programming of God at creation.
Both Richard Swinburne and Keith Ward defend the idea that human beings have souls which are distinct from physical bodies and which are capable of survival after death. Swinburne, in his book The Evolution of the Soul, explains his beliefs that the soul and body are distinct from each other, so that the soul is capable of surviving even when the body is destroyed. He argues that there are fundamental truths about us as individuals which cannot be explained in purely physical terms, and also that the most important and significant aspects of us which give us our identity are not to be found in our physical bodies.
In Swinburne’s view, the human soul is unique in that it is capable of logical, ordered and complex thought. The soul is aware of its own freedom to make some choices, and also aware of moral obligation.
Even if there are two natures, it could well be that both perish at death. Indeed , it would be odd that given their interaction, one should be mortal and the other immortal. Alternatively one may argue that given two natures of very different kinds, it would be odd not to consider that one might survive death.
People who would agree with the statement that ‘ We are all basically physical beings’ would be materialists, they believe that people only have physical conditions and don’t have a soul and don’t have any non-physical experiences.
Recent years have witnessed severe criticism of dualism and a rejection of the illusive and illusory non-material other self. One of the most famous attacks on dualism came from Gilbert Ryle in his book, The Concept of Mind. He described Descartes model as ‘the ghost in the machine’ with the ‘ghost’ being the mind and the ‘machine’ being the body. He was indicating that he did not think that the mind, as a separate entity and nature, existed. Ryle rejected the idea of the mind as a different kind of things from the body. He believed such misunderstanding came about because of a category mistake. By this he meant brain and mind belong to different logical categories, which have been wrongly associated together.
Modern materialist views, such as those held by Richard Dawkins, assume that there is no part of a person that is non-physical. Following the traditions of Aristotle, materialists believe that the consciousness cannot be separated from the brain, because for the materialist, nothing exists except matter.
Dawkins holds that the ‘soul’ is nothing more than a mythological concept, invented by primitive people, he has been quoted as saying that the concept of soul is nonsense for the weak-minded, and stifles creative endeavour. Rather than being enfleshed souls, Dawkins believes that there is simply no such thing as the soul.
He talked about the difference between a living person and a dummy. He said that a living person responds to his or her environment, reproduces and forms a complex ever-changing entity, receiving nourishment and consuming energy. Rational beings also make choices, communicate, set about changing things in order to make life better, and perform a whole range of other physical and mental tasks.
In conclusion, I would agree with the dualists when talking about the statement ‘We are all basically physical beings’, as I do not believe that nobody, has a mind, as I have had personal experiences of a mind such as feelings, thoughts and desires. This is the main reason why I do not agree with the belief of materialism, such as that statement, however I do agree with some of the points many of the materialistic philosophers argue.