The mind-body problem is a philosophical problem, and as such it has philosophical
solutions. Those solutions lead to the adoption of a point of view about the mind-body
problem, which, in turn, leads to a particular way of dealing with the world. Usually,
most of us do not think about our own solutions to the mind-body problem, and,
sometimes, we may use different solutions at different times. In the Middle Ages, the
mind-body problem was not even identified as a problem, and, therefore, the "solution"
then was completely confounded, meaning that mind and body were thoroughly bound up
together in one complex and confusing bundle.
What is the mind-body problem? Descartes helped to define it when he noted that if he
amputated his foot, he had affected his physical body, but had not affected his mind. He
did not offer to sever his head, but Dennett (1978) has speculated about what might
happen should one's brain be transferred to another body. Science fictional accounts have
also explored such transfers. Those speculations get to the heart of the mind-body
problem, namely where does reality lie? Descartes backed into his famous existence
proof, cogito ergo sum, while attempting to decide whether the physical world existed at
all, and when he realized that he was thinking he also realized there must be a thinker. So,
the mind-body problem has to do with reality and with perceptions of reality.
Most of us would agree that a physical world exists: We can perceive it, and we can agree
as to its manifestations. Descartes claims that, "For since I now know that even bodies are
not, properly speaking, perceived by the senses or by the faculty of imagination, but by
the intellect alone, and that they are not perceived through their being touched or seen,
but only through their being understood" (Ariew 34). Also, most of us believe that we