Intro Cognitive Science
18 February 2008
The Mind Matters: Weighing in on Dualism and Reductionism
Cognitive science may be a relatively new discipline, but humans have been thinking
about their minds for centuries.
It seems only natural that if people are to look up at the stars and
wonder, question, and attempt to explain, they should also turn their curiosity within.
understanding the mind would seem far more universally relevant to human beings than the
study of any other phenomena – for people may sometimes wonder about the economy or
history, but the very act of “wondering” is a mental journey.
The extent to which it is also a
physical journey, however, is the source of a heated debate.
Modern scientists, in favor of
emphasizing the material nature of the universe, have largely eradicated traditional, mystical
theories of the mind, yet there exist lingering doubts about the ability of the purely scientific and
concrete theory of the mind to explain abstract mental activities.
It is astounding to consider that through hundreds of years of debate, one of the earliest
thinkers about the mind still has such weighty influence, still leaves such a strong legacy.
Descartes, a 17
century philosopher and mathematician, systematically doubted his own beliefs
and ideas to the point that he doubted everything he knew, including his own perceptions.
Through his process of methodical skepticism, Descartes found only one certainty, his own
thoughts and, by extension, the ability to think (Churchland, 1988, p. 8).
For Descartes, his mind