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The Mind and Body Issue

            The mind/body issue in philosophy asks many questions. At first, what are these things, these substances, that we call "mind and ˜body?" What are their individual natures? Are they the same thing? Or are they fundamentally different things? And if they are different, how do they interact? Do they interact? And if they interact, for what purpose do they interact? Such questions have plagued philosophy since at least Plato, leading some to privilege mind over matter, and leading others to believe that all that exists is mind idealism, and still others to argue that all that exists are bodies or physical matter materialism. In idealism and materialism, there would seem to be a similar impulse to make the mind/body problem go away. But true theories of mind and body do not attempt to rid one side of the equation, either mind or body, but rather attempt to account for both sides in a coherent theory. Still, as noted, many philosophies and religions attempt to answer the question of mind and body by simply subordinating one side to the other. For example, it would seem that many, but not all religions privilege the mind over the body, perhaps given its apparent nature as an immaterial substance, like God, or our spiritual selves; the body, for its part, has come to be seen as little more than a lowly, transitive, and sinful substance-a very narrow view, I hold. The problem is that we degrade our bodies, and such degradation has ancient roots. In a general sense, the wedge between mind and body can be traced as far back as Plato, and to the sharp distinctions that he drew between the immaterial or eternal parts of ourselves and the decidedly lesser substance that is manifest in bodies or physical matter. Mind, in Plato, connects to the lofty or higher parts of ourselves, and is associated with Knowledge, Truth, Morality, and ultimately the Soul; and through the mind we have access to the eternal, unchanging ideals of Justice, Beauty, and even triangles, from which we continually draw upon in our daily lives.

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