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The Relationship Of The Mind And The Body: The Person

1433 words - 6 pages

Can the mind exist without the body? Can the body exist without the mind? Surely in this day and age, there are artificial ways to keep the body alive even if the brain is pronounced dead. Likewise, the body can be completely immobilized, in a coma, yet the mind can still be alive and active. But can either really exist in its entirety on its own, performing its functions as usual, and in the same manner as if it was still in union with its partner? In his book, Discourse on the Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes analyzes the mind and the body as two entirely distinct and separate entities. Through his analysis, he concludes that the mind does not need the body to exist. Descartes argues that since we are at the basest form, “thinking things,” our bodily senses are not necessary to our minds and to knowing what truly does and does not exist in the world. He claims that it is our minds alone that think and analyze and determine this. Without them, he says, we could not make connections and know what anything is. Descartes makes a good point - it is true that without our minds, we could not make the crucial connection of sensing something through our five senses and then decipher what it is through our thought process. However, it is right for him to say that our senses, and therefore our bodies, the carrier of our senses, are irrelevant to our purposes, and that we only need our minds to exist? I believe it is not. When Descartes argues that our bodies are not necessary to exist and understand the things around us, he is collapsing the human being to simply a mind, and therefore neglecting what it means to be a person.
What does it mean to be person? Perhaps, we should discuss what is meant by the word, “person.” A brief history may help make it clear. “Person” comes from the Greek word, “prosopon,” which most simply means mask, or role. According to writer Thanos Vovolis, who conducted extensive research on the Greek word for his book Prosopon, the Acoustical Mask in Greek Tragedy and in Contemporary Theatre, “Prosopon means: face, that which is before our eyes, between eyes that see each other – but also personality, dramatic persona, mask. The word contains the relationship between two subjects, pointing towards a dialogue, a reflection, contemplation, a meeting or an opposition with the other.” Interpreting this definition in a literal way can lead us to the conclusion that “prosopon” is simply another word for a mask and the roles that the Greeks played in their various theatre acts. But, if you take the definition, particularly the second half, and keep in mind that “prosopon” is the root of the word “person,” it can lead to a much deeper understanding. The relationship Vovolis speaks of, which“prosopon” contains, can be applied to the mind and body - the two parts that make up a person. The mind and the body have a relationship between them; one of dialogue, of reflection, and of contemplation. The mind and the...

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