Monday, November 16, 2009

Mind Your Body

I’ve fully never understood why people always seem to view the mind with such detachment from the body, the way Decartes put it, “like a pilot in his ship.” I think it may have something to do with the introduction of the idea of a soul; since it is supposedly everlasting, and when compared to the fragile and finite existence of the body it seems as though there must be a disconnect between the two to allow them both to “exist.” Since the exact definition of a “soul” is often vague and poorly understood I see it frequently used nearly interchangeably with “mind” in casual conversation. Many seem to forget that the only way we learn with our minds at all is through interaction by using our five bodily senses, and by using our minds to reflect upon and analyze those very experiences. That being said, I really like the importance Merleau-Ponty puts on understanding the link between the body and mind. Derived from that line of thinking, because all we have to rely on are our own senses, there is no way to externally test the veracity of the ability of those senses to accurately represent the true reality of the world around us. All we have is our own imperfect perceptions based on those sensory experiences. It can be quite disconcerting to always have a doubt deep within oneself as to whether or not the things one perceives is accurate at all. This may be another reason why people like to view the body and mind as detached from each other, so that all of the imperfections we know about the body won’t seep into the minds with which we think about them.
Furthermore, the whole idea of understanding the relationship between the body and mind has been made even more complicated by modern science, as technology has progressed to the level where we can see one fade beyond control while having the means to artificially sustain the other: The mind can fail the body (as seen in coma patients) and in turn the body can fail the mind (in cases such as Locked-In Syndrome). The fact that these types of conditions exist prove that the two are indeed separate and distinct, but I think most of us overemphasize that division, while instead we should be focusing on the synergistic relationship between the two—how they interact, how they communicate, how deficiency or greatness in one affects the other, and so forth. I feel like I think those two previous phrases mean effectively the same thing.


  1. I agree with you. I think a healthy body is a strong contributing factor to a healthy mind and vice versa. Therefore, to have good health in either category, concern for the health of the other would help considerably. The two are a part of the same whole. For the whole to be working in its best condition, one must enable the health of both parts. "Focusing on the synergistic relationship between the two," would help do so.

  2. I completely agree as well. Although these are two different parts, they are interconnected. An unhealthy body would lead to an unhealthy mind because you're body would be making decisions that would influence one's mind. As you've both pointed out, it can work both ways. There has to be a correlation between how important one's actions are or the thoughts that fill your mind. If either of these are negatively influenced, then the reaction effects the other part.


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