Why the mind is not the brain » IAI TV (2023)

Markus Gabriel, one of Germany's youngest professors of philosophy, teaches in 16 languages, is afraid of metaphysics and believes that the philosophy of mind needs to be refined. Author of 'I Am Not A Brain' and 'Why The World Does Not Exist', he will discuss mind, matter and mechanism at our London Festival with neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland and author and former clinical neuroscientist Raymond TallisAs the light enterson September 22nd and 23rd. In the following interview, he explains why he prefers the German term “geist” to the English “mind”, how we can regain our rationality and why we should stop making claims about what we don't know.

Let's start with the title of your latest book. Why isn't the mind the brain?

The shortest argument is as follows: There is what philosophers call a mereological fallacy. Mereology is the discipline that studies the relationship between wholes and parts.

So imagine someone telling you that David Beckham didn't score a goal, he scored his foot. It would be odd to say that because Beckham couldn't shoot the target without his foot, but it was sort of the whole beast that shot the target.

So states of mind like consciousness are states of a whole animal and not states of its parts. So it is not true that only the brain is conscious. You couldn't have consciousness without a brain, but that doesn't mean that the brain and consciousness are identical.

However, the common biological view is that the brain, as the central nervous system, controls the rest of the body. The foot simply does what the brain tells it to do.

You could say so. The brain is not a conscious control center. All parts are connected in a complicated way.

For example, the state of mind I'm in right now is that I'm trying to answer a question. I couldn't answer a question without you asking me one. The fact that you're asking me a question is part of the mental state I'm in. But it's nowhere in my body. It's represented in my body – I must have working memory, but that conversation is nowhere in my body; it actually expands a much larger spacetime. At the moment it's England, Germany and the communication networks Skype etc. So my state of mind is part of a larger network, it's not just in my head.


"SElves are so mysterious to us because they go through temporal and historical developments."


(Video) Is the mind separate from the brain? | Full Interview | Marcus Gabriel

What you call "spirit" in English does not exist. The mind is a historical artifact of misunderstood philosophical theories in English. As an expression, it does not refer to anything. Philosophers invented it as a technical term. But nobody ever tells you what that means. If you look it up in a standard textbook, nobody since John Locke will tell you what it is. It's not as if philosophers established the term "mind" and are now talking about the mind-brain problem. No two analytical philosophers share the same understanding of the most important concept in their field.

In German there is this useful term - "spirit" which means something like "the bearer of mental states". The brain alone cannot transmit mental states.

"Spirit" seems to me to be closer to the term "culture".

It's much closer to the notion of "culture" but I would say spirit is the idea of ​​"shared meaning". For example, you go out in the evening and there is a certain atmosphere in the restaurant. It's a general opinion. They expect a certain type of food, a certain price for the wine, an expectation of how much to tip, etc.

What we should be talking about is the relationship between "common opinion" and the fact that we are animals. So we should not ask about the relationship between mind and brain. It is a pseudo question, similar to questions about the relationship between God and the universe. It's useless.

Do you think consciousness is a better term?

"Consciousness" is little better than "mind" if we distinguish between two types of consciousness. There are several ways to make this distinction, and I have a major debate with John Searle about this, but here's my distinction: intentional awareness and phenomenal awareness.

Intentional awareness is said to be our ability to think about things that are not necessarily untrue. I can think of London, for example, and London is not just a thought. I can think of my hand and my hand is not just a thought. I can think about things that do not belong to me or my thoughts.

Phenomenal consciousness is a state that can be altered by drinking coffee, LSD, etc. It's the feeling of being alive. I think there is no serious problem with it. It's easy to tell what it is. It has been researched; We know its neural correlates. There is no phenomenal consciousness that is different. Emotions, moods, visual and tactile impressions - they are all phenomenal and have different connections in the brain. There is a legitimate problem with brain consciousness here, but it is not a philosophical problem. It is no more philosophical than any other empirical problem. It's a simple empirical question.

Are you close to Andy Clark's idea of ​​the expanded mind and share his interest in cyborgs?

I agree that this is an extended line of thought, but it has nothing to do with recent technological developments. The greatest expanded mind of all time remains the book. The most powerful intellectual device of all time is writing. The Internet is far from the book. The smartphone hardly lasts more than five years, while Plato's dialogues last 2000 years. In fact, the latest technological advances in the mind make us much weaker as thinkers. It has reduced our ability to expand our minds.

Since you believe that "spirit" encompasses what we are outside of our biology more effectively than "spirit," how does this affect your ideas of identity? Does it lead you to a Buddhist view that we are not independent beings?

(Video) Markus Gabriel - I Am Not A Brain [iai 2019]

I have no Buddhist concerns about identity at all. I think Buddhism is just a fake. I don't understand the "not-self" idea that is advocated in it. I think I have one myself, but I'm just not done yet. Personal identity is a four-dimensional thing. It means I've had all the thoughts I'll have. More precisely: Markus Gabriel, the system that I am is everything that applies to Markus Gabriel. This means that I currently have two hands, that I eventually died and so on. it is my self At the moment I'm not identical to myself. Because I'm not done yet. When I'm done, I want identity. That means you don't all see me now. you see a part of me Of course that's true because you don't see my back, you see me on Skype etc. So of course you can't see the whole animal. That's why I'm so mysterious to us, because they go through a temporal and historical development. You can change. This is what Buddhists get wrong.

The truth in Buddhism is that there is no essential being found by looking in the mirror. When I look in the mirror I don't see myself; I see a part of me. But Buddhism exaggerates this point by saying that there is "no self" and that nothing is self-identical.


"We are concerned with what it means to be human."


How do your ideas about the mind relate to your ideas about the 'world' vs. 'the universe'?

It is very important. In essence, the "mind" or "spirit" in my philosophy comes into play through the following question: What am I doing when I philosophize? And my answer is: I explain what it means to be human.

Why should I give up such an account? Because I have absolutely no idea what it means to be human. Someone will tell you that you have an immortal soul, so don't worry about that. Then you meet Daniel Dennett and he'll tell you, "Oh, don't worry, you're just a great robot." Or a "primate with illusions." And then I meet the Buddhists and they tell me, 'Oh, there's nothing, you're not human. It's all just an illusion.'

I think philosophy is an attempt to give a rational answer to this question. Someone who does not delve into the options already available, but instead seeks a rationally guided examination of man for what he is. I call it higher order anthropology. That is, a presentation of what man is against the background of the fact that we do not yet know what man is. Otherwise people ask.

We ask ourselves what it means to be human. And every answer we give defines who we are. We are self-determined animals. That's what I call "spirit" - the ability to be a self-determined animal. Universal humanity is simply the understanding that other people realize universal humanity in different ways. But the conditions for realization are the same for all of us.


"The idea that you are your brain is as bad propaganda in existential jargon as the idea that you have an immortal soul."

(Video) Are You Just a Brain? | Raymond Tallis


In this context, we invent concepts like the world, the universe, the mind, the brain in response to the question of what we are. If I want to know my position in the universe, I'm told that I'm somewhere in the branch of the Milky Way.

Man is the starting point of all research. I criticize the idea that there is an ensemble of objects or a reality that is completely stable because I think it's an ideology: a story that people tell themselves to be less human because it's a clear one want to get an answer. That's why I call myself a neo-existentialist.

The idea that you are your brain is as bad propaganda in existential jargon as the idea that you have an immortal soul. Because you identify with an object in reality and not with the ability to ask a specific question. It is a form of alienation, as the existentialist tradition would call it.

So you believe in freedom of choice more than maybe neuroscientists and materialists?

Yes absolutely. I think the situation we think we are in - participants in the rational game of coming and asking for reasons, decision makers subjugated by Freudian unconscious drives, etc. - the situation we think we are in is really this situation we are in. I am against illusions. I think the idea that human agency is an illusion is the most dangerous idea out there.


RECOMMENDED READING “African philosophy is more than you think” by Omedi OchiengBecause that is exactly what propaganda leaders, the so-called “populists”, use to spread fake news. So when you say to people, 'Oh, it's more complicated, things aren't what they seem; Brexit might not be such a bad idea, Erdogan might not be a dictator, Donald Trump might not be an idiot. "Things are probably a lot more complicated than you think," then you don't trust your senses, because people tell you not to do it.

"Don't rely on your rational reasoning, you are full of prejudice." This is what behavioral economics has shown: that you can never control your rationality. But all this critique of rationality that we have seen over the past two decades performs the same function as Lacan and French postmodernism, which has been criticized by analytic philosophy for undermining reason. But if philosophy were to consider something evil, it would be precisely the undermining of reason.

But it is important to acknowledge and understand our irrationality.

Yes, but understanding irrationality is not irrational. If our prejudices were applicable to the study of prejudice, we could not do it. So if behavioral economics and psychoanalysis were subject to the biases they claim to have discovered, they would discover nothing. They would be subject to the same illusions. It is the famous problem that the critique of ideology itself must not be ideological. And there is a simple solution.

We all struggle with self-harm in our daily lives because we have realized (thanks to scientific discoveries, of course) that there are all kinds of prejudices that we were previously unaware of.

(Video) Is The Mind A Product Of Nature? | Marcus Gabriel


"Nothingin the universe could ever knowaltabout the universe."


The best you can do is accept that these are first-order biases in human nature and that psychology, economics, sociology, neuroscience, etc. will help us discover them. It is a biological truth that we are not born with either gender. A fact that has been largely ignored for millennia. These are all facts and it is important to know them.

However, that does not mean that we are not rational. Just because we are rational can we know all these facts about our irrationality. Nobody in the rationalist tradition has ever ignored it. The rationalist tradition is the discovery of the unconscious. The unconscious can be found in Leibniz, Descartes, Plato.

So what they're basically saying is that we carry both rationality and irrationality within us, and that rationality only helps us deal with our irrationality.

Absolutely. Philosophy is the pure worship of rationality. The enemy of philosophy is irrationality.

I want to come back to something you said - that there is no totality of things. Where do you stand in relation to materialists, panpsychists, pluralists?

I believe that these views - like materialism, panpsychism, etc. - are all wrong because they are metaphysical. And by metaphysics I mean any theory of absolutely anything.

In essence, it is a simple argument: we have no reason to believe that there is a whole. Even if you think there is only one material universe, the material universe is not over. And we don't know everything about it. So we have no empirical reason to believe that there is a whole. Everything we know empirically is limited by our perspective. It is in the nature of empirical knowledge that it does not know absolutely everything; it knows what it knows.

RECOMMENDED READING Should we philosophize in dialogue or in debate? By Timothy WilliamsonRecent developments in metamathematics since the 1960s will show any competent mathematician that there is no formal system in which all truths are statements of that system. We know from science and mathematics that there is no whole. On the contrary, they tell me that there is no reason to believe that there is a whole. I've never seen an argument for there being a whole, only the assumption that there is.

Philosophers uncritically accept that metaphysics is a good thing, although it has been heavily criticized by philosophers. They have forgotten all the reasons why we gave up and have fallen into all the traps that have been criticized for the last four hundred years. Materialism and panpsychism are just versions of metaphysics, so I think I can easily brush them aside.

(Video) Raymond Tallis - the brain, the mind and the world [IAI 2019]

So you're saying that from our perspective we can only study parts of the universe and we should just accept that limitation and make the best of what we have.

Absolutely. That's all we can do. It is in the nature of the universe that all of our knowledge is incomplete. It's not man's fault, nor should we try harder to get better computers. The microstructure of the universe is not classical. It just means thatNothingin the universe could ever knowaltabout the universe.

Markus Gabriel speaks at our London FestivalAs the light enterson September 22nd and 23rd. Order your ticketsher.


Why are the brain and the mind not the same thing? ›

The brain is considered to be a physical thing, the mind is considered to be mental. The brain is composed of nerve cells and can be touched, whereas the mind cannot be touched.
Brain vs Mind.
It is made up of blood vessels and nerve cells.It is not made up of any cells and is hypothetical.
4 more rows

Can the mind exist without the brain? ›

The prevailing consensus in neuroscience is that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain and its metabolism. When the brain dies, the mind and consciousness of the being to whom that brain belonged cease to exist. In other words, without a brain, there can be no consciousness.

Who said the mind is what the brain does? ›

Or perhaps, to quote Marvin Minsky, "the mind is what the brain does." If we want to understand the mind, we should look to neuroscience and the brain for the real answers.

Is consciousness just in the brain? ›

Neuroscience today says consciousness is generated by and localized in the brain because it emerges from brain activity. Alternatively, we propose that consciousness may not originate in the brain, although some aspects of human perception of consciousness may be dependent on the brain.

What controls the mind? ›

A brain cell responds to mental events around it. It has a life of the mind. A brain cell processes information. It can communicate meaningful data, not simply random signals.

Is the human brain always thinking? ›

In other words, the brain is constantly processing information and making connections between different pieces of knowledge. This means that it's normal for thoughts and associations to come to mind when our conscious control mechanisms are switched off.

Where is mind in our body? ›

Where is the Mind Located? The brain is the organ of the mind just as the lungs are the organs for respiration.

Where does mind come from? ›

The word is originally from a PIE verbal root *men-, meaning "to think, remember", whence also Latin mens "mind", Sanskrit manas "mind" and Greek μένος "mind, courage, anger".

Can we ever understand the mind? ›

“It may well be possible that while in principle we can sort of understand how the brain works, given its vast complexity, humans may never fully understand,” Koch said.

Is the mind located in the heart? ›

Even though the brain and the heart are located far from one another in the body, they are intrinsically connected and have a significant impact on how each other functions. The two organs communicate via the muscular walls around the heart, which are connected to the brain in the circulatory system.

What did Einstein say about the mind? ›

Rewind a few decades and Albert Einstein was facing criticism for challenging centuries of scientific thought. One would assume that Einstein favored logic over intuition, but the reverse is true. Einstein is widely quoted as saying, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.”

Who is the power of mind? ›

Mind power is one of the strongest and most useful powers you possess. This power consists of your thoughts. The thoughts that pass through your mind are responsible for everything that happens in your life. Your predominant thoughts influence your behavior and attitude and control your actions and reactions.

Does the body have its own mind? ›

Your body has a mind of its own. You know it's true. You can sense it, even though it may be hard to articulate. You know that your body is more than a vehicle for your brain to cruise around in, but how deeply are mind and body truly interwoven?

Is subconscious mind connected to the universe? ›

Even when we sleep, our mind is still active and sending signals to the universe. Our subconscious (subconscious) mind is part of the collective subconscious that connects us to everything in this world. We can improve our lives by communicating with our subconscious minds.

Is the mind part of the body? ›

The mind is the part of a human being that is responsible for thoughts, processes, and consciousness. And we are defined as having both a mind and a brain (which is considered by many to be part of our physical body). Though the mind and the brain exist in the same space of our bodies, they are different.

How do you remove thoughts from your mind? ›

Simple Steps to Stop Negative Thoughts
  1. Pause a Moment. If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck in negative thinking patterns, PAUSE. ...
  2. Notice the Difference. NOTICE the difference between being stuck in your thoughts vs. ...
  3. Label Your Thoughts. ...
  4. Choose Your Intention.
Dec 3, 2022

Who control our thoughts? ›

We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds, and we can control only a tiny part of our conscious thoughts. The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time.

Does the mind control our actions? ›

However, the conscious mind does not control our actions. Our actions are almost exclusively controlled by the subconscious mind. This mind is largely ruled by emotions and instinct. Its job is to help us meet our needs and urges: reproduction, food, thirst, safety, intimacy, and many others.

Does human mind stop thinking? ›

So if we somehow manage to stop ourselves from "thinking" consciously, or achieve a "blank state of mind" through meditation, the brain won't sign off. It will continue to have thoughts — we just won't be aware of them.

Can humans live without thinking? ›

No. You can't go through life without thinking. In fact, our ability to think is one of the greatest evolutionary feats of our species. The problem is our thoughts have become our master.

Can someone hear your thoughts? ›

Frequently Asked Questions. Can anybody hear your thoughts? It is not possible for other people to hear your thoughts. If you feel that others can hear your thoughts, it is important to talk to your doctor or mental health professional, as this may be a symptom of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Where is the soul in the brain? ›

Descartes' reasoning came from his observation that every structure of the brain is paired except for the pineal gland. He felt that the pineal gland must be the meeting point of the physical body and the mind, and therefore, the pineal gland must be the location of the soul.

What are the 3 parts of the mind? ›

When discussing the mind, there are three basic areas to consider: the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is the part we're aware of and think with.

Which organ is mind related? ›

The brain is a complex organ that controls thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger and every process that regulates our body. Together, the brain and spinal cord that extends from it make up the central nervous system, or CNS.

Does our mind create reality? ›

Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations.

What is mind according to the Bible? ›

Eccl 8:16. The process of learning and acquiring knowledge and wisdom, therefore, in the Bible is an application primarily of the heart rather than the mind. In one place in the Bible the word "mind" is associated with the word "wisdom," "...and here is the mind which has wisdom..." Rev 17:9.

What are the 4 types of mind? ›

The four minds and three brains are listed below in the order of their appearance in our lives:
  • The soul-mind.
  • The reptilian mind/brain: the body-mind.
  • The limbic mind/brain: the emotional mind.
  • The neocortex mind/brain: the rational mind.

Does the mind talk to itself? ›

Also referred to as “internal dialogue,” “the voice inside your head,” or an “inner voice,” your internal monologue is the result of certain brain mechanisms that cause you to “hear” yourself talk in your head without actually speaking and forming sounds.

How does the human mind know? ›

Human thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are rooted in the brain, where a complex network of cells receives information from the internal and external environment, transforming this information into our experience of ourselves, the world around us, and our relationships with it.

Does the mind remember everything? ›

Remembering everything is possible. With memory storage of 2.5 petabytes or 2.5 million gigabytes, you have more than enough space to store information in your brain. However, it is a rare thing to remember every single and smallest detail you can get.

What is the relationship between the mind and the brain is that? ›

The brain is similarly a creation of the mind: it is the mind's own symbolic expression of mind's existence. So the brain is an idea of a non-spatial truth in perceptive terms, symbolizing the mind in the physical world: the brain, in 3-D space, manifests the mind to our senses.

What is the idea that the brain and the mind are the same thing called? ›

Monism is the belief that, ultimately, the mind and the brain are the same thing. The behaviorist and biological approaches believe in materialism and monism.

Is the brain more important than the mind? ›

Without a question, the brain is the most important organ in the body. The brain houses the intellect, emotions, personality, and consciousness. It controls and coordinates all of the body's other organs, including the heart. Brain failure symptoms include dementia and coma.

What theory says brain and mind are the same? ›

Mind-brain identity theory is a philosophy that purports the mind and brain are the same. In other words, the state of mind is the same as brain processes; that mental state is the same as the physical state of the brain.

Can the mind change the brain? ›

The overall conclusions from these studies are that one can transform the mind through meditation and thereby alter the brain and the periphery in ways that may be beneficial for mental and physical health, and for well-being.

How powerful is our minds? ›

Our minds are the most powerful tool that we can harness for all levels of success in life. Our thoughts shape who we are and who we will become, as well as influencing our physical well-being and our emotional state. The power of the mind is a tool we are still discovering and just beginning to unleash.

Does the mind control the body or the body control the mind? ›

The brain is part of the body and the two can't be separated (at least not in a healthy way), so technically there is no “other” to be controlled. That said, controlling signals go in both directions, so they actually both have controlling responsibilities for the whole.

Where is your mind located? ›

Where is the Mind Located? The brain is the organ of the mind just as the lungs are the organs for respiration.

What are the two types of theory of mind? ›

There are two kinds of theory of mind representations: cognitive (concerning the mental states, beliefs, thoughts, and intentions of others) and affective (concerning the emotions of others).

Who believed that the mind and the brain are separate entities? ›

The modern problem of the relationship of mind to body stems from the thought of the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who gave dualism its classical formulation.

Should I listen to my heart or mind? ›

Listening to your head may lead to more tangible success, but not following your heart increases your risk of regret, so if you want to lead a more satisfying life, follow your heart.

Do feelings come from the heart or brain? ›

Feelings have so much to do with the heart, as they do with the brain. It's actually a two-way relationship. Our emotions change the signals the brain sends to the heart and the heart responds to the brain in complex ways.

What is the original theory of mind? ›

Theory of Mind (TOM), the term coined by Premack and Woodruff (1978), is the cognitive capability of understanding another's mind.

What is the full theory of mind? ›

Theory of mind (ToM) is defined as the ability to understand and take into account another individual's mental state or of “mind-reading” (Premack and Woodruff, 1978).

What is the theory of mind only? ›

Theory of Mind is the branch of cognitive science that investigates how we ascribe mental states to other persons and how we use the states to explain and predict the actions of those other persons. More accurately, it is the branch that investigates mindreading or mentalizing or mentalistic abilities.


1. How Men and Women Think | Helena Cronin, Gina Rippon, Simon Baron-Cohen
(The Institute of Art and Ideas)
2. What are the hottest philosophy questions of our time? | Iain Mcgilchrist, Lisa Randall, Denis Noble
(The Institute of Art and Ideas)
3. How the Brain Works | Susana Martinez-Conde
(The Institute of Art and Ideas)
4. How do minds work? | Philip Ball | IAI
(The Institute of Art and Ideas)
5. The trouble with truth and reality | Hilary Lawson | IAI
(The Institute of Art and Ideas)
6. Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness | David Malone
(The Institute of Art and Ideas)


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