The Problem of Mind: Traditions of Decision

Modernity makes relevant a number of fundamental problems associated with the fate of civilization on our planet. These include the problem of the mind (in a broad sense), i.e. reasonable attitude to social and natural reality and to the activities of people. The problem of reason includes a complex of such problems as the problem of individual and social consciousness, knowledge and faith, truth and error, reason and reason, intuitive and discursive, formally logical and creative in thinking, freedom and necessity, the ratio of thinking, feeling and will, moral and aesthetic, morality and truth, personality and society, man and nature, reason and culture, peace and civilization, progressive and regressive, i.e. in the end – reasonable and unreasonable, etc.

Scientifically, comprehensively approaching the solution of these problems helps to consider them in the teachings on the mind in the history of philosophy.

To trace the main stages of development, patterns of changing the teachings on the mind, the relationship of these problems among themselves, including the struggle of their constituent ideas, the emergence and development of the main trends in the interpretation of the mind, its functions and characteristics in the history of philosophical thought of different regions, eras – this is, in our opinion , the main content, (and the purpose of the solution) of this complex problem of mind in the history of philosophy.

It is clear that the logical and epistemological problems of reason do not exhaust all of its content.

In connection with the specific socio-historical, socio-cultural conditions in the teachings on the mind, certain aspects, characteristics and functions of the mind, and reasonable activity were developed. Such one-sided teachings (when exaggerated, bloated some characteristics of the mind at the expense of others) collided among themselves, were the subject of mutual criticism, philosophical struggle.

One of the tendencies in the teachings on the mind was to identify new aspects, characteristics, functions of the mind, and to attempt to synthesize various holistic (according to the goal) teachings on the mind.

It is important to trace (and summarize) in the teachings on the mind the tendency of the activity of the mind of the knowing and acting subject. In Kant, this is the ability of productive imagination; in Fichte, the emphasis is on the subjectivity of the acting “I”, on the volitional activity of the subject; Hegel’s teaching on the subject’s activity in his system of absolute idealism.

One-sided teachings (and interpretations) of the human mind (in particular, abstract education, anthropology, etc.) were gradually overcome, scientifically explained and substantiated: social nature, activity and various functions of the human mind in the progress of society, human culture. Among current applications of the theory of mind, one can name the analysis of approaches and teachings on artificial intelligence and man-machine intelligence (for example, criticism of the technocratic tendency, when the role of a machine is absolutized and the role of the human mind is underestimated).

The problem of reason is important today, when the role of man in solving global problems of our time has increased. The urgency of the problem of the mind as well as throughout the entire history of the development of human knowledge becomes the imperative of time; its development is in close interaction and interrelation with the practice of modern social and economic life.

In the history of philosophy, the problem of reason was invariably stimulated by the development and justification of developing scientific knowledge. And in this context, at present, this problem has not lost its relevance at all, but, on the contrary, has acquired a new methodological acuteness related to solving social problems in the changed historical conditions.

Analysis of the problem of the mind has a solid tradition both in our and in foreign philosophical literature. Acquaintance with these sources confirms once again, from the very beginning philosophy is formed as a teaching about the mind comprehending the whole world. The substantiation of the mind as the wisest form of knowledge made it possible to overcome the mythological anthropomorphism, to formulate concepts characterized by the status of universality and objectivity, to recognize that rational comprehension of the world is the revelation of its essence.

Numerous historical and philosophical studies have revealed that the problem of reason in specific periods of cognitive development was considered from different points of view, such as: the relationship between faith and knowledge, the justification of human freedom, the factor of social progress, etc. A significant place of research is devoted to the relationship between the problem of reason and the justification of scientific knowledge in different historical periods.

The concept of “mind” in the sense of interest to us began to take shape at the turn of the 7th – 6th centuries. BC, when a pleiad of ancient Greek thinkers from the city of Miletus (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes) made significant innovations in the formulation and solution of the most important ideological problems that have long agitated humanity, which marked the birth of philosophy. Refusing to reproduce traditional mythological – religious ideas about the beginning, structure, existence and change of the world, they tried to find the answer to these questions by the power of their own understanding.

It should be emphasized that this understanding was not purely speculative, but relied on a certain amount of observations on natural phenomena, had well-known empirical foundations. It is well known that the first ancient Greek philosophers were also the first scientists, so that philosophical rationality was born in unity with scientific rationality. In the course of this process, knowledge was contrasted with a blind and unaccountable belief in the validity of previous ideological ideas, supported by the power of centuries-old religious piety. Thus, the rationality forming in the bosom of philosophy included the principle of a critical approach to the existing ideological views and the closely related principle of the need for a reasoned rationale for each proposition claiming to be true: “universal agreement” with any statement was considered untenable in the face there would be one valid objection.

All of this marked a fundamental line between the philosophical – scientific mind, embodied in a growing body of knowledge, and the mythological – religious consciousness as a conglomeration of devoid of truthfulness of beliefs. Although some echoes of mythological notions are noticeable in the anthropomorphic – hylozoistic elements of the teachings of Miletus, in general the latter were overcome and rejected by the emerging philosophy. In it, the world-planning function from the gods is transferred to the material-material principles (water, apeiron, air; Heraclitus fire can also be added to them), which are thought of by eternally existing and possessing active, creative power; it is in this religiously inconsistent sense that the “elements” listed are sometimes called “divine.” Tracing further this line of destructive rethinking of religious ideas, it is appropriate to note that in Epicurus and Lucretius the gods themselves are regarded as peculiar creatures of matter, monstrously huge clusters of atoms that, because of their location in interworld voids, do not affect the events in the world, which meant denial of the gods in the proper sense of the word. Thus, with the emergence of philosophical rationality, a very significant methodological setting for explaining the world from itself, and not appealing to mythical supernatural forces (in fact, not explaining anything), whose very existence was recognized not only unproven but fundamentally impossible.

Of course, this does not apply to the whole of ancient philosophy, but only to one of the lines of its development, going from Milesian natural philosophers to the atomists Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretia. V.I. Lenin called “the line of Democritus” – one of the two main lines not only of ancient, but also of the whole subsequent philosophy. It must be admitted that the listed features of this line are fundamental to philosophical rationality.

However, this is only one, although it is of paramount importance that rationality that is formed with the beginning of the development of philosophy. Another defining aspect of philosophical rationality, which characterizes its difference from the sensual – empirical level of knowledge, lies in going beyond the mere observation and fixation of facts, beyond that “multi-knowledge”, which, in the words of Heraclitus, “does not make intelligent.” To open in reality that which cannot be given in sensory perception, but what is most essential in it is for philosophers the main task of the mind and the highest justification of its necessity for man. From the point of view of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, the ability of water, apeiron, air or fire to be the origin of life is not seen as feelings themselves, but can only be comprehended by the mind, comprehending sensory perceptions. The problem of the unity of mind and feelings was of paramount importance for almost all the ancient materialists (with the possible exception of Epicurus), while the philosophers of idealistic orientations, especially Plato, separated rationality from sensuality, which, in fact, was the epistemological source of idealism.

Following Heraclitus, ancient philosophers included among the fundamental tasks of rational knowledge the discovery of the necessity that “rules the world” and to which all events occurring in it are subject. Heraclitus himself, the universal necessity, called the Logos, was conceived as the hidden deepest harmony of the different and as the tense unity of opposites between which the struggle takes place; thus, before the mind, the task was to identify what we now call objective dialectics. For such thinkers as Democritus, the notion of ruling the world of necessity has been reduced to universal determinism, in accordance with which the task of finding all sorts of natural causal-effect relationships came to the fore. For the idealistic line (Plato, Aristotle, and their followers), it was, on the contrary, typical of insisting that the supernatural divine in essence prevailed in the world of expediency, in the light of which the task was set before the disclosure of universal teleology.

Along with this, ancient philosophers included in the sphere of rational knowledge the study of the problems of the relationship between the one and the many, substance and accidents, eternal and transient, stay and change, movement and rest, opportunity and reality, necessity and chance, infinite and finite, simple and complex and etc.

Beginning with Socrates and Plato, in ancient Greek philosophy it is becoming increasingly clear that in order to develop rational knowledge, the development of concepts with their inherent functions of generalization and abstraction is of fundamental importance. The formation of the conceptual (categorical) apparatus of philosophy (Aristotle played a fundamental role in this process) was the most important stage in the development of philosophical rationality. It should be noted that the progress of rationality achieved in this case raised before the ancient thought very difficult questions about the relationship between the community of the concept and the singularity of the things it generalized, as well as the problem of the relative independence of the existence of concepts from the existence of the corresponding things.

Here lay the most serious gnoseological grounds for the emergence of the idealistic conception of Plato, according to which “ideas” (under them, in fact, meant precisely the concepts in their cognitive – generalizing function) not only exist independently of things or of human consciousness, but also ontologically primary in relation to things and in some way generate the latter. The actual relationship between the concepts of things and things turned out to be inverse in Platonism and fundamentally related to him philosophies. In this sense, idealism meant a departure from the main goal of rationality – the comprehension of truth. It is worth noting that Plato’s substantiation of the main provisions of his theory of ideas turned out to be very weak, and this was revealed by the most astute philosophers already in antiquity. It is also significant that, in its emergence and authentic development, philosophical rationality was the antithesis of the mythological and religious worldview, then for Plato’s philosophy, remifological and theologization is characteristic.

Long before Aristotle developed a logical doctrine, ancient Greek philosophers widely operated on inferences. It was a concrete form of functioning rationality. She, however, was questioned and seriously discredited by the sophists. The controversy with them of Socrates and Plato clearly revealed the need to move from an intuitive idea of ​​what should be the correct reasoning, to a completely reflected and fixed in clear rules for understanding this correctness. The realization that rational knowledge should be logical, and Aristotle’s creation of a detailed concept of coherent thinking was one of the greatest achievements of ancient philosophy.

It should be noted that one of the leading trends of this philosophy was to turn the formal – logical correctness of reasoning into the only criterion of its truth. For the first time this tendency was clearly revealed (again, long before Aristotle) ​​in the works of the philosophers of the Eleatic school, the largest representatives of which were Parmenides and Zeno. Their reasoning about the single and the many, discontinuity and continuity, movement and peace, revealed a number of logical paradoxes that essentially posed the problem of the dialectical contradiction of being and the dialectical cognitive thinking. But if Heraclitus, in a similar situation, boldly admitted the reality of this kind of unity of opposites, then the Eleatics, dominated by the metaphysical prejudice about the impossibility of internal contradictions of being, declared the movement and multiplicity of things observed in the world as evidence that this world is illusory, and “true being” is united, unchanging and devoid of motion, and made an unlawful conclusion, directly leading to Platonic idealism, that this kind of being is immaterial.

The problem of the relationship between mind and feelings was one of the key in ancient philosophy. The overwhelming majority of the representatives of the latter were convinced that sensory representations can be (or even necessarily are) more or less distorted images of objects (ie, relatively few ancient philosophers, who, like the sophists, formally proclaimed full confidence in the senses and declared that everything what they represent really exists, almost erased any distinction between truth and delusion between honey, extremely pluralizing truth, they thereby completely relativized it, which meant its denial).

But some philosophers, mostly to idealism, believed that as a result, sensual experience has no cognitive value and rational knowledge must develop in complete independence from the senses, inevitably falls into the most serious errors and therefore must fully use its cognitive abilities.

Enclosed in evidence of feelings; going deeper than these testimonies and penetrating into the essence of being, the mind must at the same time coordinate its conclusions with sensory experience. Such was, for example, the position of the philosophers – the materialists Heraclitus and Democritus. For all of their critical nature of the evidence of feelings as such, these thinkers, in principle, excluded the possibility that the conclusions of the presented philosophical reason led to looking at the sense-perceptible world as an illusion. The latter was true for them as a phenomenon, the essence of which is revealed by the mind and forms a certain unity with the phenomenon, so studying the world of phenomena opens the way to rational comprehension of the essence, and the latter explains the deep foundations and causes of the sensually perceived world. The second of the considered solutions to the problem of the relationship between mind and feelings looks much more sober in comparison with the first, absolutely antisenseistic; It was within the framework of the second decision that the highly fruitful concept of the atomistic structure of the world was created.

When reviewing the ancient ideas about the mind, one cannot pass over in silence the views of Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans on mathematics, which they constituted as a scientific-theoretical discipline. The fact is that the Pythagoreans considered the mathematical formalization of knowledge about reality to be the most important, if not the main, manifestation of the rationality that penetrates the essence of being.

From the materiality of the quantitative definitions of reality expressed by numbers, the Pythagoreans, however, made an unreasonable conclusion about the highest ontological reality of numbers, about their ontological primacy in relation to things and their worldly role. Since the numbers were considered in this case as having an immaterial existence, the proclamation of their primacy with respect to the material world opened the way to an idealistic view of reality. Hypostated numbers turned into some semblance of deities, ruling over the world.

Thus, one or another epistemological and methodological position of the philosophers entailed certain ontological correlates, which resulted in a series of worldwide philosophical confrontations, chief among which was the struggle between the “line of Democritus” and “the line of Plato”. The considered processes were developed not only and not so much in the sphere of “pure” thinking, but had a certain social conditionality and social significance, were associated with the interests of various social groups and classes.

The ancient philosophers themselves were not limited to the formulation of the problem of reason and rationality in the epistemological and ontological aspects, but also put it in ethical and political terms.

The concept of mind, as it is actually represented in ancient philosophy, has, therefore, a complex structure, the various elements of which have their own specific meaning. Mathematics along with logic could be attributed to the formal aspects of rationality, emphasizing that this is not about the external, but about the internal form that is essential for the very content of the mind, whose progress is unthinkable without the development of the formal aspects mentioned.

The substantive aspect of rationality should include realized knowledge of the essential aspects and features of reality, its deep structure. For this substantive aspect of rationality, the understanding of the cognitive value of sensory experience, the understanding of the need for its combination with the sensory level of knowledge, were of paramount importance. When all this was not taken into account and even more so when it was deliberately ignored, the development of the formal aspects of rationality was fraught with the most serious idealistic aberrations, in which formal rationality conflicted with substantive rationality.

The emerging and developing philosophical mind also had many external opponents who were vitally interested in the preservation or reactivation of the mythological and religious beliefs that they rejected. The absence of a cohesive and politically influential priestly class in ancient Greece and Ancient Rome was one of the necessary prerequisites for the rise of rationality in the ancient world, while the folding of the Christian priesthood in the post-ancient era erected ever more effective obstacles to rationality. Serious internal contradictions in the development of the mind, the conflict of various forms of rationality, hypertrophy of its formal aspects – all this was used by opponents of the mind for their own purposes. Specific examples of this are given in abundance by the era of the death of ancient society and the era of the clerical Middle Ages.

The concept of reason is also in the works of al-Farabi, al-Kindi, Avicenna, Averroes, representatives of Latin philosophy – Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great, and others.

During the rule of the Abassid dynasty, intellectual activity increased in Baghdad. At the beginning of the 9th century, works of Aristotle, Temistius, Porfiry, and other philosophers were translated into Arabic.

The influence of the ancient theory of reason manifested itself in different ways – if in the case of al-Kindi and Avicenna it was not so obvious, then this concept found a much greater echo in the averroists who modified the theory of “unity of intellect” and alexandrists who advocated the mortality of the human soul. Averroes is critical of Aphrodis that the mind is a function of the body – the admissibility of this state of affairs would lead to the indistinguishability of mind and senses, which cannot be allowed. For Averroez, Aphrodis’s teaching about material intelligence, about its possession of negative qualities, is the most critical objection – it is neither body nor substance – a simple attitude without any positive quality.

Averroes becomes very categorical here – in his opinion, it is impossible to interpret the texts of Aristotle in the spirit of Alexander of Aphrodisias. And at the same time, the attitude of Averroes to Aphrodis is far from unequivocal. It is associated with a more fundamental problem of the connection between Arab and Alexandrian philosophy.

In general, Averroes had a negative attitude towards incorporating Aphrodis’s thoughts on material intelligence into his philosophical system.

In his view, they differ significantly from Aristotelian thoughts on this matter. And did not Aristotle praise Anaxagoras for asserting that the intellect is not mixed with anything, did not assert that the intellect is separated from matter and is not a bodily tool.

For if the material intellect is a bodily tool, it experiences a fate of this kind that it becomes old (like memory, for example) and the old man loses the ability to understand, because they lose the opportunity to remember the past. Averroes cites many arguments that, from his point of view, weaken the Aphrodis doctrine. According to Averroes, in order to understand everything, the intellect should not be either a body or a bodily property, remaining at the same time a substance – in a word, if the intellect is really a function for perceiving everything sensible, it should be deprived of any form that it is only about own form or depending on the bodily forms.

It can be said that the separation of the minds, which goes back to Aphrodisus, serves as the starting point of the reflections of the Muslim philosophers, although it is not a question of the deep impact of the ideas of Aphrodis, belonging to the “peri”, on the development of Islamic thinking. Avicenna had an indirect acquaintance with the theory of “peri-nu”. This is evidenced by the fact that he ascribes this theory to Porfiry at the beginning and subsequently to unknown students.

Speaking about Aphrodisus, Avicenna does not reveal the existing connection between Alexander’s writings and the theory of “peri-nu”. Naturally, the question arises about the influence of this theory on the al-Farabi system. But the problem of the possible influence of the peri on the al-Farabi’s thinking is difficult for some reasons – first of all a small part of his writings, which would give an opportunity for such a comparison, they only touch upon the most interesting points for comparison. These are works “About the Mind”, “Views of the inhabitants …”; in the latter, the influence of Aristotle and Neo-Platonism is clearly traced. Under the general terminology of these works there are certain differences.

There is no doubt about the impact of the peri-nu on al-Farabi. Those problems that occupy the author’s “peri-nu” are clearly investigated in the works of al-Farabi. The attempt that Aphrodis makes to give a clear understanding of the “material mind” does not attract the attention of Farabi. There is no indication in the writings of the latter that he shares the conviction of Aphrodis in the primacy that belongs to the intelligible in comparison with reason.

Farabi has no sympathy for the efforts that Aphrodisus makes to distinguish between intellectual activity and sensation activity, to show that the mind is effective, and not passive in embracing the intelligible. The only thing that unites is the indication of the connection between the active (active) mind and ours. But this problem goes back to Aristotle and it is so common in ancient thinking that it can hardly be considered the result of “peri-no”.

Aphrodis first introduces the concept of “material reason”, perhaps in order to better push aside the new role of “nous poetics”, decisively separating him from the soul. This term is found in Farabi in al-Madinat al-Fadila. Alexander’s Arab students, apparently, unanimously accepted the peri-noon theory. In their eyes, the material mind is located in the heart or in the brain. The doctrine of al-Farabi is different from the teachings of Alexander and his students. He hesitates in his treatise On the Mind regarding the nature of the material mind.

He does not claim whether this mind is a soul, a part of the soul or its capacity. He declares that this mind is a form in matter capable of perceiving images of the intelligible. In the treatise “On the Mind”, Farabi develops a comparison between the potential mind and a piece of wax – this demonstrates to what extent he moves away from Alexander. If Aphrodisus emphasizes the receptivity of the material mind and as a result insists on the fact that this mind can never be in reality. As the only echo of this in Farabi, we find his mention in the treatise On the Mind that the mind remains possible, it does not have any form of existing objects.

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