Thought is the operation of the brain in conscious activity. It may or may not be goal-directed, aimed at solving specific problems. It is not the only way brains operate. Behaviour may occur as a result of instinct, and the adaptive unconscious may solve problems without a person being aware.
Other animals can use their brains to solve problems, but there is no way of telling whether they do so consciously. Thought is investigated by four or five academic disciplines, each in its own way. The disciplines include psychology, philosophy, biology, physiology, psychoanalysis and sociology.
Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as the central issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues that have to do with the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the real (solid) body.
The mind-body problem [change]
The mind-body problem has to do with the explanation of the relationship that exists between minds, or mental processes, and bodily states or processes. The main aim of philosophers working in this area is to determine the nature of the mind and mental states/processes, and how—or even if—minds are affected by and can affect the body.
Our perceptual experiences depend on stimuli which arrive at our various sensory organs from the external world and these stimuli cause changes in our mental states, ultimately causing us to feel a sensation, which may be pleasant or unpleasant. Someone's desire for a hat, for example, will tend to cause that person to move his or her body in a specific manner and in a specific direction to obtain what he or she wants. The question, then, is how it can be possible for conscious experiences to arise out of a lump of gray matter endowed with nothing but electrochemical properties. A related problem is to explain how someone's propositional attitudes (e.g. beliefs and desires) can cause that individual's neurons to fire and his muscles to contract in exactly the correct manner. These comprise some of the puzzles that have confronted epistemologists and philosophers of mind from at least the time of René Descartes.
Further reading [change]
- Eric Baum 2004. What is thought? Chapter 2: The mind is a computer program. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-02548-5
- Corballis, Michael C.. "The uniqueness of human recursive thinking" (PDF). American Scientist (May-June 2007). http://www.americanscientist.org/template/CreateToken?type=PDF&assetid=55246. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
- Kim J. 1995. Problems in the Philosophy of Mind.. In Honderich, Ted. ed. Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
- Companion to Metaphysics, By Jaegwon Kim, Gary S. Rosenkrantz, Ernest Sosa, Contributor Jaegwon Kim, Edition: 2, Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, ISBN 1-4051-5298-2; ISBN 9781405152983