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DIFINING THE MIND

The word ‘Mind’ is from the Latin ment, mens meaning mind, monēre to remind or to

warn. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the mind as the element or complex of

elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons b: the

conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism c: the organized conscious and

unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism. In neuroscience, there is no duality

between the mind and body. The mind appears in no way separate from the brain. Most

scientists agree that the mind is the product of the brain. The mind is what the brain does.

However, is there really a difference between the mind and the brain? The brain is

physical and objective and the mind is mental and subjective. Therefore, the mind must

begin where the physical properties of the brain end and the mental properties of mind

take over.

An objective definition such as the definition of a straight line- the shortest distance

between two points- would entail solving the mind/body dilemma (cogito ergo sum- I

think therefore I am) originally posed so trenchantly by Descartes, which we will not

examine due to the multiple variables and extensive research required to carry out that

investigation.

To come up with a convincing definition of the concept ‘mind’ we will set up boundaries

of where the mind begins and where it ends; by identifying what the mind is not, we can

deduce what the mind is. Due to the abstract nature of the concept ‘mind’ pinpointing its

location is conceptual, the mind is not physical and it is not located anywhere as an object

in physical space (Williams, 1999). It must then be non-spatial, which means it does not

occupy space. So if we try to pinpoint its location we would have to say “the mind is a

non-spatial extent located between two variables” (Williams, 1999).


If we look into the brain and examine its smallest parts, we see neurons emitting chemical

and electrical signals. When a sound enters the ear, it is converted into an

electrical/chemical signal and relayed to a group of neurons in the auditory part of the

brain. At the same time, other signals (visual, kinesthetic) that are experienced at the

same time are relayed to other parts of the brain. Later when we recall the sound, this

sensory bit of information is converted or translated into a mental bit of information as

we hear, see and feel the same things, or similar, as when we initially experienced it

(Taylor, 2005). The original signal has been converted into a mental signal. Therefore,

the mind must begin where electrical and chemical signals within the body and brain

leave and are converted into subjective signals such as thought or perception. “The

conversion point where a physical signal is translated into a mental signal” (Taylor, 2005,

pg 122).

Our definition thus so far would then be: “Mind is a non-spatial area located between the

events where the physical properties of sensation end” (Taylor, 2005, pg 121). Now we

need to find the second variable on the other end of the spectrum of mind to finish the

definition. In order to find the other end of the spectrum, the outer edge of mind, we will

have to go through the mind and then try to go beyond it. The common denominator of

all mental processes is perception. “Perception is a thought resulting from a feeling or

sensation” (Taylor, 2005 pg 121) it interprets the report of sensation, and translates it into

a thought, or idea. Sensation is thus when something goes into the brain, and a perception

is what the mind does with it. Perception is your opinions, likes, and dislikes, attitudes,

beliefs, values and rationalizations. Hence, the outer edge of mind would be where

thought or any kind of perception ceases to exist. We now need to explain what lies on

the other side of perception. Because if we do not know what is beyond perception, we

lack a reference point to define the boundary of where mind ends.


Beyond perception would be the area where we experience and are fully aware and

conscious and at the same time do not perceive anything. This means no thoughts, no

ideas, and no emotions. At that point the mind stops thinking, it becomes empty and

quiet, there is no internal dialog describing what is experienced (Williams, 1999). Feeling

however exists giving a direct connection with the immediate surroundings without any

thought or perception. So it seems that feeling begins where perception ends. “Feeling is

detached observation. It is the ability to notice and witness a particular experience in a

dispassionate way without intellectual or emotional involvement, attachment or reaction.”

(Taylor, 2005 pg 121) “Feeling is a cooperative effort between your attention,

consciousness and awareness, and is sometimes associated with the realm of spirit”

(Taylor, 2005 pg 121). If matter is objective and mind is subjective then spirit must be

collective- both subjective and objective.

Therefore, the outer boundary or edge of the mind is where subjective perception meets

collective feeling. This is where the spiritual realm begins. Now we have found the

second variable that enables us to pinpoint where the outer edge of mind ends. It is where

the subjective and the objective meet, the boundary between mind and feeling. Therefore

we can safely assume that the concept ‘mind’ is a non-spatial area located between the

event where the properties of sensation end, and the event where the properties of feeling

begin.
References

Bahadur, F (2007, November 01). Definition of Mind. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=25284

Merriam-webster association. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from http://www.merriam-

webster.com/dictionary.

Taylor, E.(2005) Biological Consciousness and the Experience of the Transcendent:

William James and American Functional Psychology. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/Mind/James.html.

Williams, J. (1999) Exceptional Mental States. Retrieved March 1, 2008 from

http://www.astromind.com/articles/definition_of_mind.html