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  Roger Smith, Lecture 3, ‘Mind’ and ‘consciousness’
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Roger Smith, Lecture 3, ‘Mind’ and ‘consciousness’

Roger Smith, Some Key Philosophical Words in English

Lecture 3, ‘Mind’ and ‘consciousness’


S. Gutterplan, A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind (1994); ‘Within philosophy, the philosophy of mind is easily the most active sub-discipline’; ‘Human beings definitely have minds.’ Do animals? Did Greeks?


1. ‘Mind’, an untranslatable word?

Soul – spirit – mind; âmeesprit; SeeleGeist; душа – ум/разум; animaanimusmens.

OED on ‘mind’: (a) memory (‘to remind’); (b) thought, purpose or intention (‘to speak one’s mind’); ‘mental or psychical being or faculty’– not ‘soul’, not ‘body’; equivalent to ‘psychic’.

But what is ‘mental’? Classification of cognitive, affective and conative (desire, will, action) faculties, taken from earlier science of soul.

NB: Mind linked to body - ‘the brain is the organ of mind’; ‘the mind-body problem’. By contrast, ‘soul’ separable, immortal, and often linked to heart, guts, etc.

Mind has consciousness (awareness, interiority, subjectivity). By contrast, Aristotelian soul is ‘the cause or source of the living body’, and classified as vegetative, sensitive and rational.

Mind is at the centre of self-identity or individuality (‘whole in mind and body’; ‘alienated mind’).

Freud’s large claim for ‘the unconscious mind’.

Mind, some argue, by analogy to individual mind, may be collective.


2. From ‘soul’ to ‘mind’.

13th-century Aristotelian-Christian synthesis unites rational with immortal soul. Late Renaissance teaching increasingly discusses De anima as part of physica, separating ‘science of the soul’ from metaphysics of soul’s nature and immortality. E.g. conduct books, including control of passions – (e.g. Descartes, Les passions de l’âme, 1649). Use of ‘mens’ – rational soul in its capacity of logic/acquiring knowledge.

Sanskrit root for ‘mens’ (Latin) and ‘gemynd’ (Old German).

Historical impact of John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), standardising secular, empirical use of ‘mind’. Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733) – Locke writes the natural history of mind (not soul). Locke ties mind to body (by analogy to physical world), consciousness and self.

The Enlightenment – mind as ‘experience’ and ‘the mirror of nature’.

19th century: e.g. Thomas Brown, Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1820); ‘mental science’ (e.g. Journal of Mental Science, founded 1852; Mind, founded 1876).

20th-century separation of ‘the philosophy of mind’, a branch of analytic philosophy, from psychology. Since 1980, the neurosciences have made the relationship much disputed.

‘Soul’ an embarrassment in English?


3. Consciousness.

Locke: ‘Consciousness is the perception of what passes in a Man’s own mind.’ (Essay, 2.1.19). Reflective capacity separates mind and matter. Idea of self-identity dependent on continuity of consciousness.

Origin of ‘consciousness’ in (i) Latin conscientia, e.g. Descartes, to refer to right thinking (thinking without error – virtuous thinking); and (ii) Ralph Cudworth (1678), translation of ‘syneidesis’ (or ‘sunaisthesis’), Greek for self-knowledge/awareness.

Pierre Coste translated Locke into French (1700), using ‘conscience’ for ‘consciousness’, giving it two meanings. Contrast: English ‘consciousness’ and ‘conscience’, Russian сознание and совесть, and German Bewusstein and Wissen (knowledge, awareness).