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Cognitive science – does a functioning mind need a body?

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    Cognitive Science – Does a Functioning Mind Need a Body?

    The question of “Does a functioning mind need a body?” will be concluded in this paper together with some arguments and evidences backing up the claims. Some specific details about the mind, its processes, and the different interconnections will also be discussed briefly. Definitions of related terms will be also done prior to each topic

    Cognitive science is the study of the different interrelationships, similarities, differences and functions of the mind and intelligence. This also includes embracing philosophy, together with psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and anthropology linguistics. The origin of Cognitive Science dates back to around the mid-1950s (Ahlberg 2004). This is the time when there are a lot of researchers in many different fields in cognitive science that started to develop a lot of theories related to the mind. These theories are based in complex representations and computational methodologies. Its organizational beginnings started around the year 1970s. This is the time when the Cognitive Science Society was formed. After its formation, the journal of Cognitive Science began. After this event happened, more than fifty universities in North Americas, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand have instituted cognitive science programs in their school curriculums (Hopson et al 2007). Many others also have put up courses in cognitive science and related sciences.

    In the 21st century, the notion that specialized somatic processes happening in the mind are mainly involved in actions of the body is traditionally believed to be purely in the mind or mentally related. Consequently, these facts and assumptions have been known to be very much related to the concept of somatic markers in the brain. An example of this would be:

     The status of the body which comes from the mind and controlled by the mind is detected by nerves and markers and then it is and acted upon by the body.

    What is Cognitive Science?

    Cognitive Science is an organized and institutionalized component of academic and research studies (Daeschler 2003). It started around the year 1960-1970’s and provided a backbone for many research fields and institutions. Unknown to many, cognitive science emerged as a self-conscious authority when the ideas and principles of many different research areas begin to intertwine and give them. Areas of research like computer science, archeology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, linguistics and many more benefited from the union of different understandings related to them. As a result, the term “cognitive science” was born. This discipline concerned with the cognition and deep and different understanding of certain things made a new term for the discipline. These are broad conception and narrow conception. These two disciplines give two different interpretations and views to cognitive science.

    Narrow conception would say that cognitive science is not a field or an area but rather it is a doctrine or principle. This principle is part of the CTM or what we call the computational theory of the mind (Daeschler 2003). This simply states that the mind is like a computer. Many researchers and professionals still argue about the meaning of cognitive science in a narrow sense and in a broad sense. Whatever the meaning of cognitive science is, the scientific community will always know it as an integrated field of study

    Simply speaking, the term “cognitive science” is just identified as the scientific study either of the mind or of the intelligence. Cognitive science is an integrated and vital combination and interrelation of different but related fields (Hopson et al 2007). These areas/fields include the following:

    ü  psychology

    ü  philosophy and social sciences

    ü  neuroscience

    ü  linguistics

    ü  anthropology and archeology

    ü  computer science

    ü  biology and related sciences

    The phrase “cognitive science” was created by Christopher Higgins. He used this term during his commentary speech in 1973 with regards to the “Lighthill’ report. His commentary was very much concerned about the on-going status of artificial intelligence development research (Daeschler 2003).

    Scope and Interdisciplinary Nature

    Cognitive science tends to view the environment “outside the box” like what other scientific fields do (Higgins 2006). This would mean that cognitive science also has an objective part and a part which is very much dependent and reliant on the observer existence. Cognitive science is typically viewed as a well-matched subject matter with the physical sciences. This is because it also utilizes the scientific methods as well as simulations. They oftentimes compare different outputs of models with different features of human performance. Presently, the disagreement about the exact interconnection and relationships between cognitive science and other scientific fields is still observed and seen (Hopson et al 2007). In fact, the real interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science is basically both unrealized and constrained.

    Cognitive science is a broad area of knowledge. As stated earlier, it covers a lot of topics related to cognition. However, it should be distinguished that cognitive science is not exactly related with any other topic which falls under the study of it. Subject areas hat fall under the different natures and operations of the mind or intelligence is not really combined with the science. Examples of subjects and topics that are not included in cognitive science and oftentimes cause a lot of debates and arguments in the area of philosophy are:

    v  Social and cultural factors

    v  Emotion

    v  Consciousness

    v  Animal cognition

    v  Comparative and evolutionary approaches

    From the “outside” point of view, the biggest interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science is called “systematic”. This includes a socio-cognitive extension of the different cognition models and theories. These different models and theories emphasize distributed cognition and intelligence.

    The Mind

    The trouble between the relationship between the mind and the body is very much known to all. It is also considered to be a tough puzzle to solve and a difficult riddle to go through. Over decades, different monistic beliefs and dualistic theories have emerged and put to the test. The topic about the mind and body has been talked about most of the time. This is because of the different implications of quantum physics which is also assimilated as we study the relationships between the mind and body (Daeschler 2003) These different implications push us to create new and deeper understanding and views about our interconnections of our brain and body. The understanding of what our mind and our body tell us or what they have leads to an unclear consequence from the moment we imbibe a great deal of knowledge about these subjects (Ahlberg 2004). For example, we can infer or hypothesize that the subject of “quantum mechanics” and “human consciousness” are interrelated, but we know that the fine details of these comparisons are vague.

    The following scientific statements come from Eric Hills. He did a lot of experiments with regards to the mind and body theories and generated a lot of insights and ideas regarding the subject matter. Here are some of his scientific statements:

    v  Every new thought that our mind generates becomes the basis for any physical response whatever the extent of this response is. (e.g. small or large reactions)

    v  Things that the mind expects usually have a great tendency to be realized later on.

    v  Visualization of the mind is much more powerful than “reason” itself.

    v  In an event that visualization and reasoning are both in equal conflicts, it is assumed that imagination will always succeed in the end.

    v  Contrasting ideas cannot co-exist in the mind both at the same time.

    v  The longer an idea lingers in the subconscious of the mind, it is assumed to be more complicated and hard to remove or replace by another idea.

    v  Old and basic ideas which cause lifestyle to be molded and formed in a specific way, in an approach not really well-matched to a specific individual in a given environment, oftentimes bring out organic modifications. These modifications are adaptive and some may also be different to the organism.

    v  Each idea or proposition given to the subconscious mind – if and if only if it is acted upon by the body generates less resistance to succeeding ideas.

    v  When dealing with the subconscious, the higher and the more frequent the use of the conscious effort is – the lesser the subconscious mind response will be.

    v  The subconscious mind learns easily. It recognizes effortless, straightforward and recurring commands and directions without further questioning.

    v  The mind chooses figurative, vibrant and colorful visualizations as a mode for communication as an alternative of literal depiction.

    v  The mind associates a lot of expressive connotations to properties like size, shape, power, color and many others.

    Aside from these very scientific and philosophical definitions and enumerations of what the “mind” can do and cannot do, there are also physiological and neuro-psychological approaches that are needed to discuss and understand the mind. A short enumeration of what the mind is to different fields of science and society is listed below:

    v  Dualism – This field considers the mind as an immaterial core. This core is presumed to be capable of continuation and survival as a conscious, mindful and perceiving unit fully independent of any physical body (Poctja 2003).

    v  Materialism – This field considers the mind to be either the brain or as an “emergent reality”. This means that it is a specific unit which is apart from but is brought into reality through the processes done in the brain. The latter principle is recognized as “epiphenomenalism”. In this field, the “mind” is a broad expression for any number of progressions which can be simplified to cerebral, neurological and physiological processes (Poctja 2003)

    v  Behaviorism – This field considers the “mind” as a general terminology for all sets of behaviors (Poctja 2003).

    After all of the enumerated philosophies and beliefs about the mind, literally speaking, we know that our minds control our reasoning, our words, our interactions and all processes related to the “outside world” and to our own “self”.

    The Body

    The human body is the full physical organization of a human organism. The human body is made up of the following: head, neck, torso, arms and legs. Different factors affect the growth and development of the body. Genes, environment, and nutrition are just some of the main factors. The boy is made up of different but interrelated body systems. Every type of body systems is expected to carry out essential life functions like breathing, digesting, talking, and moving. The human body is ordinarily called a “body”. This pertains to a “living” body of a human being. The dilemma of the mind-body communication is a two-way process (Ahlberg 2004). It has been known to us that psychological factors greatly affect the inception almost any kind of physical disorder. Similarly, the state of the body can also greatly affect the state of the mind or “mood” of a person (Poctja 2003) An example of this would be the depressive effect of life-threatening or physical disorders to people after the certain event had happened commonly become depressed. The effect of this depression greatly influences the state of a specific disease and can also add up to a person’s despair. However, the relative effect and the importance of different mind or psychological factors differ among people with varied lifestyles, beliefs and statuses.

    Does a functioning mind need a body?

    After all the above given definitions, interpretations and roles of the mind and the body, we can now ask the critical question that this paper aims to answer. Does a functioning mind need a body? In my opinion, my answer to that will be yes. The body will suffer without the mind and the mind is nothing without a body. Both complement each other in their own respective functions. Imagine a body without a mind, it will be useless. We already have a lot of knowledge about the importance of the mind and the complex processes that it dictates in order for the body to survive and take control of it. This will then teach us the fact that a mind is the most complex “engine” in the world. The question is that does being complex suffice for all the needs of the mind? Well, maybe yes, but we know that there should be something that will help the mind to carry out dictated actions, specialized processes, complex calculations and mind-benefiting operations (Carroll 2006).

    On the other hand, a complex functioning body is also not enough to suffice for all the needs of it. Our bodies are the most complex systems in the world. It is basically composed of different systems like the nervous system, digestive, skeletal, reproductive and others main systems. Without the mind, all these systems will be in a “chaos”. As what have been said previously, the mind controls the systems of the body in a perfect synchronization. Without the mind, the body is useless and without the body the mind is also useless. Like a toddler learning how to walk for the first time, our mind teaches itself of necessary things that it needs. As our minds develop so as our body. Developing minds, hence, needs a developing body. Imagine the brain of a child quickly developing and learning new things, without a functioning body, the mind will learn, feel and experience nothing. The development of the mind is dependent on the body and vice-versa. Execution of important and necessary things for the preservation, improvement and survival of the body and mind is largely dependent on the interaction and cooperation of the body and mind (Higgins 2006).

    One important role of the body-mind system is to respond properly and fast to any type of stimuli, danger or need (Carroll 2006). This way of thinking is very similar to that engineers that consider the use of computer hardwares in order to respond and to take care of complex computer-controlled systems. As an alternative to long termed decision making, our mind makes its own judgments about a certain event or happening.  We create a fast solution to something that is very dangerous or poses a great danger of some kind. We base our decisions on what our body perceives. One characteristic of computer-hardware interlocks is that they normally work on a small number of basic sensors (Carroll 2006). These sensors facilitate an approximation of safety. This is also the same with “interlocks” in our mind and body system. When our sensory system detects a small number of straightforward and uncomplicated “hazard signs” (such as a heat and movement), the body set offs an action inside the systems to immediately counteract the detection.


                Does a functioning mind need a body? This paradigm type of question requires a great deal of knowledge in the different fields of science, philosophy and sociology. In my opinion, based from the researched evidences, a functioning mind definitely needs a body and a functioning body definitely needs a functioning mind. Well, perhaps if there is someone living in this world who doesn’t need a body then that person might just be dead.


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    Daeschler, E. B., Shubin, N. H., and Jenkins, F. A., Jr. (2005):  “Cognitive Disorders ” Natures, 410 717–793.

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    Higgins, P. “Interpreting the Mind” 2006. 1 Mar 2006 <>

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