Philosophers’ Views on Body and Mind Relationship


Philosophy is the examination of the causes and fundamentals of realism, principles, or facts which have a basis on rational reasoning instead of pragmatic techniques. There are various philosophers who may have differing views on some particular issues and these differences are influenced by the different experiences that they go through in life and their environments.

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The issue of the relationship between body and mind in philosophy is believed to have first been put forward by Pythagoras in the 6th century B.C. His belief was that the soul is immortal and is bound by the divine soul to which the normal soul returns when it is purified after its parting from its transitory physical house which is the body. In fact Plato holds the same view with Pythagoras. Plato was of the opinion that the relationship between the mind and the mind is not an ideal one. He further goes ahead to affirm that the body is the prisoner of the mind, in this the body being the true person. The body departs through decomposition from the mind as it returns to its original form. Even though the body decomposes after death, the soul on the other hand is immortal as it cannot die (Mind body problem 2007). The views of Plato are experienced in Christianity as the Christians believe that there is life after death. From the beliefs of Plato, it is understood that the mind can heavily influence the body as it gives hope of a future life after death. His assumption is that if the result after one lives is dying, then the same way, there should be life after one dies. On this he was thinking of reincarnation. Any form of knowledge is simply a recollection, simply put knowledge is remembering. The body is mortal but the soul is immortal and cannot change.( Philosophy of Mind 2008).

Epicurus one of the ancient philosophers states that every person whether young or old should never cease to seek wisdom. One is only able to get this kind of knowledge through the mind. Wisdom to Epicurus is responsible for a healthy soul. He emphasizes the importance of believing in god, for he is an immortal being. Human beings should train themselves to believing that death is nothing. The transience of life is made enjoyable by the perception that death is nothing. I f humans train themselves to believing that death is just nothing then they will not yearn for life after immortality. People who fear death are therefore foolish. From this perspective therefore people should not believe that the future is either or not wholly theirs. Epicurus points out those human desires are natural while others are groundless. He divides the natural desires into necessary and those that are purely natural. Of these desires the necessary ones are supposed to make the humans happy. The rest of these desires should free the body of uneasiness and make the humans continue living. In order to be blessed in life humans need to understand these desires. Through this understanding the soul becomes calm, for fear and pain will be done away with. This will in turn translate to a healthy body and peace of mind.( Letter to Meneoeceous, Epicurus).

Epictetus is another ancient philosopher that is well known and contributed a lot in the field of philosophy. He states that humans do have control over some things but not over others, they cant control everything.(The Enchiridion by Epictetus). According to him the factors humans have control over are personal desires, views, quests and dislikes.

Simply put human desires are the ones that can be controlled. Conversely, human beings cannot control their reputation, authority, physique and belongings. That is things that are not the actions of humans cannot be controlled. Epictetus stipulates that a person should as much as possible try to hold back desire. For desiring things that are not in control of ones being leads to disappointments. In chasing desirable things one should use appropriate actions. Usually people are concerned by the views they form have on issues. Death for instance is not dreadful, it only becomes awful if we form a notion that it is. Epictetus agrees with Epicurus on the issue of god. Men should consider the gods as the ones in charge of the creation. Man should view god as the one leading the universe with goodness and justice.

Rene Descartes is one of the modern philosophers. Just like the early philosophers who came before him, he states that the belief that there is god, who is above all the most powerful, created him. He is there in existence for this god is the one who is in steady possession of his mind. To him this god is extremely good for it is not god who wants him to be deceived. He cannot allow himself to believe that god who is the source of truth can deceive him. He will hence suppose that it is some malignant demon that has deceived him. This malignant being will always endeavor to deceive him. Descartes asks a rhetorical question, what if he was to affirm that this malignant demon was actually the nature of the body. After conceiving these thoughts in his mind he comes to the conclusion that this attribute cannot actually belong to his body. Descartes gives the features of the soul as the power of nutrition and walking. Conversely, he would not be able to walk or eat if he had no body. To Descartes apart from nourishment and walking there are other characteristics of the soul. He says that perception is a characteristic of the soul but this perception cannot be there without the presence of the body.

Thinking as a process can be attributed to the soul. Thinking is the sole proof that he is existing, the lack of which leads to his demise. Descartes says that nature teaches him that he has a body that is prone to pain; this same body is always in need of food or water every time he felt either hungry or thirsty. To feel these sensations of hunger, thirst or pain then it means that the body is not an island for one has to think to experience them. The body is simply conjoined to the mind. Descartes finally concludes that the distinction between the body and the mind is the divisible nature of the body unlike the mind.

Thomas Hobbes is another modern philosopher. He furthered the thought that all the human experiences are physical processes originating from the brain. Our thoughts therefore are as a result of anatomical and physiological activity. Thomas Hobbes opinion is that if we are able to understand the body then we will have understanding.


The above philosophers, though they may give slightly altering perspectives on the body, mind and immortality, there is a general similarity that is maintained in their arguments. This is most notable on life, death, life after death and the existence of a supernatural being, God.


Lori A. Harris, Kevin T. Ball, Deborah Grayson Riegel, Lisa S. Taubenblat Cliffs AP Psychology. 2008. Web.

Mind-Body Problem. 2008. Web.

Platonic Dualism Plato. 2008. Web.

Rene Descartes. Meditation Of The Nature Of The Human Mind; And That It Is More Easily Known than The Body. 2008. Web.

Rene Descartes. Meditation vi of the existence of material things, and of the real distinction between the mind and body of man. 2008. Web.

Rene Descartes. Meditation i. Of the things of which we may doubt. 2008. Web.

The Enchiridion By Epictetus. 2008. Web.

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