Short background

The issue of mind has perturbed me for many years, and still does. It is common to hear questions like: What is life, or matter or anything, I used to wonder about mind, so asked: what is mind? To be clear, I call mind to an idea or a thought, also dreams are pure mind-things.

Days ago something suggested that science can't answer a question about 'what is' something. Why not? Because science has been always all about how things work, not what they are. Even Schrodinger on its book What is life? Finally explores How is life produced? What things are is a matter of definitions (I know it is not that simple). Of course, models are a way to define what things are, but they really exist as useful ways to understand the behaviour of things, not as reality. So there we have, for example, the atomic model.

Some general questions

Naturally, there appeared new questions about mind. It has no scientifical sense to ask what is mind, although I suppose we can ask:

  1. why do we see, hear, and even suffer in dreams;
  2. how mind acts over brain (and the opposite).

This last question is particularly interesting because of its relation to free will.

Specific question to this forum

I posted here because I'm interested on the scientificalness of the previous questions, I mean, if the previous are valid questions to study scientifically. It'd be greatly appreciated if you can add some scientific studies about the problem.

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    Broad and vague questions like "why do we see" or "how mind acts" are not well suited for SE, they are better addressed by googling and reading online encyclopedias. Please reduce the scope to a single specific question answerable within reasonable space. – Conifold Jul 24 '18 at 22:23
  • @Conifold I agree. I'm not asking for the answer, but for some help (interesting authors or books or ideas to start with) – user29573 Jul 24 '18 at 22:24
  • There are many articles about the mind. You may try the following articles; they may be interesting to you and may answer some of your questions: Leibniz's Philosophy of Mind, The Computational Theory of Mind, and The Basic Theory of the Mind. – user287279 Jul 25 '18 at 4:21
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    I was confused by the phrase, "models are a way to define what things are," along with the specific example of atomic theory. A lot of people believe that atoms are things that exist. Between those two wordings, I wanted to make sure the distinction was clear. – Cort Ammon Jul 25 '18 at 17:50
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    @santimirandarp. One of the articles I suggest - The Basic Theory of the Mind - is a scientific theory based on scientific evidence and with testable predictions. I think it’s an interesting theory. If you had time, please check it out. – user287279 Jul 26 '18 at 5:29

A key concept for making sense of questions like these is the verb "to supervene." A supervenes on B iff all properties of A are explained by B. As a practical example, all of the rules of how to put together circuits that an electrical engineer might learn supervene on the laws of physics -- in particular Maxwell's equations. Everything you can say about circuits can be said using physics phrasings.

A major outstanding question in philosophy today is whether "mental states" supervene on "brain states" or not. In other words, is our concept of the mind purely a pattern derived from brain states, or is there something else.

If one were to assume that mental states supervene on brain states, then it would be easy to talk about what we say/hear in scientific terms, and explore them scientifically. However, that assumption itself is quite a tricky one.

A related question is whether the universe supervenes on mathematics or not. Is the universe defined as a mathematical structure, or is mathematics something that humans have constructed to make sense of the universe. Again, such a question is still outstanding. From what I understand, most philosophers currently believe such a question cannot be answered.

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  • "To supervene" isn't a phrase I've heard before. It seems like a perfect description for how (I believe) the conscious mind and the brain relate to one another. – immortal squish Jul 27 '18 at 19:27

To answer your first question, "Why do we see, hear, and even suffer in dreams;" the brain does not stop operations when you go to sleep. Far from it, the mind appears to be quite active. Though we aren't 100% sure what the mind is doing with all that activity, some have linked these times to the brain's logging and sorting data you encountered during the waking day. In other words, it's taking the things that impacted your life today, and processes them to perhaps improve your ability to handle those same things tomorrow.

As for the second question, "How mind acts over brain (and the opposite)?" I'm afraid it's not quite a sensible question, as far as the science goes. While the jury is still out on exactly what the consciousness mind is (definitions vary widely), the evidence points toward "the mind" as a subjective interpretation of the various activities of our physical brain. The correlation between brain activity and conscious thought is well documented, though not necessarily well understood. That tells me they are likely different facets of the same system, and not separate systems which compete for dominance/control.

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