Our Mind

“I think therefore I am” is the English translation of French philosopher René Descartes’ (1596-1650) Cogito Ergo Sum, or “thinking Is: therefore the mind Is,” or rather “the mind exists: therefore there is thinking.”

Throughout history, a conflict of theories has existed concerning what the human mind is, what structure it has, if any, what parts belong to it or what it belongs to, and how it operates. What is the nature of the relationship between mind, matter and bodily organs? Is mind the same in man and animal, or does it exist only in man?

Aristotle (384-322 BC) believed that “the soul which is called mind” to be one and the same as “whereby the soul thinks and judges.” The human intellect or reason is a part or power of the soul of man, distinct from other parts or facilities such as the senses and the imagination, desire and the passions (emotions).

A Thinking Substance?

Others thought the mind is only part of the human soul, “the force that gives direction to the soul,” the lord and master holding dominion over the body, or only the thinking or deciding part of the soul, according to Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) and Augustine (354-430). Only Descartes identified the human mind as a thinking substance that senses and imagines, suffers passions (emotions), and exercises acts of will.

“Father of Psychology” William James (1842-1910), believed that “what the soul is and whether it exists belongs in the realm of metaphysics.” So far as psychological observations and analysis are concerned, the phenomena of the mind are to be found in the stream of thought or consciousness. He uses the words “feeling” or “thought” to cover every type of mental operation. Every state of mind, every form of consciousness, including sensations and emotions, desires and wishes, as well as conception and reasoning.

The Iceberg Theory

Neurologist and psychotherapist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), maintained that the the active state of consciousness, i.e., the operational mind of which we are directly aware in our everyday experiences, is just a fraction of the total psychological forces at work in our “psychical reality,” and has different layers of psychic structure. He also explained two kinds of unconsciousness, latent but capable of becoming conscious, and that which is repressed, and not capable of becoming conscious in the ordinary way. Our psyche is like an iceberg; one-seventh floating in consciousness, with the remainder below comprising an area of primitive drives. These are the id, lying hidden in the unconscious, the ego that deals with conscious thoughs and regulates the id, and the superego, which is our critical internal judging voice and the source of our conscience, guilt and shame.

22 Different Schools of Thought

There have been many theories on what constitutes the mind over the centuries. William James preferred a common sense approach that the body and mind each act on the other somehow, and agreed that thought, knowledge or self-knowledge, and purpose all require the development of a variety of mental processes. Modern psychoanalysis encompasses at least twenty-two different schools of thought, with many of Freud’s ideas still influential today.

These few observations are a sample of the many intricately crossing lines of thought which make a complex pattern of the traditional discussion of the mind. This in turn leads to other great ideas and tends to make a discussion on the mind the focal point for a perspective in the whole world of thought. The mind is somehow the place of ideas or, as Aristotle said “the form of forms.”

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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