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The Mind-Body Problem

Today we are going to take a quick look at a philosophical topic which, in all likelihood, is going to be solved in the near future; the so-called Mind-Body Problem.


Philosophers have split themselves into three groups since a very long time: idealists, materialists and dualists. In a very oversimplified manner, we could say that:

Idealists believe that humans are simply ideas or minds.

Materialists believe that humans are simply physical matter or brains.

Dualists believe that we are both.

Not too many modern philosophers believe nowadays that humans are simply minds. Many believe that we are purely physical entities and the majority believes that we are both. This however, presents a problem. If humans have two components, a mind and a brain, how do they interact? Where are they located? This question is what in philosophy is denominated as the Mind-Body Problem.

This is a legitimate philosophical (and scientific) problem simply because it remains unsolved. We can intuitively understand that ideas (or our mind) is different than our physical reality (or our brain). It would seem that Dualists got it right, however, the question remains.


There have been many philosophical attempts to solve this problem without any meritorious success. Philosophy typically deals with subjects that science cannot. Take for example the question, what is the meaning of life?

However, as science progresses and new provable discoveries are made, topics that in the past belong to philosophy now switch sides and fall squarely into science. The Mind-Problem seems like one of those.

With the advent of neural computing, it is now possible to simulate small nervous systems and even certain human behaviors. As science progresses, it is very likely indeed that we will be able to create synthetic human minds; this is, minds that will think like humans but will run on hardware instead of wetware (i.e. our brain). It is also very likely that through this path we will reach the "Singularity" as Raymond Kurzweil calls the moment when computers became self-aware.

If (and probably when) this happens, the Mind-Body Problem will forever be solved. At that point, it will become absolutely clear that this problem was simply created for lack of scientific knowledge and that "the mind" is simply a bunch of processes (software) running on biological neuro-computer.

Great! But what is it to us?

Excellent question!


We have addressed (very lightly) the morality of libertarianism in the article Austro-Libertarian Morals And Ethics , where we showed that Libertarianism is indeed moral and ethical… if. If what? If we accept a number of premises and suppositions. Our thinking in this area was inductive, not deductive in a typical philosophical fashion (induction being a manner of reasoning less accurate than deduction). Although we have provided an answer to our detractors, truth be told we did so reluctantly. This is so because in a typical philosophical fashion, you can never, ever reach absolute conclusions and morality and ethics is one of those topics. People may agree with your ideas (in which case they are moral) or they may not (in which case they are immoral) or they could not care less (in which case they are amoral).

A great deal of Libertarianism is indeed based on moral or ethical philosophical concepts, but this creates a problem. A person may like Libertarianism but not share such principles, in which case they may reject them. The reverse may also take place. In a word, it is a mess.

Now, this mess is not trivial. Rivers of ink have been used in political philosophy, endlessly discussing which political position is more moral or ethical than the other. All these discussions never had a clear winner simply because of the philosophical nature of the question. It is in its nature not having a final answer.

This creates a more basic problem because it is not possible to obtain or define a solid basis for mutual understanding. Even considering that Libertarianism's freedom principle (the kind that dislikes governments) is based on the notion that our decisions are ours and no other supreme authority exists, we still have to agree on Libertarianism in the first place! We cannot do so if we have different moralities or ethics.

And where do morality and ethics typically originate from? Ideas. Sure, some such ideas come from religion and some are common knowledge; some s are personal beliefs and some are simply use and practice conditioned reflexes, and so on. We could write volumes cataloging the origins of moral or ethical ideas but that is not the point. The point is that such ideas originate in the notion that ideas are separated from our physicality; in other words, Dualism and the Mind-Body Problem. Ethics and morality are such changing and fluctuating fields precisely because they are based on ideas and not on reality.


But what if the mind would simply be software running on wetware as the scientific trend of the Mind-Body Problem seems to suggest? Then, it would be unquestionably clear and scientifically demonstrable that ideas are not separated from our physical existence. Our ideas are us and this is a very powerful concept indeed!

Why so?

If ideas are indeed us, this means that ethical or morals ideas that seem to have been given to us by superior beings or superior moralities will now be placed at the same height as our own ideas. This will level the playing field.

Such a scientific discovery will turn the table on "superior" morals or ethics because it will be now up to them to prove beyond scientific doubt that their principles did not originate in humans and if they did, why are they superior indeed! This is, of course, un-provable because at the core of each philosophical question of morality or ethics lies the definition of what is "good" and what is "evil". However, as this time all "superior" such definitions have been dismissed, the only thing that's left is personal opinions; this is, subjective opinions.

This would in turn demand that so-called "superior moralities" or "superior ethics" demonstrate their superiority on an equal footing as our own ethics and morality. As they won't be able to do so, nobody will able to claim the "moral high ground" based on their own moral preferences now that any superior origin of such moralities and ethics has been dismissed.

Voila! Everybody will be the same in terms of the value of their ethics or morality.

And this carries a very significant implication.

It will be impossible to demonstrate that your morality is better than our morality which means that will be no way to solve the problem; this is, to determine who is right and who is wrong. The only way left is then to agree to disagree, and this is the very core of Libertarianism!


But how did we connect the concept of individual and equi-valued morals or ethics with Libertarianism? Simple. All political philosophies are based on specific definitions of what is "good" or "bad" for society or the individual. The problem is that every single one of them (whit the exception of Libertarianism) are monist, this is, one definition fits all… whether you like it or not. Libertarianism is the only political philosophy that declares that nobody is right and nobody is wrong; that such decisions are personal, individual and unique.


Does this mean the end of religion? Not at all. All religions are by definition acts of faith. Faith simply means to believe in what it is, essentially, un-provable. As such, they cannot be extinguished by science. However, what the resolution of the Mind-Body Problem will bring to the table is the scientific notion in religious circles, that they cannot claim superiority without faith, which is inherently personal and subjective. As such, they will be forced to recognize that in common sense terms, in universal terms, their religion is not superior to anybody else's. In this sense the value of all our moralities are indeed the same at a scientific level!


The very idea that we have to agree to disagree leads to coexistence, but this time not based on individual and personal notions of ethics and morality but on the scientific knowledge that such differences cannot be reconciled. This naturally leads to contracts and it is for this reason that we said some time ago that Contracts Are The Key To Coexistence.


The scientific resolution of the philosophical Mind-Body Problem will bring us further into Libertarianism because we will be forced to confront the fact that each one of us is different from everybody else, but all our morals or ethics have the exact same value. This means that at the most basic ethical or moral level, we are all politically different and these views cannot be reconciled. The only solution then is to seek a system that can accommodate everybody's moral and ethical views and decisions. Such a system cannot be a democracy since by definition a democracy is the tyranny of the majority (or more precisely the tyranny of a certain minority of voters).

Philosophy is indeed fun but sometimes it is actually useful beyond its subjectivity and inconsistencies. This is one of those cases. Philosophy posed the question but science is answering it. In so doing it is providing us with yet another argument to show people the way forward.

You may choose to believe us or not. But just remember that your belief has the same value as everybody else's.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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