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  • Cited by 9
  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2010

The Mind–Body Problem After Fifty Years


It was about half a century ago that the mind–body problem, which like much else in serious metaphysics had been moribund for several decades, was resurrected as a mainstream philosophical problem. The first impetus came from Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind, published in 1948, and Wittgenstein's well-known, if not well-understood, reflections on the nature of mentality and mental language, especially in his Philosophical Investigations which appeared in 1953. The primary concerns of Ryle and Wittgenstein, however, focused on the logic of mental discourse rather than the metaphysical issue of how our mentality is related to our bodily nature. In fact, Ryle and Wittgenstein would have regarded, each for different reasons, the metaphysical problem of the mind–body relation as arising out of deplorable linguistic confusions and not amenable to intelligible discussion. There was C. D. Broad's earlier and much neglected classic, The Mind and Its Place in Nature, which appeared in 1925, but this work, although robustly metaphysical, failed to connect with, and shape, the mind–body debate in the second half of this century. It is fair to say that the mind–body problem as we know it today had its proximate origins in a trio of papers published in the late 1950s: U. T. Place's ‘Is Consciousness a Brain Process?’, in 1956, and J. J. C. Smart's ‘Sensations and Brain Processes’ and Herbert Feigl's ‘The “Mental” and the “Physical”’, published in 1958 and 1959 respectively.