Where is the "Mind" Located?

According to Victor Reppert, William Hasker has argued that The mind, even though it is caused to exist by matter, exists independently of matter and can, for example, exercise free will in the agency libertarian sense. An entire chapter is devoted to this claim.

This is an interesting claim, of course. How is it that the mind is caused to exist by matter, and yet is independent of it? Independent, yet caused? Does Hasker tell us where the mind resides? Is it in the knee, or the heart, or the brain? Why should it be connected to the brain at all? And if it isn't located anywhere in particular, then can I borrow someone else's for a while? Can our minds visit China for a month? ;-)

Sam Harris had argued that we really don't even need brains at all if there is a mind. Why should we have a brain at all if we have a mind that makes decisons for us and provides us with consciousness? God doesn't need a brain to be conscious or to think, according to theistic beliefs. So why should we? And while having a brain is something that can be explained by the God-hypothesis, it isn't what we would expect at all. This difference makes all of the difference. The question we need to ask isn't whether the God hypothesis can explain something with a few added premises. The question rather, is whether this is what we would expect if there is a God!

Because we have a brain in the first place, we can have strokes which affect our "minds." Because we have a brain, someone with a crowbar can affect how we think forever by taking it across our heads. Why is that if we have minds? This is a serious problem that leads people to say we have no minds at all, since there is obvious causation in one direction.

While I personally cannot fully explain how the brain works, or even how it evolved, the above problems seem insurmountable to me when it comes to believing we have immaterial minds.


Anonymous said...

"...since there is obvious causation in one direction."

Ouch! Red Flag!

Careful not to get sucked into epiphenomenalism - a form of dualism, precisely what you are attempting to argue against.

In order to get a better understanding of it, here is Dan Dennett tearing apart Rob Wright's epiphenomenalism:


This might help your argument, too:


Keep it up!


Anonymous said...

I heard christian apologist Greg Koukl say on his radio show one time that the brain has nothing to do with the mind. I called in to ask why he thought scientists study the brain; what does studying the brain accomplish? He didn't have an answer.

Gene said...

I never see so much side-stepping sophistry as when theists and spiritualists try to prop up the concepts of souls and free will under the crushing weight of neurological evidence. It's like trying to catch an eel with a pair of chopsticks.

Anonymous said...

I had a discussion with a theist about why she thinks brain damage can cause not only amnesia, but even change one's personality, if the person is actually a "soul," rather than a product of the brain. Her response was that a new "soul" moved into the body. This from a forty-year-old, otherwise pretty intelligent woman.

To me, saying that the mind can exist without a brain is like saying that a voice can exist without lungs and a larynx.

Rich said...

If we are talking about someones soul, are we saying that it is made at the same time as the body that encases it? Or are we saying that it exsisted prior to said bodys coming into exsistance? If created at the same time, then I would be leaning towards a more naturalistic view. If the soul has exsisted before our physical body, then it would change some thing for me. First it would be something that could continue exsisting without the body, because it exsisted without the body before. It would have to have a place to reside besides our phsical earth, because we certainly don't see any. Because of entering a mortal body, your eternal properties would hindered by your now mortal properties. Now here in this mortal body we are subject to death. Since you are just killing a biological mortal body, the soul would continue its exsistance outside the body.
I have to wonder a little here because I find myself in a pickle here often because I don't know exactly what "christianity" teaches.

Steven Carr said...

The original post makes very good points.

What is wrong with killing people, when all you are doing (in Hacker's view) is chopping up some meat in the way a butcher does, and not affecting the person's soul?

What is the 'agency libertarian sense' that Hacker talks about?

Why do Christians feel it is important that their actions are not determined by rational thought?

Freewill means that if I see an old lady trying to cross the road, I can either help her cross the road or rape her.

*Libertarian* free will means there is literally nothing that I or anybody else could ever do which would rule out me raping her.

I can read the Bible, pray to Jesus, study morals, try to become the best person I possibly could, and *libertarian* free will means that I could stil choose to rape old women, no matter how much I want never to do that.

Anonymous said...

Hehe..I have enjoyed the postings here and wish to add mine (if it truly will be published).
Now dualism is wrong..cos man is a tri-partite being.
The body houses the spirit; the soul links them together (the material to the incorporeal).
The soul links and is made up of BOTH the body and the spirit.
Hypothesis; God created the universe and all in it - and he is not a physical being.
Man - in His image - is also essentially not material IN ESSENCE.
He needs to inhabit a material world - so he needs a soul to interact with the body (for signal and idea propagation and unity of entity).
When the brain is damaged; the sould is damaged because the soul links the spirit at the nervous system.
Man is neither a body nor a soul. He is a spirit.
I am a microbial and a molucular biologist and am willing to debate this as needed.
Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

John W. Loftus said...

Austin, your theology dictates your particular views of what we are made of, and even the Bible doesn't support the tri-partite view of a human being.

Anonymous said...

John WL,
No idea can coerce the human will; but I accept your point that my faith "colours" my world-view, as indeed yours.

As per the triune nature of man, please see:

"1 Thessalonians 5:23 - And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Clearly you see the dichotomy between the elements that make up the WHOLE man.

Also consider:

"Hebrews 4:12 - For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

We see clearly a "separation" of two entities namely soul AND spirit.

I rest my case by saying that "not to be aware of a thing is not the same as the thing does not exist".


Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

John W. Loftus said...

Austin, this is not the place to debate ideas that Christians themselves debate. Even as a Christian I denied your tripartite view of human beings. Go to a Christian forum and debate what the Bible says, then when you all come to an agreement come back and tell us what it is. Otherwise, deal with what I actually said above. What you have said so far doesn't even interact with what I said. Where is the mind? Where is the soul? Where is the spirit? I don't care what you want to call it. Where is it?

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I digressed JWL; but here is what I was responding to: "and even the Bible doesn't support the tri-partite view of a human being."

Now to your question: WHERE is the soul?

It is located inside the body in a different dimension.

It is in your hair, head, heart, hips and hooves.

It is curled up (to borrow a term from string-theory) in a different realm that you cannot perceive with naked senses.



Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

John W. Loftus said...

What happens if I cut off my hair, and lose a hip or hoof? Do I lose part of my mind? Why/Why not? ;-)

If the mind is in another dimension, then doesn't that make it part of the universe? And if it's part of the universe how does it transcend the universe? The laws of physics would apply to this thing called a mind just as they do to the brain. If so, in effect your view isn't any different from mine, since I do not believe in any transcedent entity that controls what I do, which is my point. It's all governed by the laws of physics.

If, however, this other dimension is in a so-called spiritual realm, then we have the same problem all over again. How does an immaterial thing (call it soul, spirit or mind) actually make contact with a material world? Why is it connected to my body at all? Why do I even need a brain, since God doesn't have one (in your view)?

Furthermore, where is the evidence for such a claim? I don't believe the Bible. But I do have evidence that hurting the brain affects the way I think. I have no evidence that there is this thing called a mind.

Keith said...

Matt (from the first comment),

You have confused epiphenomenalism and Hasker's (note the spelling, Mr. Carr) position: emergent dualism. Incidentally, Hasker's view is rejected by most Christian philosophers of mind.

Anonymous said...

JWL, how much of "the laws of physics" do you reckon man truly understands as at present?

Does man know how grativity, the electromagnetic and nuclear forces relate?

Did man not once say that the atom, nay element, was the fundamental building-lock of matter?

Why do you confuse the laws of the Universe with the laws of physics as man has "discovered" and formulated?

Why do you suppose that a new law of physics may not tomorrow supercede that which defines all realities to you right now?

Let me put it this way; the effect cannot define the cause.

Arithmetics and other sciences are CREATIONS of the human mind; and as such are a poor tool for its study.

Are you familiar with Gödel's Theorem?

How do you suppose you can use an effect to COMPLETELY understand the cause which encircles it?

IF there is a mind; how can you come to know it fully using logic which is a tool of that mind?


Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

John W. Loftus said...

Why do you suppose that a new law of physics may not tomorrow supercede that which defines all realities to you right now?

This is an appeal to ignorance. All we can do is to base our beliefs upon what's most probable now, since we don't know the future.

Hopwever, if I were to do that with you I would predict that eventually we will have a complete theory of everything. Based upon my prediction there would no longer be room for an immaterial mind.

Anonymous said...

JWL - what is wrong with an appeal to ignorance?

Do you now realise that man is ignorant of many things, Some of which are the most important questions?

I deduce from your response that you in fact are NOT familiar with Gödel's Theorem (which is a mathematical statement of the Heseinbert Uncertaintainy Theory or Schrondinger Cat's quantum weirdness irrelevance to the macro-realm)

Your claim that to admit limited capacity to deduce the mysteries of the universe is fallacious and perhaps due to your limited understanding of the above theorem.

Kindly allow me explain allow me to paraphrase it thusly:


2 + 2 = 4



Cos 4 / 2 = 2


4 - 2 = 2

What the above proves is not that the original claim is correct; just that maths can be used to verify itself.

What, outside of arithmetic would you use to prove that 2+2 = 4?

How do you suppose that you could use thoughts to understand thoughts and claim truth?

If you still dont get it, I have nothing to add.

I could recommend some literature, but I wait to read your response first.

Kind Regards,

Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

John W. Loftus said...

I deduce from your response that you in fact are NOT familiar with Gödel's Theorem

Please do not deduce anything from the fact that I did not comment on it. That tells me YOU are ignorant, and I've had enough.

I am fully aware of Gödel's Theorem, Gettier's Paradoxes, counterfactuals, Ockam's razor, Zeno's paradoxes, the turing test, the chinese room, the prisoner's dilemna, Pollock's gas chamber, Buridan sentences, and so forth.

I'm no longer interested in speaking to someone like you. I have not seen any substance so far.

We have each made our cases. We are at a stand still. I wish you well.

interlocutor said...


I guess I don't understand why your hypothesis is needed. What can be explained by adding the concepts of soul and spirit that cannot be explained in terms of a brain-generated mind? If there is no reason to posit such entities, then you are multiplying entities beyond necessity.

Anonymous said...

Hi Interlocutor,

Why do you suppose the "multiverse construct" is necessary when an "Intelligent Designer" would suffice?

Here is my reason for adding the hypothesis - "it is OK to be ignorant", cos that was what JWL accused me - or rather my position - of.

Man is ignorant - and stumbles in the dark, while managing to make a few microwave ovens, and tin boxes that escape 9.8 square metres per second and enter into planetary orbit.

That does not - in my humble opinion - give him cause to elevate REASON into a godship.

I add the hypothesis as a note of caution - to advise serenity where hubris stomps, and effacement where pride trumpets.

If the brain generates the mind; then how and where is my phone number stored in the brain?

How does something that is material and amoral generate a sense of being and ethics?

Why have I read your posting and wish to respond?

How is that a product of material, inanimate things?

I have intelligence (I belong to MENSA); and I also have faith (I am a born-again Christian), but above all this, I have wisdom - and this teaches me not to suppose that I have a monopoly of truth.

I have experienced a saving episode of grace - and no argument devised by man has yet shaken even the rafters; talk less of the foundations.

I am an African - and have witnessed things that logic ALONE could not explain.

I have spoken to you in truth only and I hope you see my sincerity.

Compliments of the season,

Austin (Lagos, Nigeria)

John W. Loftus said...

Austin, when you presume I lack the necessary knowledge to understand something without sufficient evidence, THAT'S evidence to me that YOU are ignorant.

Do you actually think we skeptics have all of the answers, or that we have elevated reason to godship, or that by using reason we claim to have a monopoly of truth? Why are we called skeptics then?

And are you seriously arguing that because we are ignorant of so much that this provides you with reasons to believe? Are you seriously claiming that until we can explain everything that God solves those problems?

If so, and correct me if I'm wrong, then your God is the "god of the gaps." He explains the remaining "gaps" in our knowledge.

The problem with believing in God based upon the gaps is that science had closed so many gaps down through the last few centuries that if a 15th century person were all of a sudden brought to our 21st century world he could very well lose his faith, for most of the 15th century reasons he had for believing would be gone.

John W. Loftus said...

As a matter of fact, Austin, it is you who claims to be able to explain everything, not us. And yet, if we press you to explain your 3 in 1 omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenelovent eternally existing God to us, then you will not be able to explain why he exists, what he can do, why he created us, what his purpose is if he did, why he punishes sin, why he purportedly wanted his son to die on the cross, why he sends people to hell, and why he revealed himself to mankind during an ancient superstitious era when he supposedly knew that people in the 21st century wouldn't believe what a superstitious people said.

interlocutor said...


I'm not sure I follow your reasoning here.

Imagine this situation:

I hear a crash in my kitchen, rush into the other room, and find my son standing, with a guilty look, over a broken jar of cookies that were on the counter. Now, I could believe that a group of Marines entered my kitchen and knocked over the cookies, but there is no reason to jump to this hypothesis if there is a simpler explanation--viz. that my son wanted cookies and knocked the jar off the counter.

Sure, it is possible that Marines did break the cookie jar, but there is no reason to multiply entities beyond necessity.

So, similarly, I wonder why you need the idea of a soul and spirit. Of course, you can add those ideas. You could also say that in our brains are sub-microscopic antennae that allow space aliens to give us thoughts and control our brains, but is there something about the brain that makes you think this is necessary?

Let's review a few ideas that you raise. After a head trauma, you could very likely not remember your phone number. So, you know your phone number, an injury occurs in the brain, and you no longer know your phone number. It sure seems that your phone number was stored in your brain.

Many people after brain injuries behave very aggressively. They become completely immoral. It certainly seems that the brain does something to affect one's moral behavior. [But this is a different issue altogether. A moral realist or a neo-Platonist would say that morality is "out there" in the world and the brain does not generate them at all, but only recognizes them.]

Why are you responding to me? I have no idea. Would you want to or be able to respond if you received a traumatic brain injury?

I'm glad that you don't suppose you have a monopoly on truth. I join you in that conviction as, it appears, does John Loftus. But what does this have to do with the topic at hand?

Is your hypothesis logically possible? Sure. So is my hypothesis that space aliens are controlling us. But why would I choose to believe your hypothesis? Why do I need to posit a spirit and a soul?

And how do you answer the classic objection to dualism regarding the process by which an immaterial object interacts with matter? How does something immaterial effect something material?

That's not to say there aren't problems with every position. Functionalism must answer the issue of qualia. Identity theory, multiply realizable mental states.

To be honest, while functionalism sounds the most plausible to me, I'm not convinced. But you, apparently, are convinced, so you should be able to give some kind of convincing reason to believe your hypothesis should be believed. I haven't seen that in what you have written so far.

Anonymous said...

Hi Interlocutor,

I have genuinely enjoyed your piece and I agree with the arguments and position you have stated.

Here is what I have been trying to tell JWL; it is not possible to use the brain - or its ideas - to understand all there is to know about consciousness (which is what this is really about).

To use your situation - if I see my 5-year old standing beside my calabash of palm-wine broken on the floor, I would also suppose that he has perpetrated a misdemeanour ...HOWEVER, that example is an over-simplification of the issues under debate.

We are basically talking about what has been termed the HARD-PROBLEM of philosophy.

A topic that has been broached by generations of clever people over the eons past - some would say inconclusively or unsuccessfully.

So there is where my position takes off from - a plea to ignorance is the only logical conclusion of the LOGICAL pursuit of an answer to this conundrum.

If I may break it down into bullet points, it looks like this:

1. The cleverest minds have not been able to understand perfectly how the mind works or where it resides.
2. It will be incorrect to lodge a plea to time – as there has been centuries of effort aimed at solving the riddle of consciousness.
3. I have no choice but to conclude that the mind is not the best tool to analyse itself

Now consider this situation:

I enter a room and find a calabash of palm-wine (made essentially of Quarks, Leptons and Bosons) broken on the floor and there is no one there.

Next I go to the next hut to get a raffia-branch to sweep the mess; but on returning, the calabash is somehow patched together and is sitting on the table-top with the erstwhile spilled drink back inside.

I look inside the calabash and find that where there was 2 litres of palm-wine, there is now 5 litres.

Not only that, it then happens that when I tilt the gourd, I can only pour out a helping at specific times and on particular days.

It then transpires that each time someone upends the gourd and shatters the fragile shell, it rebuilds itself and repeats the process described above.

Not only does this happen consistently, it also seems that the gourd has a will and a memory - no one else can drink from it except I and only under certain conditions that are best described as arbitrary from the gourd’s point of view.

Confronted with this, one would immediately recognise that all we know about the physical world as instructed by logic and experience does not suffice to explain this phenomenon.

I daresay that the human mind ARISING and being explainable by physical and material analysis EXCLUSIVELY is harder stretch of the imagination than the self-healing calabash of palm-wine.

Looking for an explanation for the location - which eventually means its essential nature - will erquire a more complex analysis than that used to understand a boy of five standing over a broken calabash.

Here is my point in one bullet:

- To explain the human mind as a product of inanimate matter ONLY begs the question to an infinite degree.

You are oversimplifying what is essentially the MOST COMPLEX object in the known universe called the human mind!


Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

interlocutor said...


Why not simple skepticism, then? Why posit an answer at all?

This is how I construct what you have said so far (you didn't put it exactly this way, but I think it is a fair appraisal):

1. The cleverest minds have not been able to understand perfectly how the mind works or where it resides.
2. It will be incorrect to lodge a plea to time – as there has been centuries of effort aimed at solving the riddle of consciousness.
3. I have no choice but to conclude that the mind is not the best tool to analyse itself
4. Therefore, The body houses the spirit; the soul links them together (the material to the incorporeal). The soul links and is made up of BOTH the body and the spirit.

To use Strawson's words, this sounds like a "non-sequitur of numbing grossness."

Furthermore, I see no reason to believe your #2 above. It is only in the last few years that neuro-science has made its great strides and this seems like a very plausible place to look for answers to the problem.

But, this aside, even if I did agree with numbers 1-3, I would think the more rational approach would be to simply say that the question is unanswerable. This conclusion follows from 1-3 a lot more clearly than your hypothesis.

Like I said, I don't know which view is correct. I think functionalism has a lot going for it and I've heard some fairly good discussions on solving the problem of qualia, but who knows? You are claiming to have some kind of knowledge about this. You have a very detailed description of what you think is going on. I just can't see how you fit it all together.

It seems that you make a fairly plausible argument for skepticism, refuse its obvious conclusion, and posit a theological hypothesis not even remotely drawn from your argument. Or, maybe, it links together perfectly and I just can't see it. If that is the case, I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Interlocutor,

Your construct of what I said omits the most important steps of the logical progression as follows:

1. The cleverest minds have not been able to understand perfectly how the mind works or where it resides.
2. It will be incorrect to lodge a plea to time – as there has been centuries of effort aimed at solving the riddle of consciousness.
3. I have no choice but to conclude that the mind is not the best tool to analyse itself

then you jump the next few lines:

3b. I have experienced the saving grace of the Lord and am able to confirm the Truth of His Word
3c. I have received the gift of faith as a part of this FREE deal I got from Him
3d. On the basis of that faith in His word, I have come to a revealed understanding that fits all the evidence.

And reach the correct conclusion:

4. Therefore, The body houses the spirit; the soul links them together (the material to the incorporeal). The soul links and is made up of BOTH the body and the spirit.

You mistake my piecemeal response to JWL for the statement of my philisophy.

I do not advocate the Skeptic's mantra as it is a false humility - basically saying "I admit I cannot know" and then STOPS.

I advocate the position of a the Christian believer - "I a cannot know for anything for a fact; but I trust your Word Lord in humble submission!"

Not that different from the kind of "faith" I have seen many show on the incomplete theory called "Evolution" based on "Natural Selection".

I hope I make sense - please feel free to respond and analyse my philosophy as I have stated and not as you constructed.


Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria).

interlocutor said...


I fail to see how this is also not a non-sequitur. Your conclusion is nowhere stated in the premises.

Plus, you still haven't shown any reason to believe your #2 in light of the fact that neuroscience is a new science which philosophers have not had the data of for centuries. It seems unreasonable to dismiss it outright.

Further, a testimony is not an argument. Buddhists, Muslims, tribal religious followers, etc. speak of enlightment/salvation; why should I believe your testimony over their's? Religious testimonies are everywhere and often contradict other religious testimonies. If you must resort to testimony in your argument, I fear there is not much to say for it.

I find it interesting that you reject the skeptic's mantra because it says "I don't know" and STOPS--especially, given your argument that people have tried to understand the concept of the mind, but you simply say, "God's word" and STOP looking for another answer.

It seems this is where science and non-religious philosophy are much more noble than Christianity. Even after a theory is given, one keeps testing the theory trying to find weaknesses. Christians often present a "God did it" thesis and then stop searching. If you have already arrived at the answer, there is no reason to look forward, right? "God did it" ends all discussion.

Anonymous said...

Interlocutor Sir,

An "argument" may be what you seek; but evidence is the aim of my search.

My testimony is not presented as an argument to convince you - but an evidence based on eye-witness account of real events [these are admissible in the courts of men].

Here is what I proposed again: "one would immediately recognise that all we know about the physical world as instructed by logic and experience does not suffice to explain this phenomenon."

Therein lies my overall point - LOGIC does not suffice to answer the deepest questions [and you seem to beieve it is the ONLY indication of truth; but you must be aware that many things are not logical and yet true].

I have not appealed to logic to make my point - I have told you the events that transpired in my life. If these do not satisfy you, then the choice is yours.

I will accept the teachings of my elders where my own intellect meets a dead-end!


Austin Amadasun (Lagos, Nigeria)

interlocutor said...


Conclusion sans argumentation is conjecture.

Thank you for the dialogue.

Cameron Adler said...

A shadow is caused by matter but not made of matter. Destroy the matter causing the shadow and where is the substance of the shadow?

A reflection is too. If the mirror breaks, the reflection can change or disappear entirely.

Think about a magnetic field. Not made of matter but directly influencing it.

Why couldn't our minds go to China for a month? This is Buddhist metaphysics 101.

Only the closed mind can dictate what mind is and isn't. Nature makes no such distinctions.

Glenn said...

John Loftus begins: "According to Victor Reppert, William Hasker has argued..."

Wait, you've never even read Hasker, yet you're criticising his position? Woah....