Comments on the article What is Mind?
(by Silvia Helena Cardoso)

See our general discussion section Brainstorming

Clique aqui para expressar o que VOCÊ pensa sobre a mente. Os melhores comentários serão selecionados e publicados. Você pode escrever em português.
Click here for sending a comment on "what is Mind". The best comments will be published.

Back to the article

Veja também comentários em português

In English

Sender: Prof. Eduardo Simonini Lopes Psychologist, Federal University of Vicosa, Brazil

I have read the editorial of Brain & Mind "What is Mind ?" (, and it is my opinion that the author (Dr. Cardoso) has an encompassing vision about the subject. However, I have also been reading the works from the Chilean biologist Maturana, from Gregory Bateson, Ilya Prigogine and Fritjof Capra (particularly his latest book, "The Web of Life") and to me is very clear that a new concept of mind is arising, a concept which goes beyond that one proposed by the author in the aforementioned article. Dr. Cardoso reports that there is no mind without a brain. However, Maturana as well as Bateson propose the opposite.... a mind can exist without the "envelope" of a brain. They have arrived to this conclusion by asking oneselves not only about the mind, but about life in general. What are the differences between a living and a non-living system ? For example, Maturana states that living systems are autopoietic, i.e., it makes itself, and that life is related more to processes than to fixed states.

Since living systems are autopoietic, they posess a "cognition about the universe" in which they are inserted. These systems are closed (in its production of itself) and open as well (in its contact with the external environment). There is a cognition, a knowledge, in a community of bacteria.... there is a mind there. There is no doubt that this widens the concepts of mind and cognition. These are very recent studies (although they have been proposed since the beginning of the 70s), which I really consider that they should be taken into account.

I also found very interesting that the author has suggested the possible existence of a "site" in the brain which could be correlated to religious experiences. This was the attitude of the positivists in the beginning of the century which certainly is having ramifications in the present-day neurological thinking.

Sender: Renato M.E. Sabbatini, State University of Campinas, Brazil

New "concepts" about mind sprout everywhere and how often as anyone wishes. However, in the view of modern science, if they are not based on scientifically verifiable facts, they are just that: concepts, with no firm grounding whatever. So, they are not necessarily true.

The possibility that collective minds may exist outside the individual mind is not new, and is, in fact, a new form of the old dualism, an extension of the fallacy of vitalism, already proven over and over to be false. Autopoiesis does exist, and Maturana's statement that life is a process instead of a set of fixed states has been largely documented by science. But this doesn't mean that it has a "cognition about the universe". Living beings' information about the environment where they live is embedded into DNA's genetic codes, and it would be too far reaching to call this "knowledge about the universe". Information is not the same thing as knowledge, because a brain is required to interpret and manipulate information using logic, in order to transform it into knowledge. Even more unwarranted is the use of the term "cognition", which is also a property of the brain. Information in the living cell is expressed by means of automatic molecular mechanisms, embedded into chromosomes. The restricted set of environments where the organism and its forebearers have lived in the past is not the "universe", either. The undeniable fact that all individual bacteria of the same species share the same set of genetic information should not be "interpreted" as a kind of collective knowledge. It simply arises as the consequence of genetic molecular mechanisms and cellular reproduction. Cognition and knowledge would require connection, cooperation, computation among the individual units, as it happens with neurons in the brain. They may exist in restricted forms, and we may even observe emergent, collective properties, such as the famed "antfarm's intelligence". But it would be too weird to call it a "mind". Please give it another name, so as not to confound it with the real mind, the product of brain's activities.

Bateson, Prygogine and Capra belong to a batch of physicists who have dealt with particle physics, and then metaphysics in the past, and are now proposing new "theories" of conscience, which make a questionable mix of good physics with Eastern misticism (you failed to mention Roger Penrose's strange theories of conscience, based on quantum physics). My personal opinion is that they should leave theories of the mind to biologists and psychologists, and that their proposals are nothing more than wishful thinking, not based on any known scientific facts.

Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD Director, Center for Biomedical Informatics, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sender: Prof. Jorge Martins de Oliveira, MD, PhD, Full Professor - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Mind, as recognized by modern Neuroscience, is the sum of all activities of the brain. This implies the existence of a system of highly specialized connections that only neurons, with their dendrites and axons can provide. Therefore, by its very definition, mind can only exist if there is a functioning brain to make it so. We have nothing against the concept of autopoiesis, when it refers to life as a dynamic process, a system capable of self regeneration and self reproduction. But not when its mentors say that : "In all levels of life, starting with a single cell... mind and matter are connected."

One last commentary : I don't think that Dr. Cardoso intended to imply that there is, in the brain, an area that correlates with religious experiences. What she probably meant to say is that, epileptic focus in the temporal lobe, can give rise, when activated, to several kind of hallucinations, including those associated with feelings of intense beatitude and mystic ecstasies.

Sender: Carl Horn, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dr. Cardoso states that "the concept of mind still remains obscure, controversial and impossible to define within the limits of our language."
That sentence, and indeed her whole article, implies that the existence of the word "mind" establishes the existence of an actual entity whose true nature "remains obscure, controversial and impossible to define". The sentence implies that it is our task to unmask that entity so that all can see its true nature.
So we think we’re arguing about the true nature of an actual entity, when in fact we’re simply having a semantic argument about the definition of a single word.
The word "Martian" exists, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that there are Martians actually existing on Mars (or anywhere else). The word "mind" exists, but similarly that doesn’t mean necessarily that there is anything for us to unmask.
Trying not to be too pedantic, "mind" is only a word, nothing more, nothing less. " How can a word be "impossible to define"?
That’s like putting the cart before the horse. What is "mind"? What would you like it to be? How would you like it to be defined? For which concept would you like it to be a label?
The problem is not what we would like it to be. The problem is getting agreement among everyone else as to what it will be. Without such agreement, language is useless.
The word "brain" is useful because there appears to be unanimous agreement on its definition. The word "brain" is a label for a specific entity and its specific attributes. We continue to unmask those attributes and better understand the entity.
On the other hand, the word "mind" is not useful because there is no agreement on the concept for which it is to be used as the label.
Perhaps at one time the word "mind" had only one definition. Then the word would have been useful. But now it is used to describe too many competing concepts, widely contrasting concepts. So many people have appropriated the word "mind" to describe their favored concept that the word has no common currency. Use of the word results in much semantic arguing about which definition is the "true definition", a meaningless expression in itself. There is no apparent way for any one concept to prevail over the others.
Dr Cardoso tries at the end of her essay to point the way by stating "If we agree to think about the mind as ….". But even that statement implies the existence of some entity called "the mind". Instead, I suggest she should be saying something like, "If we can agree to use the word ‘mind’ as a convenient label to describe the following concept ….".
Renato Sabbatini had the right idea when he wrote "Please give it another name ….". Rather than argue about which concept is the "true definition" of the word "mind", we should be giving a unique label to each of the competing concepts. That way, each label would clearly indicate which concept was being discussed, and the semantic arguing should then cease.
I remember attending a seminar at which the question "Is emotion part of consciousness?" was debated. No attempt was made at the beginning to obtain consensus on the definitions of the word "emotion" and the word "consciousness", so everyone brought their own concepts to the debate, and the result was two hours of useless chatter. My opinion is that Dr. Cardoso’s article and the consequent correspondence is just more of the same.
I use the word "brain", but I no longer use the word "mind". Unfortunately, like so many other previously useful words, it has become meaningless and useless.

Carl Horn

Christchurch, New Zealand

Sender: André Carvalho Felício (medicine student, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, MG, Brazil)

What is mind? In my opinion, we could say that mind is a complex but well organised feature of our brain. Its complexity and organisation, although difficult to aproach, are the key aspects that lead to human behaviour and conciousness. Thus, it might be true that learning with men's behaviour or even animal models we can learn at least some of the basic aspects of our mind, that means, understanding the consequence in order to understand the cause. Conciousness, on the other hand, is an important issue but for a near future (10 years ?). We should, firstly, concentrate our efforts and research in the behaviour field, which is certainly the first step to understand this tricky question: "What is mind"?

Sender: Ethel Jean Saltz []

I think the concept of Triune Brain is far more important than the hemispheres in dealing with mind. Ever since I can remember, I've always lived "talking to my brain". It wasn't until 3 years ago when I found your website that my problem was solved. It's really true, I was using my rational brain system to control my limbic brain system. CONTROL is the key. It comes up every day in every way because of law and politics. Someone I know was bi-polar until she underwent a thyroidectomy because of cancer last year. She's now 47YO. And it's like she's reborn. In December 1999, I bought THE DOG'S MIND by Dr. Fogle. That clinched it for me, because it is the first simple diagram about how the pituitary gland fits into the scheme of things. Between the pituitary gland and the triune brain, the mind gets defined for me satisfactorily. Actually I think the soul is the pituitary gland. We just need more comprehensive chemistry testing for ourselves to describe our mind and keep track of it. I really think we are all chemical labs under a skin organ. Lots of information is withheld from us. Eg., last year I heard of Rabbi Hasdai Crescas, late 1300-1410. He wrote a book OR ADONAI which was read by Bruno, Galileo and Spinoza in translation. It is not translated into English so I can't read it. It's a argument against Aristotle. Spinoza also did an argument against Descartes which has not been translate into English. How can one discuss the mind/philosophy when such data is withheld from us. Imagine how you can get two for the price of one in mind energy. Read OR ADONAI and learn all about Aristotle. Read Spinoza on Descartes and you learn all about Descartes. On top of it all, Spinoza read OR ADONAI!! This blows my MIND:)
Be-ahavah oo-ve-shalom, Queen Jean of Creekbend
Mac-Niet-Spin-Gal, 391 A.G. (after Galileo/5370)

Sender: Kerwin Lebeis, M.D. Psychiatrist, Phoenix, Arizona
The human mind is a combination of conscious and non-conscious elements which are connected by a central control system.  We are ignorant of the existence of such a control system, by which we trigger the release of our deep wisdom and mental resources.  Given our dazzling success in exploring the physical universe and our abysmal failure in understanding the human mind, we must instinctively avoid such knowledge.  A Mental Operating System creates discontinuity in our train of thought as new ideas are released, and our mind forces us to consider our physical and mental environment as continuous.  This characteristic helps us avoid falling off cliffs, but prevents us from grasping what controls, as opposed to what just describes, our mind.

December 30, 2000

Sender: Ken Michel

Dr. Cardoso,
I enjoyed reading your article on the Brain Mind dichotomy, as well as the comments.

I would like to offer a definition of the Mind that may help the debate. The activities of Mind are mercurial and dynamic. The mind is the resultant dynamic behavior of the brain. In the words of modern complexity science, the mind is an emergent property of the brain. The best way to describe the relationship of brain to mind is with analogy. Fluid dynamics is no more inherent in the action of a single water molecule than mind is to the action of a neuron. The emergent property is an outgrowth of all of the actions of all of the constituent building blocks working in a cooperative effort. The brain is the Hardware and the mind is the software. The behavior of the whole is not inherent in the behavior of the part. As in Fractal Mathematics the part may be reflected in the whole but not necesarily vice versa. As in the difference between neurophysiology and neuropsychology which study two different aspects of the same system they both lend meaning to each other. Science has learned that reductionism is a dead end in and of itself. An interesting fact about the mind is it is self evolving and at a much more rapid pace than biological evolution. That there may be rudimentary biological mechanisms for a more complex association between individual brains I have no doubt. The nature of society cannot be explained in a single human being. Will Mind enable and enhance this technological evolution of the human species? Of course, it is already!

Ken Michel
Senior Systems Engineer
Technology Management Group, Inc.
(540) 663-5797 x109

Em português

Sender: Jose Raimundo Santos de Araujo, Advogado, Itabuna - Bahia, Brazil

Gostei muito da abordagem feita. Tenho questionado acerca do que venha a ser a "mente" e, ao que parece, muita gente nao tem uma definicao concreta, optando em mesclar ciencia/religiao para nao assumir uma posicao que nao provoque choque com as tradicoes existentes.

Sender: Prof. Dr. Malcon A. Tafner, Blumenau - SC

De fato o assunto é complexo e intrigante.... lembro de um livro de Roger Penrose chamado "a nova mente do rei" onde fala, em certa altura... "será que a mente não está separada do cérebro ?" Será que somos somente um acumulado de funções mentais selecionadas por milhões de anos de evolução ?

Sender: Julio Cesar Tinoco Alves

Acredito que o estudo da natureza da Mente humana seja o mais alto desenvolvimento do saber humano. Vastíssimas as possibilidades...! Sou Fisioterapeuta, com formacão anterior em Psicologia e grandes interesses nas neurociências, e fico muito motivado ao ler seu artigo porque faz eco com dúvidas minhas e certamente de muitos outros buscadores e investigadores disso que chamamos vida. Continue com o excelente trabalho que a equipe da Revista vem fazendo! Salut!

Sender: Luís Cláudio

Doutora Sílvia,

Seu artigo sôbre a mente é brilhante.

Dando minha humilde opinião, mente para mim é o software espiritual, onde estão setadas todas as informações de nossas experiências existenciais, uma vez que somos eternos, incluindo aí: conhecimentos científicos, experiências emocionais, o código cósmico, etc. O cérebro, tal como os demais órgãos de nosso maravilhoso corpo humano, serve como o meio para acrescentarmos ininterruptamente mais e mais informações/conhecimento em nossa mente.
Desculpe-me se estiver destoando do assunto ora apresentado.

Luís Cláudio.

Sender: Daniel

Primeiramente, gostaria de parabeniza-los pelo seu site de divulgação em Neurociências. Eu já tenho visitado o site desde o seu início. Sou só um curioso, não sou especialista na Área de Neurociências, sou mestrando na área de Biofísica Molecular e minha formação é em Física (licenciatura) mas tenho bastante interesse em Ciencias da Mente ou Psicologia também. Alias, o Campo de Pesquisa de Vocês é bastante ousado, pois entender a mente ou cérebro utilizando a própria "mente" e mais alguns instrumentos deve ser uma tarefa muito difícil !! Leio muita coisa sobre Psicologia e tento acompanhar as novidades e descobertas na área (qdo tenho tempo) e teria inúmeras questões q/ gostaria de discutir com vces...mas pra início e, como leigo, quero perguntar e/ou discutir : A Psicologia foi fundada por Freud, porém muitos autores recentes questionam se ela é ou nào uma Ciência. Então, a Psicologia é uma Ciência ou não ? E, se for uma ciencia, quais foram os avanços depois de Freud e Jung ??

Sender: Khristian Drummond
Estudante de Psicologia
Universidade Estácio de Sá RJ

A mente é algo que nunca será descrito de forma plena, pois se coloca além da nossa percepção, uma vez que diz respeito não apenas a neurônios, mas a processos conscientes e inconscientes, que jamais serão mapeados. O raciocínio, o intelecto, a memória, a cognição são alguns desses processos que começamos a investigar. Mas ainda há muitos, muitos outros que escapam, como os sonhos, os atos falhos e os chistes, o que torna a mente humana algo tão rico e único que não existem 2 mentes iguais.
Ok, também não existem 2 DNAs iguais, mas será que pode-se generalizar o conceito de mente a ponto de dizer que ela conta com um conjunto de estruturas comuns a todo ser humano, independente de sua cultura e de sua história?
O conceito de mente é tão abrangente que se confunde com a identidade do sujeito. Na verdade ninguém sabe na verdade o que é a mente humana. Prefiro voltar uns séculos e ficar com Sócrates, que dizia só saber que nada sabia. Não há dúvida de que existe a mente, mas o que é eu sei que não sei. E sei que ninguém sabe.

Sender: Maria Angélica - Fonoaudiólga

Acredito que a mente manipule e programe o cérebro o tempo inteiro, a mente seria o pensador o cérebro o pensamento.

A mente (o pensador) aprende e programa o cérebro, o cérebro programado toma conta do pensador que por si já não quer fazer mais nada, a mente programa o cérebro para ficar mais tempo em algum lugar...ou em lugar algum...quanto mais velhos vamos nos tornando, mais automáticos ficamos.

Sender: Cleber Monteiro Muniz

O corpo humano possui uma energia como uma bateria. O cérebro não é diferente. Essas energias são ainda de difícil mensuração e análise mas são reais.
A mente é energia que está no cérebro e matéria que compõe pensamentos. Os pensamentos são feitos de mente. Em seu respectivo nível de vibração, são materiais. Acreditar que a mente é abstrata é um absurdo pois a energia não é abstrata. Abstrato é aquilo que não possui existência e é imaginário. A mente não é imaginária pois existe em nossa cabeça. Os pensamentos e sentimentos também existem dentro de nós, não são imaginários.
Acreditar que o psíquico não exista é ser fanático pela idéia de que aquilo que nossos cinco sentidos físicos não captam é inexistente. Se a levarmos adiante, teremos que afirmar que as ondas de rádio e frequências de onda descobertas apenas recentemente não existem concretamente. Se considerarmos a energia cerebral abstrata porque não a tocamos, então teremos que fazer o mesmo com outras formas de energia. Escrevi sobre isso em PsiqWeb.


Copyright Silvia Helena Cardoso, PhD