The Mind-body Problem

The individual is comprised of the body and the mind. Mind-body issues have been at discourse for centuries. How do we separate the mind and body? And how do we reconcile them? How do we think of the mind and body in terms of each other? Deleuze took up the topic, and essentially deconstructed the dichotomy that has put these two elements into different categories. Indeed talking of these human components as two different entities implicates them in a separation. We tend to think of them in a dichotomy. Even in religion, the mind/soul is holy and the body is earthly or profane. The mind is of the non-material world and the body is of the material world. In Buddhism the mind tries to overcome the needs of the body to achieve a higher state of existence and liberation. Other religions hold similar beliefs in one way or another.

Deleuze has found a way to speak of them not only in terms of one another, but in a way to break down these categories. Deleuze developed a theory of percepts and affects to explain the relationship between the material and non-material art work in What is Philosophy?. Though he used this to explain the work of art and the relationship of the artists to the art, it has some very good applications to the mind-body issue. In What is Philosophy? Deleuze says that “[t]he work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else”(What is Philosophy P.164).

However, as he outlines art as something independent of its creator, he explains how it is very much tied to the material thing on which the art is created. For example the sculptor on the rock, the portrait on the canvas etc. He says that the material used in art is part of the sensation captured; “it is difficult in fact to say where the material ends and the sensation begins”(Ibid p.166). Even as Deleuze outlines the independence of each entity, he cannot completely separate the material from the non-material. This theory is grounded in the separation as well as the unity of the material world and the non-material world. It is a metaphysical approach to art, but also a metaphysical approach to thinking of the relationship of the material world to the non-material world. It is precisely this separation and at the same time the unity that Deleuze uses to describe the mind-body dichotomy in The Logic of Sensation by focusing on the figure in Bacon’s paintings. He explains how the figure in art is an entity of sensation in which the material world and the non-material world are mediated through the painting of the body. Deleuze says that the “Figure is the sensible form related to a sensation; it acts immediately upon the nervous system, which is of the flesh…(The Logic of Sensation p.34)” Here he makes a connection between the material world of the body and the immaterial world of sensation. One is experienced through another. They are separate entities, but are captured within each other. Also what becomes clear, even as Deleuze separates each entity, is that they are all intertwined. The mind-body issue must be viewed in a similar way; the dichotomy must then be disregarded. The mind and body cannot be placed in opposite categories, and one cannot be more relevant or more essential than the other. They stand together; mind and body.

Aejin Hwang

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One Response to “The Mind-body Problem”

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