Philosophy of mind is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the mind, mental events, mental functions, mental properties, consciousness, and their relationship to the physical body, particularly the brain. The mind-body problem, i.e. the relationship of the mind to the body, is commonly seen as one key issue in philosophy of mind, although there are other issues concerning the nature of the mind that do not involve its relation to the physical body such as how consciousness is possible.[2]

Dualism and monism are the two major schools of thought that attempt to resolve the mind-body problem. Dualism can be traced back to Plato,[3] and the Sankhya and Yoga schools of Hindu philosophy,[4] but it was most precisely formulated by René Descartes in the 17th century.[5] Substance Dualists argue that the mind is an independently existing substance, whereas Property Dualists maintain that the mind is a group of independent properties that emerge from and cannot be reduced to the brain, but that it is not a distinct substance.[6]

Monism is the position that mind and body are not ontologically distinct kinds of entities. This view was first advocated in Western philosophy by Parmenides in the 5th century BC and was later espoused by the 17th century rationalist Baruch Spinoza.[7]Physicalists argue that only the entities postulated by physical theory exist, and that the mind will eventually be explained in terms of these entities as physical theory continues to evolve. Idealists maintain that the mind is all that exists and that the external world is either mental itself, or an illusion created by the mind. Neutral monists such as Ernst Mach and William James argue that events in the world can be thought of as either mental (psychological) or physical depending on the network of relationships into which they enter, and dual-aspect monists such as Spinoza adhere to the position that there is some other, neutral substance, and that both matter and mind are properties of this unknown substance. The most common monisms in the 20th and 21st centuries have all been variations of physicalism; these positions include behaviorism, the type identity theory, anomalous monism and functionalism.[8]