Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Mind is a four-letter word that, upon general agreement, means something. Now just what this sound represents is open to a wide interpretation according to the degree of insight exercised in one's speculations. I have chosen the somewhat less encumbered path of skepticism and empiricism from which to disentangle mind.
To my way of reasoning there is a dual thesis-antithesis aspect to the mind. I think of mind as a 'mere idea', if we assume no assumptions as to its existence or function. On the other hand, I sense mind as a thinking interdependent mass of brain cells and electrical impulses, lf we take for granted its existence and its having a purpose.
Firstly, I reflect on mind as an idea-perhaps nothing more. 'Mind is" in the same fashion as any idea is if we believe it to have meaning for us. Take the statement: I believe that I exist in this world. This fairly obvious observation is an outright assumption. That this world I perceive is the "real world" or that "I" exist in it are based on the assumptions that this that I perceive as the world is the "real world" and that the "I" I perceive is the "true I."
Following this pattern, how does anyone know that mind exists or thinks or serves any purpose? I for one can honestly say I cannot say. Furthermore, even if mind does exist, how can we be so presumptuous to state that mind is the way we perceive it to be. Moreover if we assume mind to belong to the realm of ideas ("Essences"), then we can reach this realm through "the clear Intuitive insight of our imaginations" according to George Santayana. This is all presuming no intrinsic knowledge of the trueness of our perception of mind or to its existence at all. Thus mind is simply a figment of our imagination if we presume no assumptions.
Secondly by the use of a heuristic mean we can come to the conclusion that mind exists and has some function. Notably modern science has transcended the pitfall I of assumptions by agreeing to their existence yet setting forth that this is al I we have to work with. So better to base research on assumptions linked to the sensory-physical world than to base one's investigations on nothing but whim and conjecture (metaphysics, God, et al?). It is a practical necessity to throw up our hands and say, "alI right, I accept these assumptions, because we cannot progress further without them."
If we take this decisive step we can hypothesize that mind exists, that it is composed of grey matter, and it can literally be located in the space between the ears. One could say the function or process of mind is thinking or lack of thought. Yet what is thinking? I think thinking is a not-fulIy-known complex interchange of electrical impulses among brain cells as well as I as a process of instantaneous insights, understandings and nerve-responses. In agreement with William James, I would say that when these brain impulses are correctly formulated (according to the time, place, and society one lives in) they will most likely produce sensible and/or effective thoughts and when mishandled will yield meaningless and/or ineffective thoughts.
The further question is what does one think of? From a purely subjective observation of my fellow man I would submit that most humans, most of the time, think about themselves or objects relating to themselves. This is indeed a poor state of affairs if this self-consciousness goes beyond a degree. But then again a certain amount of selfness is of utmost importance to the survival of that animal. My point herein is simply to demonstrate the crucialness of degree as it effects any thinking behavior as that affects organlsm.
In conclusion I would more readiIy subscribe to my first argument of mind being a epiphenomenon of our imagination largely due to its attraction noting this alienating society we live in and these "important times", but I would not strongly counter a philosophy adhering to basic assumptions on this-world as a heuristic necessity to any future progress.
This paper was written when I was five months into my twentieth year, having just left home for the first time, and in the first semester of my junior year at University of California, Irvine. It is a seminal moment on a reoccurring journey of seeing though the ego-mind as non-existent, imaginary and in the way of a functional and healthy, sane and present life.
It was the first weekly paper of approximately two to three pages assigned in a psychology course in Cognition while obtaining my Bachelor's degree in Philosophy, although I took as many if not more courses in Psychology. Being on the quarter system, with quarters only lasting about nine and one-half weeks, this time was a whirlwind experience having only ever experienced a semester system.
This paper was conceived in a moment of clarity and sanity that I've circled back to innumerable times over the last nearly four decades to distill the depth, breadth and height of this shift in perspective. It continues still and is ever deepening and broadening, graciously gifting me with surrendering all that I "think" I am (and "I" am not), to reveal everything I AM and every one of us truly are.
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