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Women Living Well: Mind/Body Connection - 2002
Student Papers
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Philosophy of the mind

Kristina Davis

Kristina Davis
Women Living Well Series
May 2 2002

The mind-body dichotomy has been exculpated from philosophy within the last century, and one of the last major philosophers to believe that there was a difference between the mind and body was Descartes. His maxim, "I think, therefore, I am" is still discussed and considered important despite being uniformly rejected by the philosophical community. And yet, many people still divorce the mind from the body, and I think that science especially is guilty of this philosophical crime. What is the body without a mind? What is the mind without a body? Nothing, and it is ridiculous to continue to commit such a fallacy. It is interesting that in the discussion about depression and anxiety, exercise was consistently noted for its ability to affect the mood. Exercise helps every part of the body, including the mind. It was previously unclear to me that exercise could have such a positive influence upon the mental states. Exercise seems to promote a positive outlook on life, because you are setting and achieving goals. The foods that you eat, and the brain chemicals that are active due to outside factors on our body affect depression affect migraines. The rest of the body is connected together and it is important to not compartmentalize the different aspects from each other.
The body is usually viewed as the "evil" or "dirty" entity of our body, and this thought prevents people from encompassing the totality of the whole body when treating a problem. I used to take sinus pills anytime I felt a sinus headache coming on, and instead of asking myself why I would be having a headache I would turn to medicine first. There are a variety of external sinus factors that may indicate what is actually wrong, such as a lack of sleep or infection. When the mind and body are divorced, then each part is considered to be a cog without relation to the whole.
The sleep deprivation lecture was the most interesting connection because it is the one that women at Bryn Mawr experience the most. Between class and homework, there does not see to be much time for sleep and we suffer for it. I think it is harder on the seniors who have difficult workloads as it is, and then they have to worry about getting jobs as well. When is there time to sleep let alone have human interactions? I think that Bryn Mawr students are the most sleep-deprived group of individuals that I have ever met. We are constantly pushing our bodies to go beyond their limits so that our minds can absorb more than it is reasonable to expect. Stanford University has a sleep clinic and I think that it would be a good idea for Bryn Mawr to study the effects of sleepiness on performance as well. The deans wonder about how to improve the social life, but I think that it is not until our students can do all their work without sacrificing sleep that we should consider this question.
The Women Living Well lecture series has given the participants a pragmatic basis for the philosophical concept of the mind-body dichotomy. No matter how we were taught to loathe our bodies-church, fashion models, TV-it is important to not lose sight of the fact that the body is a whole entity and not made up of separate parts. In order for us to understand one part we must look at the other. The mind-body relationship is very important for our well-being and without this perspective then we will not be able to overcome our illnesses or problems as quickly.

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