Historical Conceptions of an Enduring Issue


            Hergenhahn (2009) explained that the major historical timelines and ages and in this respect; The Golden Ages of Greek philosophy, Middle Ages, Renaissance and the period between 18th and 19th centuries have been characterized by different schools of thought concerning the relationship between the mind and the body. Psychologists have either taken the position of materialists, idealists or dualists.     Hergenhahn (2009) explained that the materialists explain the relationship in terms of the physical aspects of life while on the other hand idealist psychologists explain mind and body relationship in terms of ideas. The dualist psychologists explain the relationship in terms of the existence of both physical and ideas or the mental aspects of the existence. Such a scenario added Hergenhahn (2009), has been the nature of different conceptualizations of the explanations on the relationship between the mind and the body over different ages.

Golden Age of Greek Philosophy

During the Golden Age of Greek Mythology, the mind and the body were thought to be separate entities with the mind being superior to human body according to Young (2005). One school of the Greek intellectuals believed that the Great Greek Athletes who were rewarded because of their track prowess was ideally not in tandem with the perverse thinking among intellectuals at the time neither intellectual or bodily pursuits were not anything valuable. To them those who exhibited a higher level of mental astuteness or became masters at a physical activity were only but pursuing trivial things. Young (2005) added that new crop of intellectuals in Greek during the time even considered athletes as mere animals despite unclear accounts the Plato one of the Greek philosophers won in an Olympic games. One of the early Golden Age philosophers Epicurus was a believer of the physical explanations to events in life making ascribe to the school materialist psychologist. Hergenhahn (2009) noted that the philosopher believed that giving explanations to the nature of behavior of human beings could be accomplished by looking at the nature in which the atomic constituents of the human body interacts.

Under Epicurus thinking noted Hergenhahn (2009), life on earth could only be explained based on the physical aspects and that neither the mind nor gods controlled human action. Gods existed though but had no control over the people because the law of nature seemed to be in control life within the cosmology itself. The early Greek religion according to Hergenhahn (2009) the Greeks tended to believe in the existence of a god that did not care about people’s morality based on Olympian religion theology as. The existence of religion that had been entrenched in the minds of the people could b a possible reason why the Epicurus did not denounce the existence of a god but held to a belief that the gods had no influence on life within the cosmos. Olympian religion further held to the belief that the ‘soul’ was immortal and could separate from the body upon ones death making it the departure point with Epicurus that life ends when somebody dies.

Another early philosopher who se travels to Babylonia and Egypt is argued by Hergenhahn (2009) to have contributed to his practical approach explanations based on the natural world was Thales. Like Epicurus, he believed things within the universes are better explained on the basis of natural explanations and not the unseen influence from the Gods.

Plato however was a dualist who separated the body and the mind. According to Hergenhahn (2009) he believed in the existence of materialism beyond which was ideas. Plato’s ideas about building knowledge in one’s mind was not through observing what is in the natural world but internalizing the forms that are seen in the mind. Plato’s position on the mind and the body was that the two are connected and the mind is the centre of knowledge.

Middle Ages

The Middle Ages are believed to have begun around 430 B.C when Augustine died although this is not the agreeable time among the many history scholars according to Hergenhahn (2009). It is time that was the end of far reaches of the Roman laws and the churches saw a revival in their power of influence. Some of the great philosophers of the time included Averroes whose works Hergenhahn (2009) argued to have been commentaries on the works of Aristotle. During the age many of the works that were done by the philosophers at the time tended to emphasis more on religion, belief and reason. In all these aspects the mind became the central focus of the works produced during the age. The philosophy of human mind at the time were based on the early conceptualizations of Aristotle called De Anima. According to Hergenhahn (2009) this work had the concept of Divine illumination where Aristotle had conceptualized the concept of God as aide to human mind and its processes of thinking.

Augustine created the powerful nature of Christianity as it would become to be known by the beginning of the 13th century by combining the thoughts of other philosophers and thinking of the ages before him. Hergenhahn (2009) noted that Augustine concentrated exclusively on human spirituality, obscuring the body into the periphery of oblivion. The mind and body were perceived to be connected whereby the body could act as a conduit through which humans perceive the outside world through sensations to the knowledge that the mind stores on the universality and ultimately acknowledging God as the center of what one sees in the out sde world (Hergenhahn, 2009).  The mind was conceptualized as intrinsically able to represented abstract knowledge in forms that become universally accepted standards of knowledge. Internal representations in the senses of the medieval thinking were based on the concept that such implicit formations of images to represent the outside world took place in human mind hence the mind became the nucleus of human existence and his ability to learn about the external environment.

Renaissance period

The renaissance period according to Renaissance (2009) is the point in historical timeline when the world was reformation inn terms of knowledge wit Italy heralding the period from about the 14th century. Classical antiquity of what medieval and Golden Age of Greek mythology had become then provided a rich learning resource the intellectuals during the age.  The Renaissance period is also noted by Renaissance (2009) as the period when a lot of new knowledge that were being created tended to have borrowed a lot from the classical antiques of the Golden Ages. In a more generalized reconnection with the past ages is the existence of the Great Chain that was used to explain the relative positions of objects within cosmology. Renaissance (2009) argued that the perverse thinking based on the chains is a hierarchical arrangement of things both animate and inanimate. In the hierarchy it was widely believed that those objects that occupied the lowest hierarchy were non animate had had no or less spirit but with more matter. Human beings were regarded to have more spirit came above animals but below angels with God at the apex hence one can conclude that the immortality of the soul was still an eminent feature in this age.

The human body was believed to have been composed of four elements that were called ‘humors’ which possessed qualities that were viewed to have similar characteristics to those of the air, water, earth and fire that made up the cosmos (Renaissance, 2009).  It was also believed in the Renaissance Age that human mind is ordered in hierarchy that reflected the natural hierarchy of life in the natural world. In the ordered system where the children were to be ruled over by the parents and people by the state authority, Renaissance Age philosophers also believed that things could only be in order if reasoning was not overtaken by emotions (Renaissance, 2009). It therefore becomes clear that the mind was conceptualized to be at the center of control of other human actions that could be instigated by emotions.

The orderliness that Renaissance thinkers espoused placed human beings between  choice making before deciding that brought mental process more into significance than. Renaissance (2009) argued that to act outside the normal code of behavior because emotions have overpowered reasoning or mental processes could lead to such a person being labeled as a beast. The dualistic concept of the mind and the body became predominant feature in the Renaissance Age concepts about the mind and the body. The period tended to have advanced an explanation of the natural setting and the arrangement of both animate and inanimate objects based on the abstract concept of the degree to which matter and spirit constituted a particular thing found within the cosmology.

18th-19th Centuries

            Between these periods scientific inventions had had taken center stage and most of the inventions in medical field had led to a separation between the mind and the body. These centuries marked the advent of scholars beginning to shift attention from the mind and the body connection to the mind and brain connection and the associated problems. Carpenter and Dewes became some of the notable philosophers who started delving in the mind and brain connection but Higgins and Kruglanski (2007) noted that a 19th century Walter B. Cannon a 19th century psychologists pioneered the debates in psycho-psychology which has become one of the widely researched areas in the contemporary society.

Researches conducted by Robert Ader and Nicholas Cohen at Rochester University led new to conceptualizations on the mind body connections into new and intergraded concepts of the mind that borrowed from other disciplines of psychological and other biological science (Higgins&  Kruglanski, 2007). The period can thus be said to have come with more scientific studies on the mind and body relationship in order to come up with remedies too physical problems and also to create a distinct relationship that the mind had in healing processes.


            The historical timeline between the Golden Age of Greek Philosophy through to the Middle Ages, Renaissance and the period between 18th and 19th centuries have psychologists and philosophers developing concepts on the connection between mind and the body from different aspects. Most of their arguments have either been based materialist, idealist or dualists schools of though. These different conceptualizations have undergone metamorphosis over time culminating into the psycho-psychological sciences that have largely borrowed from other sciences. Contemporary psychologists have increasingly had a large body of literature generated from researches that they can use conceptualizing the relationship between the mind and the body.


Higgins, E.T. & Kruglanski, A.W. (2007). Social psychology: handbook of basic principles. (2nd  Ed.).

New York: Guilford Press.

Hergenhahn, B. R. (2009). An introduction to the history of psychology. (6th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Rennaisence. (2009). General Characteristics of the Renaissance. Retrieved on July 4, 2012 from


Young, D.C. Mens Sans in Corpore Sano? Body and Mind in Ancient Greece. The International

Journal of the History of Sport, 22(1): 122-41


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