Cognitive operations: an ontological approach to the mind-brain problem
In this study first we delineate an overview of the main philosophical positions on the problem of the distinction between mental acts and physical acts in man. There follows an exposition of the topic, inspired by Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s principles. Sensitive operations are physical, but in the sense of an ‘elevated body,’ thanks to a higher formal dimension, which informs the organic basis. Intellectual operations, by contrast, are completely immaterial, though they act united to the sensitive cerebral basis. Accordingly, they have neurological correlations, guided by the intentional causality of the intellect. The intellectual act and its neural basis form a unique act, which is integrated by several cognitive dimensions. Our intelligence uses the brain as an intrinsic instrument, but we also need external ‘cognitive’ instruments, namely written texts and computers. The intellectual development of people can be explained by the interaction of these different dimensions.