metaphsyics of mind flowchart taxonomy

Metaphysics of Mind: A Flowchart Taxonomy

I love flowcharts. And I love the philosophy of mind. So naturally, when I realized that I could combine these loves, I did. In this post, I share a flowchart-like tree for classifying views about the metaphysics of mind. I also share some conversations that are improving the chart, invite further conversation, and point out resources that can answer your questions about the metaphysics of mind.

1. The Evolution Of The Flowchart

Before I was a research assistant for Michael Tooley many years ago, I took his course on Metaphysics. At some point in the course, we discussed the metaphysics of mind. During that portion of the course, Dr. Tooley showed a flowchart-like taxonomy that classified some of the metaphysical views of minds. I found it helpful, so I drew my own version of the chart in my notes.

Years later I found my notes and shared the chart on social media. Since then, many philosophers on social media have been pointing out opportunities to improve the chart. So, I have been (gradually) updating the chart. You can find the online quibbles below.

Here’s a Facebook discussion about the chart.

And here’s another discussion, this time on Reddit.

Some think the mind is an immaterial soul. Others think it is just the brain. But there are many, many more views than that. Here’s a flowchart to keep track. from philosophy

2. Further Quibbles/Comments

It should be unsurprising that philosophers want to quibble with different aspects of the chart—quibbling is kind of what philosophers do. And we should quibble over the details! The chart has already been improved by such quibbling and the latest quibbles spot even more opportunities for improvement. In addition to adding certain views, some have suggested adding cool features like proper flowchart starting points, decision points, and endpoints as well as links to descriptions of each view. So, further quibbling is welcome. 😁

If you want to be notified when the next version of the chart is posted, then you can follow me on social media or subscribe to the blog (See the dropdown menu under “Blog” in the menu).

3. Further Reading

The chart does not describe each view. If you find yourself wanting descriptions of each view, then I recommend searching for the name of the view(s) on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP). For instance, Section 3.5 of the SEP article about Metaphysics, “The Mental and Physical”, explains some of the differences between the views in the flowchart.

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Nick Byrd

Nick is a cognitive scientist at Florida State University studying reasoning, wellbeing, and willpower. Check out his blog at byrdnick.com/blog