Since the time of Greek philosophers—Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates—it has been believed that the present universe is comprised of two things: form and substance. Forms are the ideas that exist even when substances don’t; the world of things combines form and substance, kind of like the form of a statue exists in the mind of a sculptor and is applied to a substance—e.g., stone—to create statues. Without the form, the material world is amorphous, and without the substance the forms are not visible. This post examines this viewpoint and argues that there are no substances; only forms are real. Whatever we call substance, thing, or object, is also a form—i.e. an idea.
The Mind-Body problem in Western philosophy concerns the difficulty in conceiving the nature of interaction between mind and body, considering that these two are supposed to be different substances—one physical and material while the other spiritual or mystical. In Indian philosophy, matter itself transforms into spirit and how this transformation occurs poses a serious problem.
Descartes created the mind-body divide and claimed these to be two different substances—the extended substance (res extensa) and the thinking substance (res cogitans). However, with the progress in science (and attempts to subsume thinking under matter), the distinction between mind and body gets hazier by the day. What is the difference between matter and spirit, if any at all?