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Differences Between Capacity Accounts of Mind and Substance Accounts According to Locke Wiredu Essay Example

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The philosophy of mind and body is mainly concerned with comprehending the associations between the body and the mind, particularly the nature of processes and mental states. Different philosophers have applied different approaches to boosting the understanding concerning the philosophy of body and mind, including functionalism, materialism, and dualism philosophy approaches. The functionalism approach focuses on the body and mind's functional processes and mental states. Functionalist philosophers posit that mental processes and states are identified by their functional roles, contrary to their underlying physical properties. It is an approach significantly linked with the Turing test, which implies that a machine can be perceived to be intelligent if it passes a test aimed at distinguishing it from human beings. On the other hand, dualism philosophers posit that the body and the mind are distinct and separate entities. Chung (n.d.), on the Descartes and Elisabeth presentation regarding the mind and the body, asserts that the dualism proponents assume that the mental processes and states cannot be reducible to physical processes and states because the body and mind interact through a non-physical mechanism. Materialists posit that mental processes and states are reducible to physical processes and states since the mind is not a distinct entity. According to materialist philosophers, the mind is an emergent property of the brain's physical properties. Under this context, the paper provides the differences between the substance accounts of mind (which implies that the mind is an entity that exists independently of its activities and capacities) and the capacity accounts of mind (which suggests that the mind’s activities and capacities constitute its nature) based on Kwasi Wiredu’s arguments.

Substance Accounts of Mind According to Wiredu

Wiredu argues that substance accounts of the mind, as stipulated by several philosophers such as John Locke, exemplify that the mind operates and exists independent of its activities and capacities since it is a non-physical entity. It functions independently or is not influenced by the surrounding environment and operates separately from the body. Specifically, the mind is viewed as a substance that thinks, although it is distinct from the body. According to philosophers like Locke, the mind cannot be subjected to physics laws since it does not compose any physical matter. The substance accounts of the mind indicate that the mind is a non-physical entity, operating independently of the body to perceive and think (Chung, n.d.). It is a philosophical approach based on the notion that mental processes and states cannot be explained or reduced to fit the physical processes conducted by the brain. Mental states like emotions, thoughts, and sensations cannot be solely defined and explained based on the brain's physical properties, including shape, electrical activity, or size.

However, Wiredu criticizes this view arguing that it relies on the dualistic nature of the world. The dualistic view of the world suggests that there are precisely two distinct types of substances in the world, including the non-physical substances (the mind) and physical substances (the body), which operate separately. Wiredu says this is a delusional approach since it is not scientifically proven or evidence-based. It is based on a false dichotomy between the body and mind, as Chung (n.d.) highlighted in Amo's critique. Wiredu contends that the mind is a function or an aspect of the physical body, contrary to being an independent substance. The mind is a product of the nervous system and brain.

Capacity Accounts of Mind According to Wiredu

According to Wiredu, proponents of the capacity accounts of the mind perceive the mind to be a set of cognitive abilities and capacities, contrary to being a substance or fixed entity. The mind is viewed as a collection of abilities allowing people to think, imagine, perceive, reason, communicate, and remember, as Chung (n.d.) highlighted when elaborating on Amo's critique. Thus, the mind's cognitive abilities can be enhanced and developed through experience, learning, and practice. Based on Dzobo’s arguments, education can develop and enhance an individual’s cognitive capacities, such as creativity, instead of transmitting information or knowledge by fostering problem-solving and critical thinking skills (Chung, n.d.). Moreover, the capacity accounts of the mind posit that an individual's cognitive abilities result from their cultural and social environments, alongside their genetics or biological composition. This indicates that the mind’s plasticity and cognitive capacities can be improved through education and experience.

Which Do You Find More Appealing: A Substance Account of The Mind Or A Capacity Account?

I find the capacity accounts of mind more appealing than the substance accounts for several reasons. Firstly, the capacity accounts of the mind emphasize cognitive abilities, including creativity, thinking, reasoning, and memory, besides highlighting the potential for improving these capabilities. Dzobo’s and Amo’s arguments indicate that the mind’s capabilities and abilities can be diminished or improved over time (Chung, n.d.). On the contrary, the substance accounts emphasize the mind's physical substrate, including the material entity and the brain, which limits it from capturing the full range of mental processes. The capacity accounts also allow room for a dynamic and flexible understanding of the mind as it acknowledges that mental processes and states can vary over time, as discussed by Wiredu in the critique of the dualism concept (Chung, n.d.). The substance accounts view the mind as an immutable and fixed entity. The findings show that the mind is a set of abilities and capacities that result from the brain’s physical processes. There is an ongoing contemptuous debate regarding the two accounts. However, capacity accounts are receiving pools of scientific evidence and are likely to shape our understanding concerning consciousness and the nature of the mind.


  • Chung, J. (n.d.). Amo on Mind and Body and Dzobo and Adeofe on Personhood. (PowerPoint Presentation). York University.
  • Chung, J. (n.d.). Descartes and Elisabeth on the Mind and the Body. (PowerPoint Presentation). York University.
  • Chung, J. (n.d.). Locke on personal identity and Wiredu on Mind as Capacity. (PowerPoint Presentation). York University.
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