– that our mental experience can be reduced to the things that go on at a neurological level in the brain. I believe that the most accurate answer to this ages-old question is more complex than either of these.
My own view is consistent with one which modern philosophy terms “emergent mentalism.” It holds that our responses to the world and to the important people in it, while indeed relying on a well-running brain, take on a complexity and a unity that ushers forth something real and extra from the material brain – something not quantifiable physically (you can’t, for instance, weigh the mind) but something which nonetheless becomes capable of acting back on the material of the brain and changing it. This is what happens in psychotherapy: By the consistent action of the mind, important and beneficial physiologic changes occur in the very brain itself. New neurological pathways provide better and broader integration of psychological experience via the associative cortex and executive centers of the brain. Emotions become more regulated, impulses become more tolerable and less prone to immediate enactment, thoughts become more benign and less pressing, and a number of other beneficial changes occur. Psychology is always couched in brain function, and when we work with one, we are always working with the other.