Can the mind "feel" things even though nothing has happened? If so how does this work? For example, someone swung a textbook at my head playfully, and even though he did not hit me, I still felt something where he would have hit.

Funny, if someone took a (missed) swat at me, I don't think I'd feel anything where he might have hit me! There is something known as the "phantom limb" phenomenon: people who have lost one of their legs, for instance, often report feeling pain in a very particular part of their (now missing) limb -- they can even point to where in their "leg" the pain is. As for how that works, I have no idea. But I likewise have no idea how pain in my real leg works.

I was just playing chess against my computer, and suddenly I realized that computer chess has no rules. In computer chess there are things that happen and things that don't happen; there are "laws of nature" (although "nature" is here a computer running a certain software), but there are no rules in the sense of "things regarded as customary or normal", as my dictionary says, or in the sense of "a convention set forth or accepted by a group of people". This way, computer chess is very different from over the board chess. Do you agree?

I'm not sure that any of your reasons for thinking that the computer is not following rules is convincing. After all, for humans too "there are things that happen and things that don't happen." There are laws of nature that our bodies and brains are acting in accordance with, etc. And wasn't the computer's code programmed by human beings who intended the computer to behave as if it were following certain rules? Does your claim boil down to the intuition that human players are conscious of following rules whereas a computer is not? But is that so? Are human players really conscious of following rules? Or do they just act? Do you feel that there must be a difference because you think that humans are conscious while computers are not? But why believe that? Of course, you're right that computers play differently from humans. I expect most very good players could (today) tell whether their opponent was a computer or a human. But that's not the difference that I think you're trying to get at.

Why is it that we can "think" about something such as breathing or blinking, but not about such things as, let's say, moving our fingers? (I have been thinking about this question for a long time now. Can someone please shed some light on this if they get what I am asking?)

I'm not sure I do quite get what you're after. Can't one think about moving one's fingers? Didn't you think about just that when you formulated your question? Is it that you believe that we don't have familiar concepts or words to describe the movements our fingers make, but we do to describe our breathing (e.g., exhaling , inhaling )? And absent such concepts/words, we can't form thoughts? But about the first: even if there is no single word in English for the movement my fingers make when I grasp my coffee mug, I can refer to that movement -- that's what I just did when I used the words "the movement my fingers make when I grasp my coffee mug". And if I can talk about that movement, then I can think about it too.

If someone was blind since birth, do they see objects/colors when they dream? What do they see when they dream?

You might be interested in reading On Blindness , a book of letters between the philosophers Bryan Magee and Martin Milligan. The first is sighted, the second blind almost from birth. They argue about whether blindness is a limitation and, if it is, what kind it is. Milligan makes many interesting observations about how to describe a blind person's experiences and dreams.

In my world history class, we dedicated some time to learning about the Boxer Rebellion in China, which took place in the 19th century. My teacher had mentioned that the Boxers believed they had magical powers, and that bullets would not injure them. Bullets did indeed injure them, but my teacher said they withstood more bullets than usual, because of their belief. I'm not sure if that is true, but I was wondering if a mind over matter type of thing is possible. Perhaps it's linked to what the Redcoats did in the Revolutionary War, how they wore red so that when they were hit, they wouldn't have noticed the blood and could have lived longer. I have an illness of some sort, where I can harm myself depending on my state of mind. It really does sound like something in a sci-fi movie, it's unbelievable. There's been many times where I would feel some sort of pain somewhere, and associate it with an illness I learned about in health class, or somewhere. The more I learned about the illness, the more symptoms I...

There's nothing mysterious about "mind over matter", is there? When you had second thoughts last night and eventually decided you wanted your grilled black bean burger with cheese and therefore called after the waitress with "Could you make that with cheese, please?" -- well, that was "mind over matter". You had the desire for cheese (mind), decided to do something about it (mind), believed that you could do something about it by calling after the waitress (mind), and then found yourself with vocal chords, diaphragm, tongue, etc. appropriately engaged (matter). Or at least, there's nothing uncommon about it. Philosophers are divided about how mysterious they find it; and those who don't find it mysterious are divided about why it's not mysterious. But once you wrap your mind around the mind's ability to cause behavior, the cases you point to are small potatoes. The hard part is understanding how events in your mind can cause your actions. That sometimes those effects are quite spectacular,...

How can one get rid of his/her memories, either bad or good ones? Is there any way to forget a happening in the past?

Memory is not under one's direct control. (In this respect, it'slike belief: see Question 142 .) I can't force myself to forget what I hadfor breakfast yesterday. In fact, the more I try to do that, the morelikely it is I will remember what I had! Perhaps that does provide somekind of answer though: for the more one explicitly recalls a particularevent, the longer and better one remembers it. (At least, that's truefor me.) So, while one can't directly compel oneself to forget, one cando things that might make it more likely that one will forget, like nottalking or thinking about the event.

It seems that most of my thoughts are expressed as reflections of familiar stimuli received through the agreed-upon 'five senses' (this includes spoken and written language). Is there any appropriate way to speculate on what form the thoughts of a hypothetical person born without access to sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste might take? I guess what I mean is: "please speculate!"

I take it that you mean to ask about the thoughts of an individual whohas been utterly deprived of sensory experience? Sadly, we likely knowthe answer to that question, for we know something about the mentallives of individuals who have been reared in very sensorily deprivedcircumstances. They are cognitively damaged, usually beyond repair. Itseems humans require (and require early enough in their development)rich experiences to feed the development of their mental lives. Absentthese, thoughts, and indeed anything like our familiar mental life,fail to develop.

How do we resolve the fact that our finite brains can conceive of mental spaces far more vast than the known physical universe and more numerous than all of the atoms? For example, the total possible state-space of a game of chess is well defined, finite, but much larger than the number of atoms in the universe ( Obviously, all of these states "exist" in some nebulous sense insofar as the rules of chess describe the boundaries of the possible space, and any particular instance within that space we conceive of is instantly manifest as soon as we think of it. But what is the nature of this existence, since it is equally obvious that the entire state-space can never actually be manifest simultaneously in our universe, as even the idea of a board position requires more than one atom to manifest that mental event? Yet through abstraction, we can casually refer to many such hyper-huge spaces. We can talk of infinite number ranges like the integers, and "bigger"...

To add a word or two to Dan's great response: there is no questionthatmathematics deals with infinite collections, but what those are, whatwe mean when we make claims about them, which claims are correct —these have been hotly disputed issues for thousands of years. (Inthe history of mathematics, concern for these foundational questionshas waxed and waned. There have been times, for instance in theearly part of the twentieth century, when disputes over these issues,were very heated and split the mathematical community. There have beenother times, for instance now, when mathematicians have been lessinterested in these issues — although of course there are alwaysexceptions, like Dan.) The basic question — what does it mean to call aset "infinite"? — is so fundamental that it's simply astounding that wedon't know how to answer it. Onone way of looking at the matter, what Dan called "platonism", to saythat a set is infinite is simply to have given a measure of its size.To say that a set is infinite is...