Essay on Descartes ' Theory Of The Mind And Body

Essay on Descartes ' Theory Of The Mind And Body

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The foundation of Descartes’ theory of the mind and body rests upon his famous notion: ‘I think therefore I am’. As a prime advocate of modern philosophy, Descartes was both a rationalist and a substance dualist. He proposed the mind and body dualism theory in an attempt to explain everything physical. For Descartes, in order for material things to exist, the mind and body have to be separate entities. This essay will explore Descartes’ account on the relationship between the mind and body, through his accounts in his series, Meditations and go onto analyse Descartes’ arguments for the separation of the mind and body as two clear and distinct entities.
In Meditations on First Philosophy, first published in 1641, Descartes attempts to demonstrate his idea that an individual is composed of two separate entities: the mind and body. According to Descartes, the mind is a non-physical thinking substance with no extension, and the body is a physical substance which is extended in space (Gueroult, 1985, pg. 47). This notion is known as substance dualism. Descartes fused substance dualism with Cartesian aspects which formed into Cartesian duality (Voss, 1993). This philosophy explains the separation of the thinking self and a non-thinking body into two distinct entities which can both have casual effects on one other.
Descartes employs the argument from doubt as the first argument in Cartesian Dualism. In Mediation I, he claims that ‘simple truths’ are the only things that can undoubtedly be known because sensory perception is unreliable; a dream could be mistaken for reality and vice versa. He believes that even though it is possible to conceive the perception of his body to be false, the same cannot be done with the mind, because by d...


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...t. In Mediation II, Descartes claims that the extended substance of the body is different from the thinking mind (Voss, 1993, pp 16-28). As stated by Descartes, the mind, the body and God are the three substances of the world. The main qualities of each substances are as follows: the qualities of God cannot be known, the quality of the body is extensions, and the quality of the mind is thought. Following this, he expressed that “I know… that everything which I clearly and distinctly understand is capable of being created by God so as to correspond exactly with my understanding of it” (Cottingham and Descartes, 2013, pp 221). Therefore, by God creating minds, it isn’t necessary for the body to be created as well; and by creating the body, it isn’t necessary for the minds to be created. This underlines that the mind and body can exist as two distinct separate entities.

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