Descartes' Views on the Topic of Philosophy of Mind

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Descartes' Views on the Topic of Philosophy of Mind

Descartes has indeeed made some notable contributions towards the

philosophy of mind. It is the aim of this essay to discuss these


Descartes is well known for being an avid dualist. This is the view

that the mind and body are understood to be seperate and distinct from

each other, but in some way causally connected. Descartes was no

exception and believed the mind and body to be two completely

different substances. He defines the body as an extended, non-thinking

substance and the mind as a non-extended, thinking sunstance. But it

not just these definitions that allow Descartes to adopt a dualistic

point of view. Descartes came to the conclusion in meditation I of his

discourse of method that any data received from the senses could be

doubted and therefore unreliable. As the body is known only through

the senses, Descartes was able to doubt the existence of such a body

and all other bodies for that. In meditation II however he arrives at

the knowledge that doubting the mind is incoherent, as a mind is

needed in order to proceed wth such doubts. Because the body can be

doubted and the mind can indubitedly not Descartes concludes that they

are distinct. This is known as Cartesian Dualism. However in

concluding that the mind and body are distinct Descartes is left with

the problem of explaining how they interact. The problem starts with

his concepton of the mind, which as stated earlier is a thinking,

non-extended substance, that Descartes believes isn't actually located

in the body but in a non-physical realm. How then does this

non-physical substance interact with...

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... in a geometircal form.

Second, the fact that our imagination is directed towards the ideas of

bodies, means it is possible that such bodies exist. Finally, the

faculty of sense perception is an entirely passive ability to receive

ideas of physical objects. As one does not have any control over such

ideas, it follows that the ideas must be produced by some external

source (ie: a body itself). Descartes also suggests that other bodies

must exist if a non-deceiving God exists. For a non-deceiving god

wouldn't allow Descartes to believe that something exists if infact it

wasn't real. As to whether Descartes believes other minds exist is a

question left unanswered. This is probably due to the fact that one

can only ever have direct access to one mind (their own), and

therefore can only be sure of the existence of one mind.
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