Essay On The Soul By Elizabeth And Descartes

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Elizabeth writes a letter to Descartes asking him to explain to her the relationship “there is between the soul, which is immaterial, and the body, which is material” (Margaret A.: p16). She seeks this clarification particularly on the aspect that regardless of how the soul influences the body movements. This question comes following a claim that Descartes had made “regarding the body and the soul” (Gordon B. and Katherine J.: p17 -19). He had intimated that the body and the soul exist as single entities and that each has autonomous function. This is found in the philosophy of the dualism. “The function of the brain is to think. The function of the body, on the other hand, is to show movements” (Gordon B. and Katherine J.: p17 -19). It is for this reason that Elizabeth wonders then that if the body and the soul are independent, how comes that the soul can cause body movements? She trusted that the great philosopher of the time, Descartes, would have an explanation considering the matter. The body-soul relation was a concept that Elizabeth found impossible to comprehend. “According to what she had already known from the metaphysics back ground is that movement of a physical body could only be effected by the action of another physical body” (Margaret A.: p17). How the soul managed to cause the body movement despite it being immaterial was the mystery that Elizabeth thought that Descartes would solve. The answers that Descartes gave to Elizabeth are completely unsatisfactory in my own opinion. This is because of two major reasons. First, Descartes appears to avoid answering the question asked. To begin with, “he acknowledges the difficulty that there is in trying to understand the relationship between the soul and the mind” (Marga... ... middle of paper ... ... with the basic notions he had suggested in the letter. In the subsequent letter, he endeavors himself to explain in details what he meant” (Margaret A.: p19). However, to his surprise, Elizabeth is not yet convinced. She says that “despite what explanation Descartes has given so far, she still does not understand the manner in which the soul moves the body” (Margaret A.: p21). Therefore, it is clear that Descartes does not give a satisfactory answer to Elizabeth regarding the union between the body and the soul. In this regard, it is understandable why Elizabeth gets upset when she fails to get the answer she needed. Ultimately, the question is not answered and Descartes advises Elizabeth not to pay much attention to the meditation in order to explain the union of the body and soul. Instead, she should think of the union as an independent phenomenon.
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