The Mind-Body Problem

The Mind-Body Problem

The mind-body problem, which is still debated even today, raises the question about the relationship between the mind and the body. Theorists, such as René Descartes and Thomas Nagel, have written extensively on the problem but they have many dissenting beliefs. Descartes, a dualist, contends that the mind and body are two different substances that can exist separately. Conversely, Nagel, a dual aspect theorist, contends that the mind and body are not substances but different properties. However, although Nagel illustrates the problems with Descartes= theory, Nagel=s theory runs into the problem of panpsychism. In this paper, both arguments will be discussed to determine which, if either, side is stronger.

The Mind-Body Problem: Dualism Versus Dual Aspect Theory

Perhaps the oldest problem in the philosophy of the mind is the mind body problem. The mind body problem arises from two basic observations: we have minds and we have physical bodies. Descartes and Nagel are philosophers who examined this problem with the intent to learn the true relationship between the mind and body. Although they share this in common, their philosophies differ greatly. Through the examination of each philosopher=s position, this paper will attempt to show how Descartes and Nagel used two different theories, dualism and the dual aspect theory, to satisfy the mind-body problem and which argument is the stronger of the two.

Descartes argued in his AMeditations on First Philosophy@ that the mind is a thinking, non-divisible, non-extended thing and that the body is a non-thinking, divisible, extended thing. In his sixth Meditation, Descartes states A...I have a body with which I am very closely united, nevert...

... middle of paper ... the relationship between the mind and the mental states than Descartes. However, neither theory should be fully accepted and the search for an answer to the problem should continue.

According to Nagel, the integrated theory of reality needed in order to solve the mind-body problem probably will not arrive for centuries, but when it does, Ait will alter our conception of the universe as radically as anything has to date@ (Nagel 51). I believe Nagel is right with this statement because not only do we need new Aintellectual tools,@ we also need to avoid limiting ourselves in our search for the true relationship between the mind and the body.


Works Cited

Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1951.

Nagel, Thomas. The View From Nowhere. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

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