The Theory Of Substance Dualism Essay

The Theory Of Substance Dualism Essay

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In his work Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes defines his existence, being the only concept he can perceive as true. Existence of self is a necessity that arises simply from introspective thinking; one exists “since [one can persuade himself or herself] of something” (Descartes). This definition gives rise to a separation of the human entity, as what defines a person is not the physical but rather the nonphysical (Descartes). Descartes’ view of two separate essences of a person constitutes a theory known as substance dualism, which states that humans are composed of two elements: a material component (which is purely physical and makes up the “body”) and a mental component (all cognitive thinking which makes up the “soul”) (Kleinman 87). Though critics of substance dualism may propose that the body and soul are a singular entity, these two aspects of man are distinct in such a way that there is no doubt of their division.
Suppose that an emergency vehicle, with sirens blaring, speeds down the street in front of a house in which two people are sleeping. Both people hurriedly awake from their sleep due to the proximity of the cacophonous sirens, anxious that the vehicle might be responding to an emergency near the residence. However, both soon realize that the vehicle is only passing by the house on its way to the true emergency. Upon this discovery, Person A’s anxieties about immediate danger are alleviated, and he or she drifts back to sleep. In contrast, annoyance and frustration that his or her restful sleep has been interrupted causes Person B to be unable to return to sleep. These composite people demonstrate a unique difference between the body and the soul. In this scenario, the body garners obvious informati...


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...to utilize the sciences, in this case biological sciences, to not only understand why the body reacted this way but also to repair it (Kleinman 89). Had Person B’s mind and body not been distinct from one another, no sciences would be needed as the material world would be easily explained and known to the mind (Kleinman 89).
In these ways, a separation of body and soul is clearly evidenced. All people are made of a physical body that, while essential to material existence, is not what composes one’s true essence, as these physical characteristics do not constitute individuality. A person is a “thing which doubts, understands, conceives, [and] affirms” (Descartes), and this cognitive ability is what makes a person distinct from all others. While the body and the soul interact with one another, they never overlap in such a way as to cause them to lose their division.

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