Cartesian Dualism - Separateness of the Mind and the Body – Essay Example

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The paper “ Cartesian Dualism - Separateness of the Mind and the Body“ is a  convincing variant on essay on philosophy. What is the mind? What is the soul? Why can we not feel the soul through our physical senses? Is the soul a proof of God’ s existence? These are but some of the questions that have bogged scientists, philosophers, and theologians of the early times. Religious views held that man is composed of the physical (which is the body) and the spiritual (the soul) and those that are beyond man’ s understanding belong to the gods.

Because of this view, early scientific and philosophical practices have tried to alienate the soul from the physical mind because of the inability of the physical senses to explain the constitution of the soul. For practical purposes, the soul was considered beyond the realm of science and more on the realm of theology and so scientists keep themselves off from discussions that relate to metaphysics. However, the intensity of the interests paid on the connection between the relationship of mind and matter, of body and soul, of the physical realm and the spiritual realm has not decreased over the years.

Contrary to it, new explanations were being developed to solve the mystery as Rene Descartes proposed his understanding of the duality of the mind and the body. Cartesian dualism centers its arguments on the separateness of the mind and the body. It proposed the notion that the mind is a thinking “ substance” and exists apart from the material body which is what he referred to as an extended “ substance (Descartes 32; Churchland 8). What led Descartes to look into the mind-body problem is the remote possibility that his thoughts and actions are directed by some “ malignant being” ; that he does not actually exist and no part of him is real (Descartes 32); and the only way to prove his existence is by looking at the objective things he can sure exist (33).

His philosophical problems fall into two general categories – what he is and who he is. The first problem requires him to make a material definition of his characteristics as an entity. He, as a material substance, can perceive himself through his senses- depth, form, substance.

So for him, the physical form, or the extended substance, has no meaning and can easily be manipulated. This thought is a direct consequence of the ages-long belief that thinking and creation are the principal attributes of all creations and that they are either purely thinking or purely geometric. If he is not of the form, then he must be an agent capable of thinking which assured him that he is a thinking entity and that in itself is an immutable truth. Knowledge about his thoughts as the only real existing identity within himself does not prove that his being a thinking entity provides him material substance.

There is a possibility that he is a thinking entity that has no real body and the manifestation of his being is just a product of his mind (Descartes 34). Thus he needs to construct a relationship between the thinking entity and the extended substance in order to explain why certain mental and physical processes follow each other. He connected the physical experiences perceived through the senses with his capacity for thoughts and how his thoughts were able to direct his actions through his mechanical body (Descartes 36).

He was able to deduce that man is a “ creature that was on his own account a curious compound of two incompatible substances, an incorporeal spirit and a purely mechanical body” (Cottingham 17).

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