Essay #2: Descartes
In the Sixth Meditation, Descartes argues that, "there is a great difference between the mind and the body (59)." In this paper I will challenge Descartes' by showing that his idea of the mind and the body as two separate entities, or "mind body dualism" is invalid.
At a very early stage in Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes attempts to rid himself of everything that he thought he once knew, and reestablish his knowledge from the base. One of the first new concepts he determines must be true is "I am, I exist." He takes this concept as true because he has been doubting and thinking for his entire life, so he determines that there must be something performing those two actions. Once he has determined that he exists, Descartes asks himself what it is that exists. This leads him to a second realization; that he is a thing that thinks. Descartes then realizes that there must be something that enables him to think, and this thing, he reasons is known as the mind. Therefore, at this point Descartes is certain that he exists, he thinks, and he has a mind which encompasses the "faculties of willing, of understanding, [and] sensory perception(59)." Descartes has now offered full-proof reasoning explaining how he knows the mind exists. However, he cannot offer this same type of evidence for the body. Unlike the mind, he figures that the body is "essentially extended (61)" and cannot be proven to exist while he also points out that the body is divisible, but "the mind cannot be divided (61)." The reason for this, as Descartes explains is that one can doubt whether or not he has a body, but one cannot doubt that he is a thinking thing, and as stated earlier thinking things,
must have minds, proving that minds exist. Therefore, it is Descartes conclusion that the mind is completely different from the body. If we expanded on this thought one could see how in the meditations Descartes treats the mind and the body as two different types of substances almost like oil in water; they are together, but they don't mix, thus making them different. Next, Descartes reasons that because the body is essentially extended while the mind is not extended, he would be able to survive without his body. However, the same could not be said for his mind, once again leading to his overall concluding thought that the two must be completely different.
The main criticism of Descartes' argument revolves around his belief that the mind is different from the body. The premise Socrates uses to reach his conclusion is based on the flawed reasoning that because he knows he is a thing that thinks, and something must be doing the thinking, he must have a mind. While Descartes' original statement that he is a thing that...