Descartes and Dualism
"I think therefore I am," the well known quote of Rene Descartes, is the basis of his theory known as dualism. The intermingling of mind and body or res extensa (extended substance) and res cogitans (thinking substance) displays Descartes' ideas of a "genuine human being" (Cottingham 7). Known as the father of modern philosophy, Descartes realized that one could not analyze a problem simply on the common sense level, but that one must "probe to the micro-level" (Cottingham 4).
Through his technique of doubting everything which he believed to exist and establishing a new philosophy, Descartes discovered that without a doubt, the only thing he could truly believe to exist was his own mind. He then supposed that a demon was deceiving him by causing him to believe that which he saw. With this idea, he concluded "all external things are merely the delusions of dreams" (Descartes' Meditations as cited in Cottingham 23) which the demon has devised. By being able to convince himself of ideas and by being able to be deceived by the demon, Descartes could assume that he existed. He also came to the conclusion that if he were to cease from thinking, he would cease to exist entirely (Cottingham 28).
"I regard the body as a machine so built and put together...that still, although it had no mind, it would not fail to move" (Descartes' Meditations as cited in Jones). Descartes' idea of the body being totally independent of the mind is known as the mechanistic view. Descartes explains this concept by offering the explanation that spirits enter the brain cavities, proceed to the nerves, and change the shapes of the muscles in order for movements of the body to take place. The mechanistic view compares the body to several different mechanical objects including clocks and fountains. However, Descartes found that the human body was in every way...