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Descartes' Views On The Topic Of Philosophy Of Mind

1134 words - 5 pages

Descartes' Views on the Topic of Philosophy of Mind

Descartes has indeeed made some notable contributions towards the
philosophy of mind. It is the aim of this essay to discuss these
contributions.

Descartes is well known for being an avid dualist. This is the view
that the mind and body are understood to be seperate and distinct from
each other, but in some way causally connected. Descartes was no
exception and believed the mind and body to be two completely
different substances. He defines the body as an extended, non-thinking
substance and the mind as a non-extended, thinking sunstance. But it
not just these definitions that allow Descartes to adopt a dualistic
point of view. Descartes came to the conclusion in meditation I of his
discourse of method that any data received from the senses could be
doubted and therefore unreliable. As the body is known only through
the senses, Descartes was able to doubt the existence of such a body
and all other bodies for that. In meditation II however he arrives at
the knowledge that doubting the mind is incoherent, as a mind is
needed in order to proceed wth such doubts. Because the body can be
doubted and the mind can indubitedly not Descartes concludes that they
are distinct. This is known as Cartesian Dualism. However in
concluding that the mind and body are distinct Descartes is left with
the problem of explaining how they interact. The problem starts with
his concepton of the mind, which as stated earlier is a thinking,
non-extended substance, that Descartes believes isn't actually located
in the body but in a non-physical realm. How then does this
non-physical substance interact with a physical substance and vice
versa? Descartes fails to give an account of how they interact,
suggesting only that there is a place in the brain whereby they
interact known as the Pineal Gland. However this is all Descartes says
on the subject concluding that there must be some way in which they
are connceted (which god knows).

With Descartes being a dualist, he fundamentally thought that the mind
was more important than the body. After all the mind cannot be doubted
whereas the body can. Infact for Descartes the mind is primary and if
a question of identity should arise the mind should be associated as
the 'self'. He argues that even if he didn't have a body he would
essentially be the same as long as he had his mind with all the
correct falculties intact. But Descartes went further than this and
defined the fundamental element of the mind and his existence as the
ability to think. As long as Descartes continued to think he would
continue to exist. It is in meditation II that this line of thinking
emerges and lead Descartes to his famous maxim, "cogito ergo sum" or
in English "I think there I am." This maxim is free from universal
doubt and is...

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