Dualism is a broad term that can encompass many areas within philosophy itself. In aspect to metaphysics, it classifies the types of entities in the world into two subcategories, physical and non physical substance. While this may appear to be a very wide and ambiguous opinion, it becomes very specific in regards to our own existence. Paul Churchland puts it very explicitly in his book Matter and Consciousness, and defines dualism as the idea that, “the essential nature of conscious intelligence resides in something nonphysical” (Churchland 1). Though dualism is a highly regarded and popular view on the state of existence, its core arguments present an array of problems that detract from the credibility of its reality.
Rene Descartes, who has been often called the Father of Western Philosophy (Wikipedia Descartes), entered the scene in Europe in the 17th century. Galileo’s imprisonment and the church’s monopoly on knowledge had put a damper on scientific learning throughout Europe. This, coupled with Aristotle’s outdated theories which held much weight in the domain of science and philosophies had spread a growing sense of skepticism throughout the world. Descartes’ Meditations were the first real response to this dangerous approach. He started off by embracing skepticism’s notion that all of his ideas of the world must be shaken and then attempt to build a model from the ground up. Through the series of Meditations he arrives upon a critical point that he says cannot be refuted and begins to model his idea of the world from that point. This point is one of the most the most quoted phrases in philosophy, “Cogito ergo sum”, that is, “I think therefore I am” (Descartes Mediation 2). He states that were his whole perception of the world and everything in it wrong, or merely an illusion, he cannot deny the fact that there is someone who is being deceived, namely himself, positing his existence.
Building off his established idea of the Cogito, Descartes continues to formulate an idea of how the world operates. He arrives upon one of the most widely held metaphysical opinions, especially among a majority of the world’s religions, which is mind-body dualism. Mind-body dualism states that there are two types of entities in the world; those which have extension and measurable qualities such as the body and existing separately is the non physical mind.
To support his claim of dualism, Descartes presents a number of arguments that attempt to prove that the mind is separate from his body. Two of his strongest points are from the conceivability argument and divisibility argument. Further reinforcement of his claims comes from the idea of privileged first-person access, where he concludes that only an individual has full access to his own thoughts and state of mind.
Descartes’ conceivability argument follows as such (Descartes Meditation 6):
1) I can conceive of my existence without my body.
2) If I can conceive...