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The Dualist Dilemma. This Essay Is A Critique Of Substance Dualism, An Ontology Embodied By The Likes Of Rene Descartes. Specifically, The Essay Attacks Several Of Descartes Own Dualist Principles.

1407 words - 6 pages

P.K.Philosophy 420Essay: 1The Dualist DilemmaEmbodied most emphatically by the writings of Rene Descartes, substance dualism outlines a specific ontological framework for the understanding of mind. Dualism specifically represents a philosophic uneasiness in the idea that mind is merely a projection of the physical, containing no innate or self-defining properties. More specifically, as evidenced in the writings of Descartes, and also Alvin Plantinga, the dualist seeks to ascribe a sort of substance quality to the mind, although quite distinct from that of the physical, in it's own realm so to speak. Further analysis shows that central to any dualist argument is a necessary individuality of mind and body respectively. In fact, Descartes meticulously severs (only to subsequently reconnect for distinctive purposes) the mind from the body, not to say that mind does not include some physical properties as well, only that it also exists above and beyond these distinctions in a separate realm of being. Relevant examination of the criterion pervading substance dualism reveals the necessary logic of its structure, which will be discussed in due turn, but more importantly several potential problems as well, insofar as common sense and logic requires, are seen to plague the viability of such an ontology in explaining the annals of mind.Necessary in a critique of a logical structure is diligent examination of its founding principles. Analysis of Meditations II and IV from Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy, and Alvin Plantinga's subsequent contemporary extension of these ideas in "Could Socrates Have Been an Alligator?" from The Nature of Necessity, provide adequate foundations of principal from which to launch an exploration of the viability of substance dualism. Descartes achieves his form of dualism by ascribing substance, in and of it self, to mind. This is to be taken above and beyond the obvious notion of "brain matter," which is itself a physical substance. Descartes extends that above and beyond physical brain matter, separate minds also exist which may only be categorized as "mental properties." "But notice that while I speak and approach the fire what remained of the taste is exhaled, the smell evaporates, the color alters, the figure is destroyed, the size increases, it becomes liquid, it heats, scarcely one can handle it, and when one strikes it, no sound is emitted. Does the same wax remain after this change (Descartes, 24)?" Proceeding from this famous "wax" example, Descartes points out the distinction between mind and body exists, because the changing form of the wax as it is heated goes beyond the realm of physical imagination, vision, or touch, and may only be ascribed to intuition of mind, a description of something with mental property. This displacement of body and mind is very convenient for Descartes, as it allows him to proceed from the idea of distinctness of body and mind, to the existence of corporeal objects, but most...

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