The Nature Of The Human Mind And The Human Body

1405 words - 6 pages

In his book Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes talks about the nature of the human mind, and how the mind relates to the human body. With his famous declaration, I am, I exist, Descartes claims that “I” am “a thinking thing”, and therefore “I” exist (17-18). He also argues that the mind is better known than the body. In the Sixth Meditation, he further argues that there must be a clear distinction between mind and body. However, there is surely some connection between these two. In The Treatise on Human Nature, Aquinas argues that the soul is united to the body as its form (18). Plato, however, believes that “the intellect is united to the body as its mover” (21). In this paper, I am ...view middle of the document...

Descartes first supposes that “everything [he sees] is spurious”, and has no senses or body (16). In addition, anything around him, including sky, earth, etc. are all just illusions (16). Contradiction then comes out. Since Descartes has “convinced [himself] of something” (namely, that he has no senses or body), then “[he] certainly existed” (17). That is to say, Descartes’ doubt that he is nothing actually proves that he is something. Following the assumption, Descartes further argues that even if he supposes that all bodily things to be nothing, he is still something (18). As he says, he is “a thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has sensory perceptions” (19). Therefore, we can confidently say that he does exist and he exists as a thinking thing.
Now that we have just shown a person must exist as a thinking thing, we ought to make a distinction between the mind and the body. Otherwise it would be nonsense to talk about the mind as either the mover or the form of the body. In the Sixth Meditation, Descartes argues that the mind is distinct from the body in an explicit way. On the one hand, Descartes “perceived by [his] senses that [he] had a head, hands, feet and other limbs making up the body”, and he is pretty sure that he uses his body (or at least, part of his body) to sense hunger, thirst, emotions, shape, movement, light, etc. (52). Since he considers these senses to be basically reliable, he believes that he does have a real body. On the other hand, the human mind is different from the body. Earlier in this essay I said that Descartes believes a person is a thing that thinks, so Descartes has a clear idea of what he is – “a thinking, non-extended thing” (54). Descartes makes the argument that “[he] can clearly and distinctly understand one thing apart from another is enough to make [him] certain that the two things are distinct” (54). This argument is based on the idea that everything of which I have clear understanding does exist (I do not intend to expand on it here). Therefore, since Descartes clearly and distinctly understands the human body, “an extended, non-thinking thing” apart from himself, “a thinking, non-extended thing”, it would be natural to consider that mind is distinct from the body. Descartes further concludes that “[he is] really distinct from [his] body, and can exist without it” (54). Here “he” would be better interpreted as “his mind”, indicating that his mind is completely distinct from the body. It seems that Descartes believes that the mind can exist without the body, which is not consistent with Aquinas’ view. By saying that the mind is united to the body as its form, Aquinas implies that once there is a soul, there is a body. If the soul could exist without the body, then it cannot be the form of the body. On the other hand, Descartes does believe that the mind and the body...

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