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A report on descartes on body and soul

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We shall begin with the logical problems. Descartes was a substance dualist and a product of the renaissance. He was influenced by Aristotle and the Christian world view.

He believed that the body and soul were two different substances. The body was matter and all matter was simply extension, inertia moved by other things or describable in terms of space, depth, distance or length.

This res extensa required something else to move it.

  • This is a mental event which will cause a physical event surely?
  • These examples demonstrate that the mind is like a ghost in the machine, an extra entity attributed when none is needed;
  • This is known as the Cartesian Circle;
  • This is a mental event which will cause a physical event surely?

It had no place in the spacio-temporal world. It was not in motion but simply an indivisible thinking thing.

In his work Meditations Descartes outlines the fact that his body is divisible. Descartes began the method of doubt. This led him to believe that the mind and body were separate as he could imagine his mind without a body. His mind was a single thinking thing, capable of doing other than that which the body desired.

  • The argument is fallacious as the concept of God in his mind relies on his mental faculties being correct and his mental faculties rely on the concept of God not being some evil deceiver;
  • This res extensa required something else to move it;
  • Descartes began the method of doubt;
  • Beginning from his famous Cogito , ergo sum Latin:

The logical problem arising from this was his contention that the mind could be separate from the body. He suggested that he may be being deceived by an evil deceiver but stressed that he had the concept of God as a supremely perfect being implanted in his mind.

Since God, being perfect, could not deceive him he could trust his mental faculties. This is known as the Cartesian Circle. The argument is fallacious as the concept of God in his mind relies on his mental faculties being correct and his mental faculties rely on the concept of God not being some evil deceiver. The argument is therefore circular and so fails.

Moreover, Descartes believed that God could do the logically impossible so it is plausible in this view, that God could be deceiving his faculties in to believing his thoughts are accurate. The justification of the sceptical method of doubting is too shaky to accept. The second issue we have is the issue of interactionism. Descartes believed that the mind and body were two distinct substances: The issue surrounds how the two substances could be seen to interact.

Rather like a ghost riding a bike it seems as though the mind is causally impotent. Yet this seems to be counter-intuitive. I am thinking about taking a sip of Green tea and Jasmine as I write. This is a mental event which will cause a physical event surely? This is a physical gland in the brain which he argues is indivisible unlike the rest of the body as indicated by the senses which come in pairs. The pineal gland is capable of single thought and so he concludes this is the link between the body and mind.

There are obvious problems with this.

Mind–body dualism

Secondly he seems to forget that we only have one tongue as a sense organ. Zinn 1749 argued that the brain is fully divisible after split brain experiments on dogs. However, the Functionalist Putnam might argue that at least in terms of pain we are similar enough in experiences for this criticism to stand. The last issue on interactionism comes through work following that of Descartes in the guise of Pre-established Harmony and Occasionalism.

Essay: Critically Assess Descartes’ View of the Soul

They both argue that the substance dualism Descartes outlines is correct. There is no causal relationship between mind and body for Leibniz and Malebranche as God is responsible for either setting up the two independent realities Pre-established Harmony or acting in each individual occasion Occasionalism.

  • This is known as the Cartesian Circle;
  • This is known as the Cartesian Circle.

It is as though these two separate tracks run in parallel. It seems obvious that I can cause physical things to happen and that my body has an effect on me.

The official doctrine as Ryle puts it, is just as Descartes describes, a separate substance for mental events and physical events.

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He demonstrates this mistake through several examples: These examples demonstrate that the mind is like a ghost in the machine, an extra entity attributed when none is needed. Descartes seems to assume that the human being is simple.

There is a relationship between the physical and mental but this does not necessarily mean that they are entirely separate as Ryle explains. Yet it still seems as though our subjective experience of mind or consciousness continues to defy full explanation.