Descartes Notion of the Mind/Body Problem in Relation to Free Will

Topics: Mind, Soul, Philosophy of mind Pages: 5 (1952 words) Published: April 21, 2013
Descartes notion of the mind/body problem in relation to Free Will Descartes took an extreme skeptical position by asking, “What is impossible to doubt, even when trying to believe that everything is false?” His answer was: "I think, therefore I am"; which is Descartes' most famous one-liner and is the one that explains his understanding of the dualism argument. The term ‘dualism’ has a variety of uses in the history of thought. In general, the idea is that, for some particular domain, there are two fundamental kinds or categories of things or principles. In the philosophy of mind, dualism is the theory that the mental and the physical or mind and body are, in some sense, radically different kinds of thing. The main discussion about dualism tends to start from the assumption of the reality of a physical world, and then ways of considering arguments for why the mind cannot be treated as simply part of that physical world. According to substance dualism, our minds and our bodies are two distinct substances capable of existing apart. Descartes substance dualism was based in the belief that the universe consisted of two different kinds of substances that he called res extensa (physical things) and res cogitans (thinking things). In other words, the essence of mind is thought while the essence of body is extension. This belief also leads to his assumption that Free Will is self-evident. In other words, if one is capable of doubting the existence of things learned through experience even when some of these may be true, then it is obvious that we have the freedom to disbelieve, thus free will. The full argument can be broken down into seven steps: (1) if I can clearly and distinctly perceive something, then God makes something that exists that corresponding to my clear and distinct perception, otherwise God would be a deceiver. (2) If I can clearly and distinctly perceive X and Y as complete things whose principal attributes exclude each other, then God can make X and Y exist apart from each other. (3) If X and Y can exist apart from each other (whether or not they really do) then they are really distinct. (4) I can clearly and distinctly perceive mind as a complete thing to which extension does not pertain. (5) I can clearly and distinctly perceive body as a complete thing to which thought does not pertain. (6) Therefore, God could bring it about that mind and body exist apart from each other. (7) Therefore, mind and body are really distinct (SparkNotes Editors). This argument is clearly understandable when we separate it as is shown at the previous line. In overall, what is most important to remember about the argument is if I am able to perceive is because I exist, if I exist a divine being must had created this thought on my mind, which would imply, that God make me able of perceiving mind and body as two completely separate substances; If God allows me to perceive this two things separate, then it must be truth that mind and body exist apart from each other. The problem for Descartes is two-fold. First, if humans are free, then that which is free is not subject to the laws of physics or res-extensa like Descartes called the term. By definition all physical things are subject to the laws of physics. When we contrast these conditions of physical laws, and we are talking about the mind, it fails. The mind which is described as the source of will, must be distinct from the body and must not be physical in the natural world. In other words, the presence of a mind allows human beings to transcend their physical bodies and be free. However, we need to be aware that even is Descartes is claimed this separation of substances, he recognizes that the mind is affected by the body in certain special way. He would argue this by explaining the religious concept of the soul. Descartes complicates the simplistic notion of "mind-body" by introducing "soul" as part of mindful awareness. This whole argument would turn from mind-body problem to...
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