While Cartesian Dualism Is Untenable a Dualist Interpretation of Mental Phenomena Is Nonetheless Defensible.

Topics: Philosophy of mind, Mind, Consciousness Pages: 7 (2576 words) Published: January 2, 2013
Philosophy of Mind

While Cartesian Dualism is untenable a Dualist Interpretation of Mental Phenomena is nonetheless defensible.

Understanding the true nature of the mind has been a challenge that has existed for centuries. In fact many continue to seek for the real meaning of the mind and its relationship with the body. Indeed the mind excites curiosity in humans because mental phenomena are so basic to our own nature. Most persons agree that we are not merely bulks of matter, not just bodies; We are creatures that think, feel, experience, imagine, and make decisions so our mental aspect is of much importance and helps us to better understand our humanly existence.[i] Simultaneously we hardly deny that we have a physical aspect as well. But what is this mind that we speak of and claim to have? It is often hard to verbalize what we know the mind to the “I” that we refer to when use the first person pronoun to refer to our self? Many ideas have been advanced in response to this dilemma of the mind-body problem. Cartesian Dualism is one such idea and falls under the more general theory of Mind-body Dualism or simply dualism.[ii] Dualism states that humans are divided into two distinct and mutually irreducible types of substances: physical substances which are directly observable and obey well-known laws of physics, and mental substances which are not directly observable using any known measurement technique.[iii] Dualism exists mainly in two forms: Substance Dualism and Property Dualism. Substance Dualism in its most radical form is called Cartesian Dualism in honor of its most famous proponent Rene Descartes (1596-1650).[iv] He claims that the soul which is our mind, the thing that causes us to think and thus exist as human beings, is not made out of physical matter, but is intimately related to the body and continues to exist after death or destruction of the body.[v] In essence Cartesian Dualism purports that the mind is this immaterial, indivisible part of us which is responsible for all mental activity- thought, feelings, and experiences but the mind exists independently of our body, So when I speak of “I” as in “I have a cold, I am hungry” I am referring to the ‘thinking part’ of me that is my soul or mind as having these experiences. Descartes prominent saying “cogito ergo sum” “I think therefore I am” epitomizes the concept of Substance Dualism.[vi] His argument basically is that while it is possible to doubt everything regarding the physical world, even that we have bodies, we can hardly doubt that we think. He says here that the mere fact that we can conceive of ourselves as existing without a body is enough to reveal firstly that we can exist without a body and secondly that the essence of our being is our ability to think, our mentality or mind and not the body. Therefore we are not our bodies but we are our minds so to speak. So ultimately I am a soul. Property dualism on the other hand asserts the existence of a single, physical substance but argues that this single substance has two potential properties: physical and mental states that are not reducible.[vii] Dualism contrasts with Monism which states that all things in the world are substances of one kind. Material monism in particular states that the world consists of only physical entities but the theory fails to give a plausible account of the mind in purely physical terms taking into consideration the problem of other minds, transparency to self, consciousness and other issues surrounding the mind-body problem. In comparison with Monism dualism gives a fair account of reality as far as it proclaims the thesis that we are comprised of two parts: body and soul or mind, unlike materialism which in my view offers the options that I am either a body or solely a mind. The term substance is used here to refer to a particular thing that has certain essential properties and other accidental...
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