Top-Rated Free Essay

Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism

Better Essays
Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism
It can be very simple. Just look at the world and ask yourself, “Is everything material? Or are there things in the world that are not material, but I still know actually exist?” Then, ask yourself a second question, “How can I reach at a definition so that the two cannot be mistaken for one another other?” Descartes defined every material thing as having an extension, which is another way of saying it occupies space. Furthermore, those material things cannot share that space with other things. You must realize water or gas can be reduced to particles, and then they become extended things, so each occupies a unique portion of space. So the first substance that he referred to, which he called ‘res extensa’, is clearly matter. The things not viewed in this sense by Descartes, those which are not extended and do not occupy space, would include our mind, emotions and beliefs. So they must be considered non-material substances. These he referred to ‘res cogitans’, or thought-like things. Now the distinctions between the two are clearly obvious. If you can measure something in space, then it must be a material substance but if you can’t measure it, then it must be a thought-like substance. This is the origin of his mind-body dualism belief. A human being is both matter (flesh and bones) and thought-like things (mind, emotions, and beliefs).
Descartes argued that the nature of the mind is completely different from that of the body, and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other. This is why he also viewed the mind and the body to be totally separate beings, because a part of the body could be removed without taking away from the mind, but still closely intertwined. He goes on to say that the mind is really a thinking thing, while the body is really an extended thing or something that just occupies space. It helps by trying to view the mind as separate and independent from the body. Although we are human beings with a body and a mind, it’s said that the two separate entities are combined in one person. But one must always realize that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, which happens whenever we act. The mind decides to do something and the body does it, and damage to our brain or the influence of drugs on our body often affects our mind.
One way to understand the of concept mind-body dualism is for us to consider ourselves as a container that includes our physical body and our physical brain along with a separate non-physical mind, spirit, or the soul. The mind, spirit, or the soul is considered the conscious part that manifests itself through the brain in a way that is similar to the way picture and sound waves manifest themselves through the TV. The picture and sound waves are also non-material just like the mind, spirit, or the soul. This touches on the point that he made when he said, “Our mind is more than just our brain,” which is why I agree with it because we are more than what you can see and feel. We have various emotions that we experience on a day-to-day basis and none of them can be seen, heard, or touched, which could cause them to be considered non-material just as someone would say about the spirit or soul.
As a counterargument to Descartes, I want to briefly introduce the identity theory because it seems to present the most problems for mind-body dualism. While identity theory does not explain the subjective concept of mental states, it does take into account the practical observation of minds always being paired with bodies. However, the theory doesn’t fully account for minds being explained in terms of physical things. The mind allows an independent perception of things because, according to the dualist view, it is a non-material thing and therefore “not subject to the objective physical laws” which govern the behavior and working of the physical universe. The mind is free to explore and perceive apparently at will, which is what may explain why mental experience and perception must be independent from the other. It is for the reasons I just stated that I believe Descartes most accurate by establishing the mind as a more basic thing than physical things. It does seem far more believable that it will be possible to explain physical objects in terms of mental characteristics than it will be to explain mental characteristics in terms of physical ones, but I just thought the identity theory just presented the strongest counterargument to Descartes’ mind-body dualism.
While I personally agree with Descartes' overall findings and beliefs, I think his argument is a little inaccurate because of the nature of human existence and the inability of humans to correctly evaluate something with complete certainty. We are basically hardwired to doubt what we do not understand, but at the same time we also choose to believe that which we do not understand as well. Humans are willing to full heartedly devote themselves to the thought of anything, whether it is the understanding of what a soul is or what it is not. It all falls on the belief of each individual as far as what will be deemed “real”. I can believe there is such a thing as a soul, but someone else could believe that it’s just something that the physical mind has fabricated. I personally do not think that you have to necessarily believe in mind-body dualism in order for you to know or believe that there is life after death, because it is my belief that the mind is placed into a completely different body or form once this life here on Earth is over, i.e. reincarnation. In other words I’m saying that the mind lives on while the body is left here, therefore the need for both of them to exist together makes no difference when they are not both carried over into our afterlife. Once again, this is another question that is left up to perception and just personal belief. “I think, therefor I am” is Descartes’ most famous quote that explains his philosophical position on mind-body dualism. In conclusion, our minds and our body are two distinct substances, one material and the other non-material, both capable of existing apart.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Satisfactory Essays

    Mind-body dualism is a distinct kind of different of nature. Mind and the body are two different things and cannot be the same. Descartes believes that his mind is existing without his body and his body is existing without his mind. You can train your mind to believe or do anything if you tell it. Descartes uses an example saying that if someone believes the God exist, anyone can then believe or do anything they can imagine. Descartes concludes that since God can separate our mind from your body…

    • 247 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    What is mind-body dualism? Mind-body dualism simply distinguishes the mind and the body as two completely type of “substances.” According to Descartes the essential property of a material substance is extension; being able to take up space and time. One cannot observe what happens within the mind but can witness what happens to the body. Everyone is familiar with the function of the mind, which is the process of thinking and being able to tap into the body conscious. On the other hand, the body is the…

    • 490 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Descartes argues in “Meditation VI” that he can exist without his body. What is his argument for this? Can you similarly imagine existing without a body? If so how? If not why not? Discuss. The concern of the following paper is on the most significant premises found in Cartesian dualism, namely the mind-body dualism. Proposed initialy by French philosopher-mathematician Rene Descartes, the claim for an independent relationship between the existence of intelligable and corporeal things…

    • 878 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Philosophy HW 10/27/16 Descartes Upon observation, Descartes formulated a thesis called mind-body dualism, which summarized the idea that even though they coexist with one another, the material human body is distinct from the immaterial human mind. He states that he can derive the “essence” of himself without needing to account for his body and that essence is thought. Therefore, even though his mind may not be material, it still exists. But he can also derive the essence of his body, which is extension…

    • 824 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    transition, transcending the Cartesian Dilemma, aka, Descartes' Mind/Body dualism. Although we are each a single individual, our minds and our bodies seem to exist in two separate worlds which operate on separate rules. The dilemma is unifying the two, made possible by transcending the duality entirely. This allows the emergence of de-limited spirit which then provides the world with a third path, the Path of Neo, the path of peace. Descartes, like the crew on the Nebuchadnezzar, has faith that…

    • 366 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Mind Body Dualism

    • 838 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Borges October 18, 2014 Mind & Body Dualism I am going to argue for dualism, that mind and matter are two different things, one physical and one non-physical. Dualism is the theory that mental and physical or mind and matter are fundamentally diverse from each other. In philosophy, Dualists indicate the radical difference between mental and physical. Dualists oppose the idea that the mind is the same as the brain, and also oppose the idea that the mind is entirely a result of the brain…

    • 838 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Descartes Mind and Body

    • 1122 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Descartes has a very distinct thought when thinking about the mind, and how it relates to the body, or more specifically then brain. He seems to want to explain that the mind in itself is independent from the body. A body is merely a physical entity that could be proven to be true scientifically and also can be proven through the senses. Such things are not possible with the meta-physical mind because it is independent of the body. Building on his previous premises, Descartes finally proves whether…

    • 1122 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Descartes- Mind and Body

    • 2330 Words
    • 10 Pages

    Examine Descartes¡¦ account of the relationship between the mind and body. Do you find his arguments convincing? Descartes (1596-1650) is generally considered to be one of the most influential philosophers of the modern Western world. He has been called ¡¥the founder of modern philosophy¡¦ as he was the first man of any influence in philosophy to be interested and affected by physics and astronomy, as well as refusing to accept views of his predecessors, preferring to work out everything for…

    • 2330 Words
    • 10 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Mind-Body Dualism

    • 892 Words
    • 4 Pages

    an entity made up by a combination of both physical properties and mental properties. Folk psychology of soul proposed by Bering (2006) suggested “common-sense mind-body dualism” is a cognitive adaptation that evolved through natural selection. According to this quote, it is believed that individual is fundamentally constituted of body, mind and volition. For centuries, people have tried to discover what makes an individual from philosophical, psychological and physiological perspectives. At different…

    • 892 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Dualism; Mind v Body

    • 1535 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Dualism; Mind v Body Throughout the history of philosophy one of the strongest thesis’s in Descartes time as a philosopher was the idea of dualism. What is dualism? In short it is the theory that the mind and body are two separate substances. Although Descartes has his own arguments and support as to why dualism is true. The idea of dualism has been debated for centuries; it is basically on what one’s beliefs are if they think it is true or false. Descartes explanation of dualism was in his second…

    • 1535 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays