"Descartes' dualist theory of Mind and Body has difficulty explaining how the two interact. What is the problem? Explain and evaluate Descartes' attempts to overcome it."
René Descartes (1596-1650) is known as the "Founder of Modern Philosophy" and the "Cartesian Dualism" although he was also an outstanding mathematician and scientist for his time. Influenced by notable Western philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, who maintained that man's intelligence could not be identified or be explained in terms of their physical body, he developed the idea that the mind is a nonphysical substance. Descartes was the first philosopher to clearly distinguish the mind from the brain. He believed that the brain was the seat of intelligence, whereas the mind was identified with consciousness and self-awareness. Descartes' most famous philosophical work is the Meditations on First Philosophy (1641). He formulated the mind/body problem in the form in which it still exists today, in the Sixth Meditation.
Before presenting the problem we need some background how Descartes defined the mind and the body. He explains in the Sixth Meditation that the mind is a non-extended thinking thing and that the body is an extended non-thinking thing. The definition he gave us was: "Now on the one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, in so far as I am simply a thinking, non-extended thing; and on the other hand I have a distinct idea of body, in so far as this is simply an extended, non-thinking thing. And accordingly, it is certain that I am really distinct from my body, and can exist without it." (1986, p.54). Later on in the Sixth Meditation he makes an observation that the body is by its very nature always very divisible, while the mind is not. He gives us an example that if a foot or any other party of the body is cut off, nothing has been taken away from the mind. He states that the mind is something single and complete because...
References: Descartes, R. (1641) Meditations on First Philosophy: with selections from the Objections and Replies, trans. by J. Cottingham, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986
Sorrel. T. Descartes, Oxford University Press, 1987
http://www.iep.utm.edu/d/descmind.htm (Descartes: The Mind-Body Distinction, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
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