Philosophy essay

Topics: René Descartes, Mind, Soul Pages: 5 (1586 words) Published: February 27, 2014
This essay will focus on distinguishing the difference between what it is to be a material thing and a thinking René Descartes supports the claim that we as humans are made up of two separate substances, a mind and body, and this is what distinguishes a thinking thing or human being, from a material thing Peter Strawson critiques this argument and presents us with a strong rebuttal with two key arguments, the problem of the subject side and the identity and numerability argument. He is able to sway the conclusion in favour of the claim made in the title, that our belief is more certain that we are a material thing

Cartesian dualism is a key idea stressed by Descartes in his Second Meditation. It contributes to the belief that you are a thinking thing rather than a material thing and therefore undermines the claim in the title. When talking about a human being he contends that we are two part beings which are ontologically separate, composed of both mind and body with physical and mental entities. He distinguishes the mind as immaterial and detached from the brain and the body as simply a physical structure. The two are united through casual interactions which both contribute to the doings of a particular person, known as Cartesian dualism. Descartes uses the term consciousness as a source of knowledge, which each individual possesses, and states that everyone has their own mental occurrences through their unique soul. Descartes argues that the mind is able to exist separately from the body and is not dependent on it, we can therefore infer that the two are mutually exclusive. He has a mechanistic view of the physical world which means that matter follows its own rules, expect when controlled by the mind. Descartes argues that the mind acts like the strings of a puppet, namely the body. Descartes’ argument supports the claim that we believe we are thinking thinks, as thinking things have both minds and bodies which are separate from each other. He establishes that he is a thinking thing through his Cogito argument which will be explored in the next paragraph.

Descartes establishes his existence through the argument that the self is a thinking thing and therefore exists. His Cogito argument, ‘I think, therefore I am’ supports this claim and he uses this to prove his existence as a thinking thing and therefore provides the basis for the distinction between the mind and the body. The Cogito arouse from the doubt that Descartes had about all material things, leading him to his dualist approach. Put simply Descartes states that if he is even thinking about his existence, then he must exist and be a thinking thing due to the concept of his thoughts, which took place in his mind in the first place. He believes that he can be certain of the fact that “I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me, or conceived in my mind.” From his initial argument of doubt, which strengthens the argument that we are more certain that we are thinking things because we doubt in the first place, he determines that he necessarily exists and agrees that he has a body and bodily features, which are simply materialistic and have qualities such as shape and size. This further adds to the claim that we are more certain that we are thinking things because it is believed that the mind and body are separate entities, as his argument entails: “I am certain that I am a thinking thing. I am not certain that I am a physical thing. Therefore, I am not a physical thing.” Descartes is certain of this because his has the thought that he is not being deceived by an evil demon monster, an idea that will be explored in the following paragraph.

Descartes argues that the existence of the mind as a thinking thing is a priori, meaning that it’s existence is based on theoretical evidence rather than empirical observation. In his second Meditation, Descartes explores the idea of a thinking thing having attributes and predicates such as...

Bibliography: 1. F.P. Strawson, (19745) ‘Self, Mind and Body’ Freedom and Resentment and Other Essays, UK, Methuen &Co Ltd
2. Cottingham. J, 1986, (Rene Descartes Second Mediation, Meditations on First Philosophy)
3. “Meditations on First Philosophy”- Rene Descartes ed. John Cottingham (Cambridge University Press, 1986)
4. S. Guttenplan, J. Hornsby & C. Janaway (2003 eds.): Reading Philosophy; Selected Texts with a method for Beginners, UK, Blackwell Publishers
5. Philosophical Essay on the Self By Ferlin F. Pedro
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