Rene Descartes and His Define the Mind and the Body

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Descartes is a very well-known philosopher that was born on March 31, 1596 in France. Although he is no longer here, his works have continued to make an impact on millions of students today, and for many days to follow. He has been awarded the nickname of “Father of Modern Philosophy” (A&E Television Networks, 2018).

There is a very common debate that has made its way into today’s modern day society. The debate of mind and body dualism/monism. Descartes says, “a substance is an existent thing which requires nothing for itself to exist” (Class Notes). Descartes defines a substance due to the fact that he constantly uses this word to define both the mind and the body, he just thinks that they are two separate substances that differ in many ways. Descartes is a true believer in mind body dualism which translates to meaning the mind and body are separate substances that make up a person’s whole.

Both the mind and the body are substances, although they differ in types. The mind is stated to be a thinking substance, while the bodies are called extended substances (Class Notes). The way I interpret what Descartes is saying here, is the body is relying on its ability to extend, in mainly depth. Our bodies are of our own. The mind thinks for our bodies and sends messages telling it what to do. There are many different connections between the mind and body. Descartes states, “that neither substances depend on the other to exist and neither has the attributes or modes of the other” (Class Notes).

I however, tend to disagree with this. There are both physical and emotional ties between the two different substances. The physical aspect being that the mind mostly controls the body, without our minds our body would have no sense of anything, but the mind without the body just as unrealistic. The mind needs something to control. So, although they fall under different definitions, it is safe to say, in my individual, unprofessional opinion that these two substances rely on each other pretty heavily.

Descartes brings in other arguments to aid his theory and to attempt to justify his reasoning. He further explains how impossible it is to say that the mind and body are one in the same. Saying this would mean that the body is a mind and the mind is the body. This is not the case. He states the basic argument as being, “If x is a body then x is extended, and if x is extended then x is divisible into voluminous parts; but since no mind (or mental property) is divisible into voluminous parts, the mind is not extended and is not a body” (Class Notes).

Descartes says, “the two kinds of substances which make us each a person intermingle in such a way that the casually act upon each other” (Pojman, 291). Descartes understands that these two important substances that combine to create a human are connected in certain ways. He recognizes that, but he also stands by his argument when he says one does not depend on the other. They are two separate things with two different jobs, that at times complement one another. Although Descartes is an astounding, intelligent philosopher that will continue to remain known all throughout history, he admits to having certain doubts. Descartes doubts the truth of all he believes based on sensory experience due to the fact that he only doubts his reasoning in order to find out what is truly certain. (Class Notes).

By figuring out what his body and mind accepts him to be doing, allows a possibility for complete certainty. He also makes a point to argue that the body cannot be a mind. He brings up the basic argument saying, “an essential property of a mind is the capacity to think. No body can think. Thus, no body is a mind” (Class Notes). Descartes acknowledges that there is a relationship between the body and mind, although he still stands by his original theory that they are two distinct substances. Descartes says, “And although I may, or rather, as I will shortly say, although I certainly do possess a body with which I am very closely conjoined; nevertheless because, on the one hand, I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, in as far as I am only a thinking and extended thing, and as, on the other hand, I possess a distinct idea of body, in as far as it is only an extended and unthinking thing, it is certain that I, that is, my mind, by which I am what I am, is entirely and truly distinct from my body, and may exist without it” (Speaks, 2006).

I understand that they are different in certain ways, but the body and mind do work together daily to perform normal human functions. That being said, they do depend on each other. The mind causes our limbs in our bodies to move an perform specific actions, while the body’s organs can trigger sensations in the mind (Skirry, 1970). Descartes says that, “the mind interacts with the body at the pineal gland” (McLeod, 2007).

The opposite of dualism, is monism. If dualism is the thought that the body and mind appear as separate entities, monism is the belief that the body and mind are one in the same. This debate has been going on for many years and continues to be discussed today. There are two different times of monism; materialism and phenomenalism. “Materialism is the belief that nothing exists apart from the material world (physical matter like the brain); materialist psychologists generally agree that consciousness (the mind) is the function of the brain” (McLeod, 2007). “Phenomenalism believes that physical objects and events are reducible to mental objects, properties, events. Ultimately, only mental objects exist” (McLeod, 2007).

Both types of monism point to the obvious fact that both the mind and the body do rely on each other to perform accurately. This debate has gotten psychologists, philosophers and even doctors involved. Although there are professional opinions in each category, I believe that there are pieces in each theory that makes sense. That is what I believe makes this debate so hard to solve once and for all. Descartes says that if they were the same, the mind would have the ability to perform bodily functions and the mind would have the ability to perform bodily functions, which I agree doesn’t add up. On the contrary, I do believe that they work together in order to perform normally. They do depend on each other in many ways.

Although there are two different sides to this argument, I think no matter what opinion people have or what side people take, people can all agree that there is some sort of relationship between both the mind and body. Whether they are two different entities or the same, they are grouped together in one way or another.


Cite this paper

Rene Descartes and His Define the Mind and the Body. (2021, Jul 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/rene-descartes-and-his-define-the-mind-and-the-body/

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