How Successful Are Descartes Arguments For The Real Distinction Between Mind And Body? Upon Which Would You Place Most Weight?

2530 words - 11 pages

Let me begin by explaining the theory of the real distinction of mind from body.Rene Descartes was a dualist, he believed that the mind is an immaterial thing and is distinct from the body. He believed that the mind is not the body, is not dependant upon the body and so can exist without the body. It is however my opinion that Descartes is not saying 'when the body dies the mind will endure and exist separately' (it might very well have those connotations) but I feel he is saying that if the body had never existed in the first place there could still exist the mind.In order to form a basis from which Descartes can construct his arguments for the real distinction of mind from body, he first ...view middle of the document...

There must still be a 'he' to be deceived.This is then applicable to every individual. I can conceive that I am mealy hallucinating and this world which I take to exist could infect be nothing more than a construct of my imagination, as imagination is surly unbounded, and yet there must be an 'I' to imagine. There must be an 'I' to be deceived.I must therefore exist.Descartes has now found what he believes to be (and I am in agreement) an absolute truth, one that cannot be questioned and is definite; he exists.Descartes has now constructed a foundation from which he can build his arguments. This is known as the cogito.Descartes arguments for the real distinction of mind from body are named the following:The argument from doubtThe argument from clear and distinct perceptionThe argument from simplicity.The argument from doubtDescartes continues from the cogito as follows "...if I had merely ceased thinking even if everything else I had ever imagined had been true I should have no reason to believe that I existed. From this I knew I was a substance whose whole essence or nature is simply to think, and which does not require and place, or depend upon and material thing, in order to exist. Accordingly this 'I' - that is to say the soul by which I am what I am - is entirely distinct from my body, and indeed is easier to know than the body, and would not fail to be whatever it is, even if the body did not exist."3It seems to me that Descartes is saying that he knows he exists, this he cannot reasonably question, for when he does finds it absurd. However he can question whether his body exists with out coming across any such absurdity. He therefore concludes that the mind is, that is the 'I', must be distinct from the body and so can exist without it.To summarise:·(P1) Descartes is sure he is a thinking thing, a mind·(P2) Descartes is not sure he is a physical thing, a body·(C)Therefore Descartes is not a physical thingThe two premises (P1 and P2) are clearly true (at least to Descartes) and yet the conclusion doesn't follow. For he says he is certain that he is a thinking thing and he is certain that is either is or isn't a physical thing, therefore he isn't a physical thing. However we cannot say this for sure as the possibility that we are both thinking and physical things remains.I feel that this argument is not a complete one and the ambiguities need to be clarified.The argument from clear and distinct understandingDescartes says that 'all things that I clearly and distinctly understand can be bought about in the manor I apprehend them, all be it by god'He also says that 'I have a clear and distinct understanding of myself as a thinking unextended thing and I have a clear and distinct understanding of my body as an unthinking extended thing'He then goes on to say that the fact that he can clearly and distinctly understand that his mind could exist separately from his body, even if it requires god to do so, and so they are...

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