Descartes view of the relationship between mind and body

René Descartes (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

descartes view of the relationship between mind and body

Descartes: Relationship Between Mind and Body Essay The other point of view said that body and mind works together as a unity and mutually influences. view is: how can mind and body interact if they differ in this way? .. senses and for the relationship between an appetitive act, a desire, and a. My view is that this gland is the principal seat of the soul, and the His posited relation between mind and body is called Cartesian.

This means that the ideas of mind and body represent two natures that have absolutely nothing in common. And, it is this complete diversity that establishes the possibility of their independent existence. To answer this question, recall that every idea of limited or finite things contains the idea of possible or contingent existence, and so Descartes is conceiving mind and body as possibly existing all by themselves without any other creature.

Since there is no doubt about this possibility for Descartes and given the fact that God is all powerful, it follows that God could bring into existence a mind without a body and vice versa just as Descartes clearly and distinctly understands them.

For when I consider the mind, or myself in so far as I am merely a thinking thing, I am unable to distinguish any parts within myself; I understand myself to be something quite single and complete…. By contrast, there is no corporeal or extended thing that I can think of which in my thought I cannot easily divide into parts; and this very fact makes me understand that it is divisible.

This one argument would be enough to show me that the mind is completely different from the body…. I understand the mind to be indivisible by its very nature. I understand body to be divisible by its very nature. Therefore, the mind is completely different from the body. Notice the conclusion that mind and body are really distinct is not explicitly stated but can be inferred from 3.

Mod-01 Lec-10 Descartes: the mind-body dualism; the concept of God and proofs for Gods existence

What is interesting about this formulation is how Descartes reaches his conclusion. He does not assert a clear and distinct understanding of these two natures as completely different but instead makes his point based on a particular property of each. So, here Descartes is arguing that a property of what it is to be a body, or extended thing, is to be divisible, while a property of what it is to be a mind or thinking thing is to be indivisible.

First, it is easy to see that bodies are divisible. Just take any body, say a pencil or a piece of paper, and break it or cut it in half. Now you have two bodies instead of one. Second, based on this line of reasoning, it is easy to see why Descartes believed his nature or mind to be indivisible: Therefore, the body is essentially divisible and the mind is essentially indivisible: Here it should be noted that a difference in just any non-essential property would have only shown that mind and body are not exactly the same.

For two things could have the same nature, for example, extension, but have other, changeable properties or modes distinguishing them. Hence, these two things would be different in some respect, for example, in shape, but not completely different, since both would still be extended kinds of things. Consequently, Descartes needs their complete diversity to claim that he has completely independent conceptions of each and, in turn, that mind and body can exist independently of one another.

Descartes can reach this stronger conclusion because these essential properties are contradictories. On the one hand, Descartes argues that the mind is indivisible because he cannot perceive himself as having any parts. On the other hand, the body is divisible because he cannot think of a body except as having parts. Hence, if mind and body had the same nature, it would be a nature both with and without parts.

Yet such a thing is unintelligible: Notice that, as with the first version, mind and body are here being defined as opposites. This implies that divisible body can be understood without indivisible mind and vice versa.

Accordingly each can be understood as existing all by itself: However, unlike the first version, Descartes does not invoke the doctrine of clear and distinct ideas to justify his premises. But if removed from this apparatus, it is possible that Descartes is mistaken about the indivisibility of the mind, because the possibility of the mind requiring a brain to exist would still be viable. This would mean that, since extension is part of the nature of mind, it would, being an extended thing, be composed of parts and, therefore, it would be divisible.

As a result, Descartes could not legitimately reach the conclusion that mind and body are completely different. This would also mean that the further, implicit conclusion that mind and body are really distinct could not be reached either.

The Mind-Body Problem The real distinction of mind and body based on their completely diverse natures is the root of the famous mind-body problem: Their concern arises from the claim at the heart of the real distinction argument that mind and body are completely different or opposite things. The complete diversity of their respective natures has serious consequences for the kinds of modes each can possess.

It makes no sense to ascribe such modes to entirely extended, non-thinking things like stones, and therefore, only minds can have these kinds of modes.

Mind–body dualism

Conversely, it makes no sense to ascribe modes of size, shape, quantity and motion to non-extended, thinking things. For example, the concept of an unextended shape is unintelligible.

descartes view of the relationship between mind and body

Therefore, a mind cannot be understood to be shaped or in motion, nor can a body understand or sense anything. The arm moving upward is the effect while the choice to raise it is the cause. The crux of their concern was that in order for one thing to cause motion in another, they must come into contact with one another as, for example, in the game of pool the cue ball must be in motion and come into contact with the eight-ball in order for the latter to be set in motion.

Accordingly, the mind does not have a surface that can come into contact with the body and cause it to move. So, it seems that if mind and body are completely different, there is no intelligible explanation of voluntary bodily movement.

Again, since the mind is incapable of having motion and a surface, no intelligible explanation of sensations seems possible either. Therefore, the completely different natures of mind and body seem to render their causal interaction impossible. The consequences of this problem are very serious for Descartes, because it undermines his claim to have a clear and distinct understanding of the mind without the body.

For humans do have sensations and voluntarily move some of their bodily limbs and, if Gassendi and Elizabeth are correct, this requires a surface and contact. Since the mind must have a surface and a capacity for motion, the mind must also be extended and, therefore, mind and body are not completely different.

Hence, Descartes has not adequately established that mind and body are two really distinct substances. His response to Gassendi is a telling example: These questions presuppose amongst other things an explanation of the union between the soul and the body, which I have not yet dealt with at all. But I will say, for your benefit at least, that the whole problem contained in such questions arises simply from a supposition that is false and cannot in any way be proved, namely that, if the soul and the body are two substances whose nature is different, this prevents them from being able to act on each other AT VII First, Descartes contends that a response to this question presupposes an explanation of the union between the mind or soul and the body.

Second, Descartes claims that the question itself stems from the false presupposition that two substances with completely different natures cannot act on each other. Further examination of these two points will occur in reverse order. The relevant portion of this discussion is when Descartes argues that the less real cannot cause something that is more real, because the less real does not have enough reality to bring about something more real than itself.

This principle applies on the general level of substances and modes. So, on this principle, a mode cannot cause the existence of a substance since modes are less real than finite substances. Similarly, a created, finite substance cannot cause the existence of an infinite substance. But a finite substance can cause the existence of another finite substance or a mode since modes are less real than substances.

More will be said about this below. The first presupposition concerns an explanation of how the mind is united with the body. These texts indicate that Descartes did not maintain that voluntary bodily movements and sensation arise because of the causal interaction of mind and body by contact and motion. Rather, he maintains a version of the form-matter theory of soul-body union endorsed by some of his scholastic-Aristotelian predecessors and contemporaries.

Although a close analysis of the texts in question cannot be conducted here, a brief summary of how this theory works for Descartes can be provided. Before providing this summary, however, it is important to disclaim that this scholastic-Aristotelian interpretation is a minority position amongst Descartes scholars.

Other philosophers considered the mind-body problem to be insurmountable, thereby denying their real distinction: Indeed, this traditional, mechanistic interpretation of Descartes is so deeply ingrained in the minds of philosophers today, that most do not even bother to argue for it. However, recall that Descartes rejects substantial forms because of their final causal component. Since the mind is an entirely mental thing, these arguments just do not apply to it.

Indeed, as Paul Hoffman noted: Descartes really rejects the attempt to use the human soul as a model for explanations in the entirely physical world.

This makes it possible that Descartes considered the human mind to be the only substantial form. Yet, if the soul is recognized as merely a substantial form, while other such forms consist in the configuration and motion of parts, this very privileged status it has compared with other forms shows that its nature is quite different from theirs AT III Although other passages do not make this claim explicitly, they do imply in some sense that the mind is a substantial form.

This was a point of some controversy amongst the scholastics themselves. While others, maintaining a basically Scotistic position, argued that some other form besides the human soul is the form of the body.

Rather it makes a body with the potential for union with the human soul. The soul then actualizes this potential resulting in a complete human being. If Descartes did hold a fundamentally scholastic theory of mind-body union, then is it more Thomistic or Scotistic? Since intellect and will are the only faculties of the mind, it does not have the faculty for organizing matter for being a human body.

Although Descartes argues that bodies, in the general sense, are constituted by extension, he also maintains that species of bodies are determined by the configuration and motion of their parts. Recall that substantial forms organize matter for the purpose of being a species of thing. The purpose of a human body endowed with only the form of corporeity is union with the soul.

Hence, the organization of matter into a human body is an effect that is explained by the final cause or purpose of being disposed for union. Hence, on this account, Descartes gets what he needs, namely, Descartes gets a body properly configured for potential union with the mind, but without recourse to the scholastic notion of substantial forms with their final causal component.

Another feature of this basically Scotistic position is that the soul and the body were considered incomplete substances themselves, while their union results in one, complete substance. Surely Descartes maintains that mind and body are two substances but in what sense, if any, can they be considered incomplete? He argues that a substance may be complete insofar as it is a substance but incomplete insofar as it is referred to some other substance together with which it forms yet some third substance.

This can be applied to mind and body as follows: This account is repeated in the following excerpt from a letter to Regius dated December This affinity between the two texts indicates that the union of mind and body results in one complete substance or being through itself. This just means that mind and body are the metaphysical parts mind and body are incomplete substances in this respect that constitute one, whole human being, which is a complete substance in its own right.

Hence, a human being is not the result of two substances causally interacting by means of contact and motion, as Gassendi and Elizabeth supposed, but rather they bear a relation of act and potency that results in one, whole and complete substantial human being.

This aversion is accomplished by the fact that modes of voluntary motion and sensations, by extrapolation should be ascribed to a whole human being and not to the mind or the body taken individually.

He then goes on to distinguish the notions of mind and body: Thus, not all physical actions are caused by either matter or freedom. Some actions are purely animal in nature, while others are the result of mental action on matter.

Historical overview[ edit ] Plato and Aristotle[ edit ] In the dialogue PhaedoPlato formulated his famous Theory of Forms as distinct and immaterial substances of which the objects and other phenomena that we perceive in the world are nothing more than mere shadows. In his allegory of the cave Plato likens the achievement of philosophical understanding to emerging into the sun from a dark cave, where only vague shadows of what lies beyond that prison are cast dimly upon the wall.

Plato's forms are non-physical and non-mental. It remained unclear however, even to Aristotle, exactly what Plato intended by that. Aristotle argued at length against many aspects of Plato's forms, creating his own doctrine of hylomorphism wherein form and matter coexist. Ultimately however, Aristotle's aim was to perfect a theory of forms, rather than to reject it. Although Aristotle strongly rejected the independent existence Plato attributed to forms, his metaphysics do agree with Plato's a priori considerations quite often.

For example, Aristotle argues that changeless, eternal substantial form is necessarily immaterial. Because matter provides a stable substratum for a change in form, matter always has the potential to change. Thus, if given an eternity in which to do so, it will, necessarily, exercise that potential.

Part of Aristotle's psychology, the study of the soul, is his account of the ability of humans to reason and the ability of animals to perceive. In both cases, perfect copies of forms are acquired, either by direct impression of environmental forms, in the case of perception, or else by virtue of contemplation, understanding and recollection. He believed the mind can literally assume any form being contemplated or experienced, and it was unique in its ability to become a blank slate, having no essential form.

As thoughts of earth are not heavy, any more than thoughts of fire are causally efficient, they provide an immaterial complement for the formless mind. Neoplatonism exerted a considerable influence on Christianityas did the philosophy of Aristotle via scholasticism.

The soul is the substantial form and so the first actuality of a material organic body with the potentiality for life. Since the intellectual soul exercises its own per se intellectual operations without employing material faculties, i.

Even though the intellectual soul of man is able to subsist upon the death of the human being, Aquinas does not hold that the human person is able to remain integrated at death. The separated intellectual soul is neither a man nor a human person. The intellectual soul by itself is not a human person i. Peter pray for us" would be more appropriate than "St. Peter pray for us", because all things connected with his person, including memories, ended with his corporeal life.

The thorough consistency between dogma and contemporary science was maintained here [24] in part from a serious attendance to the principle that there can be only one truth. Consistency with science, logic, philosophy, and faith remained a high priority for centuries, and a university doctorate in theology generally included the entire science curriculum as a prerequisite.

This doctrine is not universally accepted by Christians today. Many believe that one's immortal soul goes directly to Heaven upon death of the body.

This gave Descartes his first inkling that the mind and body were different things. The mind, according to Descartes, was a "thinking thing" Latin: This "thing" was the essence of himself, that which doubts, believes, hopes, and thinks.

The body, "the thing that exists" Latin: According to Descartes, animals only had a body and not a soul which distinguishes humans from animals. The distinction between mind and body is argued in Meditation VI as follows: I have a clear and distinct idea of myself as a thinking, non-extended thing, and a clear and distinct idea of body as an extended and non-thinking thing.

Whatever I can conceive clearly and distinctly, God can so create. The central claim of what is often called Cartesian dualism, in honor of Descartes, is that the immaterial mind and the material body, while being ontologically distinct substances, causally interact. This is an idea that continues to feature prominently in many non-European philosophies. Mental events cause physical events, and vice versa. But this leads to a substantial problem for Cartesian dualism: How can an immaterial mind cause anything in a material body, and vice versa?

This has often been called the "problem of interactionism. In his letter to Elisabeth of Bohemia, Princess Palatinehe suggested that spirits interacted with the body through the pineal glanda small gland in the centre of the brainbetween the two hemispheres.

However, this explanation was not satisfactory: Because Descartes' was such a difficult theory to defend, some of his disciples, such as Arnold Geulincx and Nicholas Malebrancheproposed a different explanation: That all mind—body interactions required the direct intervention of God.

According to these philosophers, the appropriate states of mind and body were only the occasions for such intervention, not real causes. These occasionalists maintained the strong thesis that all causation was directly dependent on God, instead of holding that all causation was natural except for that between mind and body. Naturalistic dualism comes from Australian philosopher, David Chalmers born who argues there is an explanatory gap between objective and subjective experience that cannot be bridged by reductionism because consciousness is, at least, logically autonomous of the physical properties upon which it supervenes.

According to Chalmers, a naturalistic account of property dualism requires a new fundamental category of properties described by new laws of supervenience ; the challenge being analogous to that of understanding electricity based on the mechanistic and Newtonian models of materialism prior to Maxwell's equations. A similar defense comes from Australian philosopher Frank Jackson born who revived the theory of epiphenomenalism which argues that mental states do not play a role in physical states.

Jackson argues that there are two kinds of dualism. The first is substance dualism that assumes there is second, non-corporeal form of reality. In this form, body and soul are two different substances. The second form is property dualism that says that body and soul are different properties of the same body.

We can know everything, for example, about a bat's facility for echolocation, but we will never know how the bat experiences that phenomenon. Arguments for dualism[ edit ] Another one of Descartes' illustrations.

The fire displaces the skin, which pulls a tiny thread, which opens a pore in the ventricle F allowing the "animal spirit" to flow through a hollow tube, which inflates the muscle of the leg, causing the foot to withdraw. The subjective argument[ edit ] An important fact is that minds perceive intramental states differently from sensory phenomena, [26] and this cognitive difference results in mental and physical phenomena having seemingly disparate properties.

The subjective argument holds that these properties are irreconcilable under a physical mind. Mental events have a certain subjective quality to them, whereas physical seem not to. So, for example, one may ask what a burned finger feels like, or what the blueness of the sky looks like, or what nice music sounds like.

There is something that it's like to feel pain, to see a familiar shade of blue, and so on. There are qualia involved in these mental events. And the claim is that qualia cannot be reduced to anything physical. Nagel argued that even if we knew everything there was to know from a third-person, scientific perspective about a bat's sonar system, we still wouldn't know what it is like to be a bat.

However, others argue that qualia are consequent of the same neurological processes that engender the bat's mind, and will be fully understood as the science develops. In this thought experimentknown as Mary's roomhe asks us to consider a neuroscientist, Mary, who was born, and has lived all of her life, in a black and white room with a black and white television and computer monitor where she collects all the scientific data she possibly can on the nature of colours.

Jackson asserts that as soon as Mary leaves the room, she will come to have new knowledge which she did not possess before: Although Mary knows everything there is to know about colours from an objective, third-person perspective, she has never known, according to Jackson, what it was like to see red, orange, or green.

If Mary really learns something new, it must be knowledge of something non-physical, since she already knew everything about the physical aspects of colour. David Lewis ' response to this argument, now known as the ability argument, is that what Mary really came to know was simply the ability to recognize and identify color sensations to which she had previously not been exposed.

descartes view of the relationship between mind and body

The zombie argument[ edit ] Main article: Philosophical zombie The zombie argument is based on a thought experiment proposed by David Chalmers. Chalmers' argument is that it seems plausible that such a being could exist because all that is needed is that all and only the things that the physical sciences describe and observe about a human being must be true of the zombie.

None of the concepts involved in these sciences make reference to consciousness or other mental phenomena, and any physical entity can be described scientifically via physics whether it is conscious or not. The mere logical possibility of a p-zombie demonstrates that consciousness is a natural phenomenon beyond the current unsatisfactory explanations. Chalmers states that one probably could not build a living p-zombie because living things seem to require a level of consciousness.

Hence Chalmers half-joking calls for the need to build a "consciousness meter" to ascertain if any given entity, human or robot, is conscious or not. In particular, nothing proves that an entity e.

It is argued that under physicalismone must either believe that anyone including oneself might be a zombie, or that no one can be a zombie—following from the assertion that one's own conviction about being or not being a zombie is a product of the physical world and is therefore no different from anyone else's.

Special sciences argument[ edit ] Robinson argues that, if predicate dualism is correct, then there are "special sciences" that are irreducible to physics. These allegedly irreducible subjects, which contain irreducible predicates, differ from hard sciences in that they are interest-relative. Here, interest-relative fields depend on the existence of minds that can have interested perspectives.

Physics is the general analysis of natureconducted in order to understand how the universe behaves. On the other hand, the study of meteorological weather patterns or human behavior is only of interest to humans themselves.

The point is that having a perspective on the world is a psychological state. Therefore, the special sciences presuppose the existence of minds which can have these states.

Descartes on the separateness of mind and body

If one is to avoid ontological dualism, then the mind that has a perspective must be part of the physical reality to which it applies its perspective. If this is the case, then in order to perceive the physical world as psychological, the mind must have a perspective on the physical. This, in turn, presupposes the existence of mind. In fact, it is common in science to presuppose a complex system; [38] while fields such as chemistry[39] biology[40] or geology [41] could be verbosely expressed in terms of quantum field theoryit is convenient to use levels of abstraction like moleculescellsor the mantle.

It is often difficult to decompose these levels without heavy analysis [42] and computation. This printer could have been made of straw.

This printer could have been made of some other kind of plastics and vacuum-tube transistors.

descartes view of the relationship between mind and body

Imagine the case of a person, Frederick, who has a counterpart born from the same egg and a slightly genetically modified sperm. Imagine a series of counterfactual cases corresponding to the examples applied to the printer.

Somewhere along the way, one is no longer sure about the identity of Frederick. In this latter case, it has been claimed, overlap of constitution cannot be applied to the identity of mind.

As Madell puts it: Any present state of consciousness that I can imagine either is or is not mine. There is no question of degree here.

Argument from reason[ edit ] Main article: Argument from reason Philosophers and scientists such as Victor ReppertWilliam Haskerand Alvin Plantinga have developed an argument for dualism dubbed the "argument from reason". Lewis with first bringing the argument to light in his book Miracles ; Lewis called the argument "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism", which was the title of chapter three of Miracles.

However, knowledge is apprehended by reasoning from ground to consequent. Therefore, if naturalism were true, there would be no way of knowing it or anything elseexcept by a fluke. To summarize the argument in the book, Lewis quotes J.

Haldanewho appeals to a similar line of reasoning: If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry in the long run on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.

One argument against Dualism is with regard to causal interaction.