Descartes body and mind relationship

Mind–body dualism | philosophy | vifleem.info

descartes body and mind relationship

Dual Theories of interpreting the Mind-Body Relationship. tradition stemming form Plato to Augustine and to Descartes —an apparently safe and simple way to . The Mind-Body Problem; Descartes' Response to the Mind-Body Problem .. that mind and body do not bear a mechanistic causal relation to each other. In the Discourse, Descartes presented the following argument to establish that mind and body are distinct.

The parallelist preserves both realms intact, but denies all causal interaction between them. They run in harmony with each other, but not because their mutual influence keeps each other in line. That they should behave as if they were interacting would seem to be a bizarre coincidence.

This is why parallelism has tended to be adopted only by those—like Leibniz—who believe in a pre-established harmony, set in place by God. The progression of thought can be seen as follows. Descartes believes in a more or less natural form of interaction between immaterial mind and material body. Malebranche thought that this was impossible naturally, and so required God to intervene specifically on each occasion on which interaction was required.

Leibniz decided that God might as well set things up so that they always behaved as if they were interacting, without particular intervention being required. Outside such a theistic framework, the theory is incredible.

Even within such a framework, one might well sympathise with Berkeley's instinct that once genuine interaction is ruled out one is best advised to allow that God creates the physical world directly, within the mental realm itself, as a construct out of experience.

Because this argument has its own entry see the entry qualia: One should bear in mind, however, that all arguments against physicalism are also arguments for the irreducible and hence immaterial nature of the mind and, given the existence of the material world, are thus arguments for dualism. The knowledge argument asks us to imagine a future scientist who has lacked a certain sensory modality from birth, but who has acquired a perfect scientific understanding of how this modality operates in others.

This scientist—call him Harpo—may have been born stone deaf, but become the world's greatest expert on the machinery of hearing: Suppose that Harpo, thanks to developments in neurosurgery, has an operation which finally enables him to hear.

It is suggested that he will then learn something he did not know before, which can be expressed as what it is like to hear, or the qualitative or phenomenal nature of sound. These qualitative features of experience are generally referred to as qualia. If Harpo learns something new, he did not know everything before. He knew all the physical facts before. So what he learns on coming to hear—the facts about the nature of experience or the nature of qualia—are non-physical. This establishes at least a state or property dualism.

See Jackson ; Robinson There are at least two lines of response to this popular but controversial argument. This essentially behaviouristic account is exactly what the intuition behind the argument is meant to overthrow.

Putting ourselves in Harpo's position, it is meant to be obvious that what he acquires is knowledge of what something is like, not just how to do something. Such appeals to intuition are always, of course, open to denial by those who claim not to share the intuition.

Some ability theorists seem to blur the distinction between knowing what something is like and knowing how to do something, by saying that the ability Harpo acquires is to imagine or remember the nature of sound. In this case, what he acquires the ability to do involves the representation to himself of what the thing is like. But this conception of representing to oneself, especially in the form of imagination, seems sufficiently close to producing in oneself something very like a sensory experience that it only defers the problem: The other line of response is to argue that, although Harpo's new knowledge is factual, it is not knowledge of a new fact.

Rather, it is new way of grasping something that he already knew. Demonstrative concepts pick something out without saying anything extra about it. Similarly, the scientific knowledge that Harpo originally possessed did not enable him to anticipate what it would be like to re-express some parts of that knowledge using the demonstrative concepts that only experience can give one.

The knowledge, therefore, appears to be genuinely new, whereas only the mode of conceiving it is novel. Proponents of the epistemic argument respond that it is problematic to maintain both that the qualitative nature of experience can be genuinely novel, and that the quality itself be the same as some property already grasped scientifically: Furthermore, experiencing does not seem to consist simply in exercising a particular kind of concept, demonstrative or not.

When Harpo has his new form of experience, he does not simply exercise a new concept; he also grasps something new—the phenomenal quality—with that concept.

How decisive these considerations are, remains controversial. This, however, can be disputed. The argument from predicate to property dualism moves in two steps, both controversial. The first claims that the irreducible special sciences, which are the sources of irreducible predicates, are not wholly objective in the way that physics is, but depend for their subject matter upon interest-relative perspectives on the world.

This means that they, and the predicates special to them, depend on the existence of minds and mental states, for only minds have interest-relative perspectives. The second claim is that psychology—the science of the mental—is itself an irreducible special science, and so it, too, presupposes the existence of the mental.

Mental predicates therefore presuppose the mentality that creates them: First, let us consider the claim that the special sciences are not fully objective, but are interest-relative. A mass of matter could be characterized as a hurricane, or as a collection of chemical elements, or as mass of sub-atomic particles, and there be only the one mass of matter.

But such different explanatory frameworks seem to presuppose different perspectives on that subject matter. This is where basic physics, and perhaps those sciences reducible to basic physics, differ from irreducible special sciences. On a realist construal, the completed physics cuts physical reality up at its ultimate joints: If scientific realism is true, a completed physics will tell one how the world is, independently of any special interest or concern: It would seem that, by contrast, a science which is not nomically reducible to physics does not take its legitimation from the underlying reality in this direct way.

Rather, such a science is formed from the collaboration between, on the one hand, objective similarities in the world and, on the other, perspectives and interests of those who devise the science. The concept of hurricane is brought to bear from the perspective of creatures concerned about the weather. Creatures totally indifferent to the weather would have no reason to take the real patterns of phenomena that hurricanes share as constituting a single kind of thing.

With the irreducible special sciences, there is an issue of saliencewhich involves a subjective component: The entities of metereology or biology are, in this respect, rather like Gestalt phenomena. Even accepting this, why might it be thought that the perspectivality of the special sciences leads to a genuine property dualism in the philosophy of mind? It might seem to do so for the following reason.

Having a perspective on the world, perceptual or intellectual, is a psychological state. So the irreducible special sciences presuppose the existence of mind. If one is to avoid an ontological dualism, the mind that has this perspective must be part of the physical reality on which it has its perspective.

But psychology, it seems to be almost universally agreed, is one of those special sciences that is not reducible to physics, so if its subject matter is to be physical, it itself presupposes a perspective and, hence, the existence of a mind to see matter as psychological.

If this mind is physical and irreducible, it presupposes mind to see it as such. We seem to be in a vicious circle or regress. We can now understand the motivation for full-blown reduction. A true basic physics represents the world as it is in itself, and if the special sciences were reducible, then the existence of their ontologies would make sense as expressions of the physical, not just as ways of seeing or interpreting it. The irreducibility of the special sciences creates no problem for the dualist, who sees the explanatory endeavor of the physical sciences as something carried on from a perspective conceptually outside of the physical world.

But psychology is one of the least likely of sciences to be reduced. If psychology cannot be reduced, this line of reasoning leads to real emergence for mental acts and hence to a real dualism for the properties those acts instantiate Robinson There is an argument, which has roots in Descartes Meditation VIwhich is a modal argument for dualism.

One might put it as follows: It is imaginable that one's mind might exist without one's body. The rationale of the argument is a move from imaginability to real possibility. I include 2 because the notion of conceivability has one foot in the psychological camp, like imaginability, and one in the camp of pure logical possibility and therefore helps in the transition from one to the other.

See, for example, Chalmers94—9. This latter argument, if sound, would show that conscious states were something over and above physical states. It is a different argument because the hypothesis that the unaltered body could exist without the mind is not the same as the suggestion that the mind might continue to exist without the body, nor are they trivially equivalent. The zombie argument establishes only property dualism and a property dualist might think disembodied existence inconceivable—for example, if he thought the identity of a mind through time depended on its relation to a body e.

When philosophers generally believed in contingent identity, that move seemed to them invalid. But nowadays that inference is generally accepted and the issue concerns the relation between imaginability and possibility. No-one would nowadays identify the two except, perhaps, for certain quasi-realists and anti-realistsbut the view that imaginability is a solid test for possibility has been strongly defended. There seem to be good arguments that time-travel is incoherent, but every episode of Star-Trek or Doctor Who shows how one can imagine what it might be like were it possible.

It is worth relating the appeal to possibility in this argument to that involved in the more modest, anti-physicalist, zombie argument. The possibility of this hypothesis is also challenged, but all that is necessary for a zombie to be possible is that all and only the things that the physical sciences say about the body be true of such a creature.

As the concepts involved in such sciences—e. There is no parallel clear, uncontroversial and regimented account of mental concepts as a whole that fails to invoke, explicitly or implicitly, physical e. For an analytical behaviourist the appeal to imaginability made in the argument fails, not because imagination is not a reliable guide to possibility, but because we cannot imagine such a thing, as it is a priori impossible.

The impossibility of disembodiment is rather like that of time travel, because it is demonstrable a priori, though only by arguments that are controversial. The argument can only get under way for those philosophers who accept that the issue cannot be settled a priori, so the possibility of the disembodiment that we can imagine is still prima facie open. A major rationale of those who think that imagination is not a safe indication of possibility, even when such possibility is not eliminable a priori, is that we can imagine that a posteriori necessities might be false—for example, that Hesperus might not be identical to Phosphorus.

But if Kripke is correct, that is not a real possibility. Another way of putting this point is that there are many epistemic possibilities which are imaginable because they are epistemic possibilities, but which are not real possibilities. Richard SwinburneNew Appendix Cwhilst accepting this argument in general, has interesting reasons for thinking that it cannot apply in the mind-body case.

In the case of our experience of ourselves this is not true. Now it is true that the essence of Hesperus cannot be discovered by a mere thought experiment. That is because what makes Hesperus Hesperus is not the stereotype, but what underlies it.

Mind–body problem - Wikipedia

But it does not follow that no one can ever have access to the essence of a substance, but must always rely for identification on a fallible stereotype. One might think that for the person him or herself, while what makes that person that person underlies what is observable to others, it does not underlie what is experienceable by that person, but is given directly in their own self-awareness. This is a very appealing Cartesian intuition: Now it could be replied to this that though I do access myself as a conscious subject, so classifying myself is rather like considering myself qua cyclist.

Just as I might never have been a cyclist, I might never have been conscious, if things had gone wrong in my very early life. I am the organism, the animal, which might not have developed to the point of consciousness, and that essence as animal is not revealed to me just by introspection. But there are vital differences between these cases. A cyclist is explicitly presented as a human being or creature of some other animal species cycling: Consciousness is not presented as a property of something, but as the subject itself.

Yet, even if we are not referring primarily to a substrate, but to what is revealed in consciousness, could it not still be the case that there is a necessity stronger than causal connecting this consciousness to something physical? To consider this further we must investigate what the limits are of the possible analogy between cases of the water-H2O kind, and the mind-body relation. We start from the analogy between the water stereotype—how water presents itself—and how consciousness is given first-personally to the subject.

It is plausible to claim that something like water could exist without being H2O, but hardly that it could exist without some underlying nature. There is, however, no reason to deny that this underlying nature could be homogenous with its manifest nature: The claim of the proponents of the dualist argument is that this latter kind of situation can be known to be true a priori in the case of the mind: What grounds might one have for thinking that one could tell that a priori?

The only general argument that seem to be available for this would be the principle that, for any two levels of discourse, A and B, they are more-than-causally connected only if one entails the other a priori.

And the argument for accepting this principle would be that the relatively uncontroversial cases of a posteriori necessary connections are in fact cases in which one can argue a priori from facts about the microstructure to the manifest facts. In the case of water, for example, it would be claimed that it follows a priori that if there were something with the properties attributed to H2O by chemistry on a micro level, then that thing would possess waterish properties on a macro level.

What is established a posteriori is that it is in fact H2O that underlies and explains the waterish properties round here, not something else: This is, in effect, the argument that Chalmers uses to defend the zombie hypothesis. The suggestion is that the whole category of a posteriori more-than-causally necessary connections often identified as a separate category of metaphysical necessity comes to no more than this.

If we accept that this is the correct account of a posteriori necessities, and also deny the analytically reductionist theories that would be necessary for a priori connections between mind and body, as conceived, for example, by the behaviourist or the functionalist, does it follow that we can tell a priori that consciousness is not more-than-causally dependent on the body?

It is helpful in considering this question to employ a distinction like Berkeley's between ideas and notions. The self and its faculties are not the objects of our mental acts, but are captured only obliquely in the performance of its acts, and of these Berkeley says we have notions, meaning by this that what we capture of the nature of the dynamic agent does not seem to have the same transparency as what we capture as the normal objects of the agent's mental acts.

It is not necessary to become involved in Berkeley's metaphysics in general to feel the force of the claim that the contents and internal objects of our mental acts are grasped with a lucidity that exceeds that of our grasp of the agent and the acts per se. Though we shall see later, in 5. The conceivability argument creates a prima facie case for thinking that mind has no more than causal ontological dependence on the body.

Let us assume that one rejects analytical behaviourist or functionalist accounts of mental predicates. Then the above arguments show that any necessary dependence of mind on body does not follow the model that applies in other scientific cases. This does not show that there may not be other reasons for believing in such dependence, for so many of the concepts in the area are still contested.

For example, it might be argued that identity through time requires the kind of spatial existence that only body can give: All these might be put forward as ways of filling out those aspects of our understanding of the self that are only obliquely, not transparently, presented in self-awareness.

descartes body and mind relationship

The dualist must respond to any claim as it arises: In this subsection, and in section 4. The ones in this section can be regarded as preliminaries to that in 4. Hume is generally credited with devising what is known as the 'bundle' theory of the self Treatise Book I, Part IV, section VIaccording to which there are mental states, but no further subject or substance which possesses them.

He famously expresses his theory as follows. I can never catch myself at any time without a perception, and can never observe any thing but the perception. Nevertheless, in the Appendix of the same work he expressed dissatisfaction with this account. Somewhat surprizingly, it is not very clear just what his worry was, but it is expressed as follows: In short there are two principles, which I cannot render consistent; nor is it in my power to renounce either of them, viz.

Berkeley had entertained a similar theory to the one found in Hume's main text in his Philosophical Commentaries, Notebook A, parasbut later rejected it for the claim that we could have a notion, though not an idea of the self. This Berkeleian view is expressed in more modern terms by John Foster.

A natural response to Hume would be to say that, even if we cannot detect ourselves apart from our perceptions our conscious experiences we can at least detect ourselves in them Surely I am aware of [my experience], so to speak, from the inside - not as something presented, but as something which I have or as the experiential state which I am in There is an argument that is meant to favour the need for a subject, as claimed by Berkeley and Foster.

If the bundle theory were true, then it should be possible to identify mental events independently of, or prior to, identifying the person or mind to which they belong. It is not possible to identify mental events in this way. Therefore, The bundle theory is false. Lowe defends this argument and argues for 2 as follows. What is wrong with the [bundle] theory is that But it emerges that the identity of any psychological mode turns on the identity of the person that possesses it.

What this implies is that psychological modes are essentially modes of persons, and correspondingly that persons can be conceived of as substances. To say that, according to the bundle theory, the identity conditions of individual mental states must be independent of the identity of the person who possesses them, is to say that their identity is independent of the bundle to which they belong.

Hume certainly thought something like this, for he thought that an impression might 'float free' from the mind to which it belonged, but it is not obvious that a bundle theorist is forced to adopt this position. Perhaps the identity of a mental event is bound up with the complex to which it belongs. That this is impossible certainly needs further argument. Hume seems, however, in the main text to unconsciously make a concession to the opposing view, namely the view that there must be something more than the items in the bundle to make up a mind.

The mind is a kind of theatre where several perceptions successively make their appearance; pass, re-pass, glide away and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situations. Talk of the mind as a theatre is, of course, normally associated with the Cartesian picture, and the invocation of any necessary medium, arena or even a field hypostasize some kind of entity which binds the different contents together and without which they would not be a single mind.

Modern Humeans - such as Parfit ; or Dainton - replace the theatre with a co-consciousness relation. So the bundle theorist is perhaps not as restricted as Hume thought.

The bundle consists of the objects of awareness and the co-consciousness relation or relations that hold between them, and I think that the modern bundle theorist would want to say that it is the nexus of co-consciousness relations that constitutes our sense of the subject and of the act of awareness of the object. This involves abandoning the second of Hume's principles. The Humean point then becomes that we mistake the nexus of relations for a kind of entity, in a way similar to that in which, Hume claims,we mistake the regular succession of similar impressions for an entity called an enduring physical object.

Whether this really makes sense in the end is another matter. I think that it is dubious whether it can accommodate the subject as agent, but it does mean that simple introspection probably cannot refute a sophisticated bundle theory in the way that Lowe and Foster want. Hume's original position seems to make him deny that we have any 'sense of self' at all, whilst the version that allows for our awareness of the relatedness accommodates it, but explains how it can be an illusion.

The rejection of bundle dualism, therefore, requires more than an appeal to our intuitive awareness of ourselves as subjects. We will see in the next section how arguments that defend the simplicity of the self attempt to undercut the bundle theory. Criticism of these arguments and of the intuitions on which they rest, running from Hume to Parfit The argument under consideration and which, possibly, has its first statement in Madelldoes not concern identity through time, but the consequences for identity of certain counterfactuals concerning origin.

It can, perhaps, therefore, break the stalemate which faces the debate over diachronic identity. The claim is that the broadly conventionalist ways which are used to deal with problem cases through time for both persons and material objects, and which can also be employed in cases of counterfactuals concerning origin for bodies, cannot be used for similar counterfactuals concerning persons or minds.

Concerning ordinary physical objects, it is easy to imagine counterfactual cases where questions of identity become problematic. Take the example of a particular table. We can scale counterfactual suggestions as follows: This table might have been made of ice. This table might have been made of a different sort of wood.

The first suggestion would normally be rejected as clearly false, but there will come a point along the spectrum illustrated by i and iii and towards iii where the question of whether the hypothesised table would be the same as the one that actually exists have no obvious answer. There will thus be a penumbra of counterfactual cases where the question of whether two things would be the same is not a matter of fact.

Let us now apply this thought to conscious subjects. Suppose that a given human individual had had origins different from those which he in fact had such that whether that difference affected who he was was not obvious to intuition.

descartes body and mind relationship

What would count as such a case might be a matter of controversy, but there must be one. Perhaps it is unclear whether, if there had been a counterpart to Jones' body from the same egg but a different though genetically identical sperm from the same father, the person there embodied would have been Jones. Some philosophers might regard it as obvious that sameness of sperm is essential to the identity of a human body and to personal identity. In that case imagine a counterpart sperm in which some of the molecules in the sperm are different; would that be the same sperm?

If one pursues the matter far enough there will be indeterminacy which will infect that of the resulting body. There must therefore be some difference such that neither natural language nor intuition tells us whether the difference alters the identity of the human body; a point, that is, where the question of whether we have the same body is not a matter of fact.

How one is to describe these cases is, in some respects, a matter of controversy. Some philosophers think one can talk of vague identity or partial identity. Others think that such expressions are nonsensical. There is no space to discuss this issue here.

It is enough to assume, however, that questions of how one is allowed to use the concept of identity effect only the care with which one should characterize these cases, not any substantive matter of fact. There are cases of substantial overlap of constitution in which that fact is the only bedrock fact in the case: If there were, then there would have to be a haecceitas or thisness belonging to and individuating each complex physical object, and this I am assuming to be implausible if not unintelligible.

More about the conditions under which haecceitas can make sense will be found below. One might plausibly claim that no similar overlap of constitution can be applied to the counterfactual identity of minds.

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In Geoffrey Madell's words: But while my present body can thus have its partial counterpart in some possible world, my present consciousness cannot. Any present state of consciousness that I can imagine either is or is not mine. There is no question of degree here. Imagine the case where we are not sure whether it would have been Jones' body—and, hence, Jones—that would have been created by the slightly modified sperm and the same egg.

Can we say, as we would for an object with no consciousness, that the story something the same, something different is the whole story: For the Jones body as such, this approach would do as well as for any other physical object. The creature who would have existed would have had a kind of overlap of psychic constitution with me.

The third answer parallels the response we would give in the case of bodies. But as an account of the subjective situation, it is arguable that this makes no sense. Take the case in which Jones and Jones2 have exactly similar lives throughout: Clearly, the notion of overlap of numerically identical psychic parts cannot be applied in the way that overlap of actual bodily part constitution quite unproblematically can. This might make one try the second answer. It is difficult to see why it does not.

Suppose Jones found out that he had originally been one of twins, in the sense that the zygote from which he developed had divided, but that the other half had died soon afterwards. He can entertain the thought that if it had been his half that had died, he would never have existed as a conscious being, though someone would whose life, both inner and outer, might have been very similar to his.

He might feel rather guiltily grateful that it was the other half that died. It would be strange to think that Jones is wrong to think that there is a matter of fact about this.

If the reasoning above is correct, one is left with only the first option. If so, there has to be an absolute matter of fact from the subjective point of view. But the physical examples we have considered show that when something is essentially complex, this cannot be the case.

When there is constitution, degree and overlap of constitution are inevitably possible. So the mind must be simple, and this is possible only if it is something like a Cartesian substance. His worries concerned the cramping effect that matter would have on the range of objects that intellect could accommodate.

Parallel modern concerns centre on the restriction that matter would impose on the range of rational processes that we could exhibit.

Godel, for example, believed that his famous theorem showed that there are demonstrably rational forms of mathematical thought of which humans are capable which could not be exhibited by a mechanical or formal system of a sort that a physical mind would have to be. Penrose has argued that Turing's halting problem has similar consequences.

In general, the fear is that the materialist monist has to treat the organ of thought as, what Dennett It works as a machine that only shadows the pattern of meaning. But it is hard to convince oneself that, as one, for example, reflectively discusses philosophy and struggles to follow what is being said, that it is not the semantic content that is driving one's responses.

But if we are truly semantic engines, it is difficult to see how we can avoid at least a property dualism. These issues are, of course, connected with problems raised by Brentano, concerning the irreducibility of intentionality. Despite the interest of the arguments for dualism based on the irreducible flexibility of intellect, most of the modern debate turns on arguments that have a Cartesian origin.

Problems for Dualism We have already discussed the problem of interaction. In this section we shall consider two other facets of dualism that worry critics. First, there is what one might term the queerness of the mental if conceived of as non-physical.

Second there is the difficulty of giving an account of the unity of the mind. We shall consider this latter as it faces both the bundle theorist and the substance dualist. Physical objects and their properties are sometimes observable and sometimes not, but any physical object is equally accessible, in principle, to anyone. From the right location, we could all see the tree in the quad, and, though none of us can observe an electron directly, everyone is equally capable of detecting it in the same ways using instruments.

But the possessor of mental states has a privileged access to them that no-one else can share. This suggests to some philosophers that minds are not ordinary occupants of physical space. Physical objects are spatio-temporal, and bear spatio-temporal and causal relations to each other. Mental states seem to have causal powers, but they also possess the mysterious property of intentionality—being about other things—including things like Zeus and the square root of minus one, which do not exist.

The nature of the mental is both queer and elusive. Ghosts are mysterious and unintelligible: But this contrast holds only if we stick to a Newtonian and common-sense view of the material. Think instead of energy and force-fields in a space-time that possesses none of the properties that our senses seem to reveal: Whilst the material world, because of its mathematicalisation, forms a tighter abstract system than mind, the sensible properties that figure as the objects of mental states constitute the only intelligible content for any concrete picture of the world that we can devise.

Perhaps the world within the experiencing mind is, once one considers it properly, no more—or even less—queer than the world outside it. For the Cartesian, that means explaining how he understands the notion of immaterial substance.

For the Humean, the issue is to explain the nature of the relationship between the different elements in the bundle that binds them into one thing. Neither tradition has been notably successful in this latter task: The only route appears to be to postulate a primitive relation of co-consciousness in which the various elements stand to each other.

There are two strategies which can be used to attack the bundle theory. One is to claim that our intuitions favour belief in a subject and that the arguments presented in favour of the bundle alternative are unsuccessful, so the intuition stands.

The other is to try to refute the theory itself. Foster—9 takes the former path. This is not effective against someone who thinks that metaphysical economy gives a prima facie priority to bundle theories, on account of their avoiding mysterious substances.

The core objection to bundle theories see, for example, Armstrong21—3 is that, because it takes individual mental contents as its elements, such contents should be able to exist alone, as could the individual bricks from a house. Hume accepted this consequence, but most philosophers regard it as absurd. There could not be a mind that consisted of a lone pain or red after-image, especially not of one that had detached itself from the mind to which it had previously belonged.

Therefore it makes more sense to think of mental contents as modes of a subject. Bundle theorists tend to take phenomenal contents as the primary elements in their bundle. Seeing the problem in this way has obvious Humean roots. This atomistic conception of the problem becomes less natural if one tries to accommodate other kinds of mental activity and contents. 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.

descartes body and mind relationship

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. 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.

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. 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.

  • Mind–body problem
  • Mind-Body Relationship
  • Mind–body dualism

He then goes on to distinguish the notions of mind and body: