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Mind Body Dualism

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In the sixth meditation, Descartes presents an argument regarding mind and body dualism: the mind and body are utterly distinct. He holds that they are both discrete and that the mind is a purely nonphysical substance. His argument attempts to show and validate that the mind is a completely separate and distinct entity from the body and that he can exist without it. First, he makes the claim that God is omnipotent, yet a good and pure God; therefore, if Descartes is strongly inclined to believe something as true, it would be deceptive of God to make him think otherwise. Therefore, in his perfect will, Descartes is convinced that anything he is able to conceive of is possible. With thisÐ'--for the rest of the paperÐ'--I will explain the argument Descartes offers for this argument for dualism, and offer an objection to his argument.

Descartes must prove that the mind and body are distinct and he does this as follows. First, since the mind and the body can each be conceived clearly and distinctly apart from each other, it follows that God could cause either to exist independently of the other, and this satisfies the traditional criteria for a metaphysical and real distinction. In other words, if he can conceive of something clearly and distinctly (without contradiction), then that that thing is metaphysically possible (it is possible for God to establish it). Descartes then goes on to say that he can conceive of himself existing solely as a thinking being, with the absence of his body. Furthermore, he conceives of his body existing solely as a thing incompatible to thinkingÐ'--without Descartes being resided in it. Therefore it is metaphysically possible for the mindÐ'--his mind for that matterÐ'--to exist freely from his body. As a result, the body is not essential to the mind and the mind is not essential to the body; they are totally discrete entities. From meditation two, Descartes has concluded the only assertion that is free of doubt: I think, therefore I am. He is his own mind. In conclusion, if the mind is discrete from the body and Descartes is a mind, then it is appropriate to say that he is utterly distinct from his body.

Although Descartes' argument flows logically, it seems to me that because Descartes is able to conceive of somethingÐ'--a specific situation during which he exists "body-less," this does not necessarily mean or show that such a situation is metaphysically possible.



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