Cartesian Dualism: The Mind And Body

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This paper will critically examine the Cartesian dualist position and the notion that it can offer a plausible account of the mind and body. Proposed criticisms deal with both the logical and empirical conceivability of dualist assertions, their incompatibility with physical truths, and the reducibility of the position to absurdity.

Cartesian Dualism, or substance dualism, is a metaphysical position which maintains that the mind and body consist in two separate and ontologically distinct substances. On this view, the mind is understood to be an essentially thinking substance with no spatial extension; whereas the body is a physical, non-thinking substance extended in space. Though they share no common properties, substance dualists maintain that the mind and body causally interact and influence one another.

One of Descartes’ most established arguments for substance dualism relies on the assertion that conceivability entails possibility. He maintains that if he can clearly and distinctly conceive of one thing as separate from another, then it is possible that the two are distinct; and, since he can conceptually separate the mind from the body, it is possible for the former to exist without the latter. If the mind can exist without the body, then the two cannot be identical substances.

I find that the following considerations provide a convincing argument against dualism, as both the empirical and logical conceivability of the mind existing without the body can be called

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