Essay On Cartesian Dualism

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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 …show more content…

Hume (1738) aptly challenged Descartes in claiming that it is impossible to conceive of a disembodied mind. He argues that for an idea to be legitimate it must be traceable back to sense impressions that have been acquired through experience (The Copy Principle). However, it is not possible to gain an impression of the mind, so it is not possible to have a legitimate idea of the self. We cannot gain an impression from our outer senses, since the mind is non-physical; or through introspection, since I can only introspect a given impression, not the thing that possesses it. While I am introspectively aware of e.g. feelings of anger, I am never aware of the self (the mind, the thinking thing) that contains the anger. When I try to conceive of the self, I do not think of the mind but bodily behaviour, i.e. physical displays of anger. If we cannot gain an impression of the mind, then we cannot possess an idea of the self. The assertion that Descartes has a clear and distinct perception that he is “... a thinking thing” is therefore made redundant and his conceivability argument is

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