Rene Descartes Mind-Body Problem Analysis

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Rene Descartes’ view on the mind-body problem is one that is much debated even today, nearly four centuries since his demise. To discuss the mind-body problem, we must first establish the definitions of mind and body, and how Descartes came upon these definitions. Following that, we can then discuss the validity of his views, and some of the criticisms his views have received.

To explain how Descartes arrived at his views of the mind and body, we must look into his process of systematic doubt. The first step was to doubt everything that could be doubted: his senses, his prior knowledge (a priori), and his knowledge of the world (a posteriori). From this, he deduced that the only truth was that he existed, for no doubting can occur without a doubter. Thus arose the idea of mind, “a substance the whole essence or nature of which is to think”. Descartes then derived the existence of God from the idea of
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The mind does not need to take on a physical form in order to exist. Matter, on the other hand, is a substance that can be perceived, and is corporeal. From what has been mentioned above, we see that the mind and the body are two very different substances, with no bridge or causal relationship between them. According to Descartes, the mind and the body are able to exist by themselves, independent, able to sustain themselves without the other. It seems impossible for something that takes no form to be able to affect an extended, material object. The problem that arises from this duality is the fact that there is an actual exchange going on between the two. We know for certain that our mind can control our body, and also that our body can make demands of us. We can think of moving our arm, and have our arm actually move, and we can cut ourselves, and know it in our
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