Essay about Descartes´ Mental and Physical Substances

1277 Words 6 Pages
When Descartes published his ideas in his Meditations on First Philosophy, his ideas were not new, but nonetheless groundbreaking. He proposed there were two separate types of matter or stuff that can exist independent of each other. These are physical substances and mental substances. The physical can only occupy space in the real world, and cannot do any of the things we attribute to mental faculties, such as thinking and reasoning. Though the mental cannot be present in the material world, it can surely have an effect on what the physical body does. Substance dualism, therefore, gives way to the idea of an immortal soul that occupies a different realm than our physical bodies. The question then is how do the mental substances affect …show more content…
Obviously this goes against common thinking, because one can easily see that mental states do matter and affect physical and brain states. The question then is how do they do so?
2. Functionalism and the Chinese Room Functionalism is the idea that brain states are equivalent to their functional roles within the brain itself. That is, functionalists are concerned with how these mental states are related to their causal role and how the functions are organized, much like software programs on a computer. Searle poses an argument against functionalism that he published himself, called the Chinese Room argument. Let’s say I was placed in a room full of boxes of Chinese characters, and I have a book that enables me to answer questions posed in Chinese. There is a computer on which I receive Chinese symbols, and unknowing to me, are questions. All I have to do is refer to the rule book and pick out the appropriate symbols from the boxes in the room and enter them back into the computer. It can be assumed that I can pass the Turing test for understanding Chinese while at the same time not understand a single word of Chinese. Therefore, although I have an understanding of Chinese syntax due to the rule book, I do not have a true understanding of the language because I cannot attach meaning to the symbols. Thus, the idea that mental states and thought can be equated with following a set of syntactic rules is