Descartes’ Mind and Body Distinction

817 WordsJan 27, 20183 Pages
Descartes’ Mind/Body Distinction This paper will attempt to explain Descartes’ first argument for the distinction that exists between mind and body. Dualism is a necessary aspect of Descartes’ metaphysics and epistemology. This distinction is important within the larger framework of Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) because after doubting everything (body, extension, senses, etc.), Descartes comes to the conclusion that because he doubts, he must be a thinking thing and therefore exist (p.43). This means that the mind must be separate and independent from the body. One can doubt that the body exists while leaving the mind intact. To doubt that the mind exists, however, is contradictory. For if the mind does not exist, how, or with what, is that doubt being accomplished. Descartes’ argument for mind/body dualism can be simply stated in the following manner: 1. I have a clear and distinct idea of myself as a thinking thing. 2. I have a clear and distinct idea of body, whose essence is extension. 3. I can conceive of mind separate and independent of body. C. Mind and body are distinct and separate things (p. 64). Descartes has set this argument up with previous discussion earlier in the Meditations. This being so, a discussion of each premise is necessary to see how Descartes arrives at the formulation of this argument. Premise 1 is the foundational point that the first couple books in the Meditations serve in reaching. Descartes sets out to doubt everything, and
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