Descartes Arguments for Substance Dualism Essay

2251 Words Feb 13th, 2013 10 Pages
Does Descartes provide a convincing argument for the claim that mind and matter are distinct substances
Descartes’ Argument For Dualism

In his Meditations Rene Descartes aimed to reconstruct the whole of science by trying to prove the distinction between mind and matter. He gives an argument from doubt, and another from conceivability. I will give a brief summary of the foundations Descartes builds his thesis on, and then looking at his arguments and whether they are capable of persuading us that dualism is a logical stance to hold.

To what extent if any is Descartes successful in showing there is a real distinction between mind and body

In Descartes’ Meditations, Descartes aims to reshape the whole of science by starting from
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It’s essence is not to think. We can then use this argument to see that it may be that the body is part of one’s essence but we cannot know this a priori. We have to be able to take an objective point of view (AT 7:198).
If one takes the above response to Descartes’ argument, one can see that Descartes is guilty of some small circular reasoning. He assumes that the mind is immaterial itself and its only essence is thinking. This cannot be proven. Yet, we can see how the mind in modern times may be explained from a materialist point of view. Therefore as the first premise cannot be proven, the argument is no longer valid.

Argument from Conceivability

In his sixth meditation Descartes provides the Argument from Conceivability to convince us of dualism:
It is conceivable that I exist in thought, without my extended body also existing. Moreover it is possible that I, a thinking being, can exist without my extended body existing. If it is logically possible that I can exist without my body existing then they are not identical and thus separate entities. Therefore I, a thinking being, am not the same as my extended body.

The Argument from Conceivability falls short on soundness – conceivability is not sufficient for logical possibility. For example, in number theory one of the greatest unsolved hypothesis is Goldbach’s conjecture. That is that every positive integer greater or equal to 4 can be expressed as the sum of two

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