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Outline Descartes' views on the topic of Philosophy of Mind.

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Introduction

Philosophy of Mind > Rene Descartes Outline Descartes' views on the topic of Philosophy of Mind Descartes has indeeed made some notable contributions towards the philosophy of mind. It is the aim of this essay to discuss these contributions. Descartes is well known for being an avid dualist. This is the view that the mind and body are understood to be seperate and distinct from each other, but in some way causally connected. Descartes was no exception and believed the mind and body to be two completely different substances. He defines the body as an extended, non-thinking substance and the mind as a non-extended, thinking sunstance. But it not just these definitions that allow Descartes to adopt a dualistic point of view. Descartes came to the conclusion in meditation I of his discourse of method that any data received from the senses could be doubted and therefore unreliable. As the body is known only through the senses, Descartes was able to doubt the existence of such a body and all other bodies for that. ...read more.

Middle

Infact for Descartes the mind is primary and if a question of identity should arise the mind should be associated as the 'self'. He argues that even if he didn't have a body he would essentially be the same as long as he had his mind with all the correct falculties intact. But Descartes went further than this and defined the fundamental element of the mind and his existence as the ability to think. As long as Descartes continued to think he would continue to exist. It is in meditation II that this line of thinking emerges and lead Descartes to his famous maxim, "cogito ergo sum" or in English "I think there I am." This maxim is free from universal doubt and is always necessarily true whenever the thought is conceived. It's truth depends not on any sensory data but rather a cognitive process of the mind and therefore expresses the indubitability of one's own reality. With the certainty of his existence established Descartes continues to question his identity (eg: what exactly this 'I' is that exists). ...read more.

Conclusion

And as mathematics is known a priori through the mind alone, it follows these geometrical shapes are also known by the mind alone. Here the true nature of bodies is understood by pure thought alone. It is in meditation VI where Descartes is able to convince himself of the existence of other bodies. Firstly he concludes that it is coherent enough for such bodies to exist as they are in a geometircal form. Second, the fact that our imagination is directed towards the ideas of bodies, means it is possible that such bodies exist. Finally, the faculty of sense perception is an entirely passive ability to receive ideas of physical objects. As one does not have any control over such ideas, it follows that the ideas must be produced by some external source (ie: a body itself). Descartes also suggests that other bodies must exist if a non-deceiving God exists. For a non-deceiving god wouldn't allow Descartes to believe that something exists if infact it wasn't real. As to whether Descartes believes other minds exist is a question left unanswered. This is probably due to the fact that one can only ever have direct access to one mind (their own), and therefore can only be sure of the existence of one mind. ...read more.

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