What are Descartes' arguments for his distinction between mind and body? What problems, if any does this distinction raise?

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What are Descartes’ arguments for his distinction between mind and body? What problems, if any does this distinction raise?

Harrison and Barbet define Dualism as “the view that the world, including man, is constituted out of two different kinds of ‘stuff’ or substances, for example, mind and matter.” While the great philosophical distinction between mind and body in western thought can be traced back to Ancient Greece, it is to the seminal work of René Descartes (1596-1650), mathematician, philosopher, and physiologist, that we owe the first systematic account of the mind/body relationship. Descartes, born in Touraine, the small town of La Haye, was educated from the age of eight at the Jesuit college of La Flèche. It was here that Descartes fashioned the tendency of spending the morning in bed, engaged in systematic meditation that was key in his later writings. The metaphysical split between mind and body did not appear until Descartes' De homine. Here he outlined views and provided the first articulation of the mind/body interactionism that was to elicit such pronounced reaction from later thinkers.

The relationship between mind and body is a philosophical problem that has never been adequately answered. The functioning of the mind remains, for the most part, a mystery, and its precise nature and origins are still matters of controversy. The mind-body problem has remained essentially unchanged since Descartes put it forward in 1641. The problem is: what is the nature of the conscious mind, and how does it relate to the body?

Descartes, within his meditations, distinguishes the differences between mind and body. He states “I know I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that I know?” As a result he subsequently divides human beings or as he remarks ‘rational animals’ into two distinct parts ‘mind and body’. The body according to Descartes consists of the “face, hands, arms and the whole mechanical structure of limbs which can be seen in a corpse”. Every one has a body and one “can never be separated from it”. This body according to Descartes is distinct from the mind but opposite in nature. The body is extended and divisible. The physical body, which the outside world sees, occupies space and is governed by the laws of physics as much any other physical entity is. There are also other bodies that are in the vicinity of our own “some of these are to be sought out and others avoided”. Outside ones self, besides the extension, shapes and movements of bodies, there is also the sensations of their hardness heat and other tactile qualities.

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‘Nature’ according to Descartes has taught him unequivocal truths. One of these truths is that “I have a body, and that when I feel pain there is something wrong with the body, and that when I am hungry or thirsty the body needs food or drink, and so on.” Descartes, however, reasons in the discourse that it is possible to doubt the existence of body, but not his own existence as a conscious thinking being. This argument seems erroneous. Suppose, being ignorant of chemistry, it is possible for me to doubt the existence of carbohydrates, but I cannot doubt that ...

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