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Was Descartes a Cartesian?

Yes, René Descartes was a Cartesian in the sense that he defended his views. But the answer is "no," too, in that he did not literally mean that the human mind and the body were two separate things. He famously wrote in Meditation II in his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641): "I am not in my body like a pilot in a ship." His intention was to make an abstract distinction between the mind and the body. But because he did not give a satisfactory account of their interaction, Descartes is still stuck with the mind-body dualism of "Cartesianism."

What were Descartes' main ideas in Passions of the Soul?

René Descartes claimed that his mind or soul feels "passions," or sensations and pains, in the body. The soul is therefore connected to all parts of body, although there is one part of

What did Descartes do once he was sure of his assertion I am thinking, therefore I exist?

Descartes asked himself what kind of thing he was and concluded that he was a thinking thing, that is, a mind-soul, and not the author of his own being, who must be God. God created both Descartes as an immaterial thinking thing, or soul, and the physical universe that included Descartes' body. There was a second proof for God's existence in Descartes' ontological argument: God was all powerful and all good, existence was better than nonexistence, therefore God existed.

Because God was good, he could not be a deceiver, and the earlier doubts about the existence of the external world, and the validity of logic and reason, were put to rest. The doubts about sense data could always be corrected by further sense experience. And the distinction between being awake and being asleep could be solved after one was awake and compared the two states. God had made mankind such that our perceptions of the reality of a world that existed could be trusted.

the brain, namely the pineal gland, "where it exercises its functions more particularly than elsewhere." That is, the soul directly affects the body through the pineal gland by setting animal spirits in motion, via the will. (Descartes thought that the will was infinite because it was a copy of God's will, but that human understanding is limited. Because the will often outstrips the understanding, all manner of human evils and misfortunes follow.) Consciousness, or the representation in the mind of the sensation and pains in the body, was unique to human beings, according to Descartes. He thought that animals lacked both a pineal gland and consciousness, and were therefore mere machines.

What was the reaction to the Meditations?

Catholic theologians found René Descartes' doubt in the existence of God too convincing to be resolved by his ontological argument. Others were left with a division of the world into two radically different substances of mind and matter, a dualism very difficult to resolve. Mind could be directly introspected, but it eluded science. Matter—by which Descartes meant insensible particles that had only size, shape, quantity, and mass (primary qualities)—was the ultimate subject of science.

Descartes believed that we know less about matter than mind. The question was, "How are mind and matter connected?" Descartes' ideas of substance, his dualism, and the mind-body problem preoccupied his contemporaries and successors. Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677) reacted with a dual-aspect theory of God and nature. Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) tried to answer the question of how mind and matter were connected, with his theory of occasionalism. Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) also had a version of occasionalism in his theory of pre-established harmony. On the empiricist side, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) insisted on the nonexistence of anything non-material and John Locke (1632-1704) directly attacked Descartes' idea of substance.

Descartes thought that substance was what held matter together and what held mind together, even though substance could not be experienced directly. According to Descartes all physical things were material substance and all mental things immaterial substance.

Why was René Descartes' idea of substance a problem for the empiricists?

According to Descartes, substance was known to the mind, but not through the senses. The empiricists wanted to build knowledge up from information we get through the senses.

 
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