Running Head: Impact of Descartes on Psychology Impact of Descartes on Psychology Impact of Descartes on Psychology Descartes’ description of body and mind dualism advocates that body and mind are two separate entities…
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He has been faced with grave critiques since he tried to describe the two substances separate as well as unified (Grant, pp. 486, 2000). Descartes, quite technically, defends his idea by saying that when a person performs certain action or behaves in a specific kind of way in the absence of his conscious mind, his body is a manifestation of a mechanical working. However, when human psychology or consciousness is in full swing and functions properly, that is the time the person’s rational soul unites with his other entity, which is called the mechanical human body (Grant, pp. 487, 2000). Thus, the separation of the two substances is to the extent when mental attention is not up to the mark; nevertheless, with the union of body and mind, the human psychology plays a vital role with its optimum concentration and inclination. To view the whole notion in psychological perspective, what Descartes points out is that the functions of thinking, reasoning, questioning, analyzing, and rationalizing are wholly and exclusively performed by the soul. Yet, this soul does not take any physical space. However, for this soul to think and rationalize, the manifestation occurs in the existence of the body that does not think but takes a physical space. Thus, the identity of a person is made so concerning its distinct soul that rationalizes and not with its distinct body which is visible. In this case, when the soul has the power to think and manipulate, it even has the power to exist without a physical substance vis-a-vis the body and this is how Descartes makes the distinction. To understand it more clearly, Descartes claimed that the two substances can live without each other but a living human being can be made with the union of the two, exclusively and exhaustively. Hence, the impact on human psychology is based on the soul and not the body, which is void of all moral values and behavioral distinctions. Moreover, the impact on the psychology that Descartes’ mind and body idea makes can also be understood with an example given by Descartes himself. Descartes uses the example of phantom limb pain and explains that when a person for whatever reasons gets any of his arms or legs amputated, he might still feel pain in the missing portion of his body even after sometime. Therefore, the body is not just a visible autonomous being but is greatly linked and intermingled with the mind or the soul. Moreover, this interaction is such that in the psychology of the person, that amputated part of the body still exists even if it is apparently not there and that is the cause of the pain (Grant, pp. 488, 2000). Hence, body and mind/soul make a unit, the two might be two distinct objects but there being together has a great impact on psychology as earlier discussed. Descartes’ concepts are more vividly explained in the aspect of pain that a human feels. He says that it is not merely the transmission of neurons to the brain to feel a certain kind of pain in the body, it is more of a though process that occurs in the mind/soul to feel and encounter a pain. Thus, the feeling of pain as encountered by a human’s mind/soul has a thorough impact on the psychology of the person to feel or not to feel the pain and to what extent he does that (Grant, pp. 496-499, 2000). Thus, all kind of pain or sensation is psychological and not bodily, as a person’s mind has to perceive the pain first for the overall human to perceive it. It was for the first time that the animal life was referred as that of machines. Descartes was of the
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One of the major issues which dualism deals with is whether mind is the part of the brain or whether it is completely separate from the brain. There are different opinions on this issue however, the debate is still undecided as to whether mind originates from the brain or it is completely separate from it.
Rene Descartes who lived from 1596 till 1650 was the French physiologist, philosopher and mathematician. He was the first one to initiate the debate about the mind’s and the body’s interaction with each other. Descartes proposed that human mind is a non-bodily entity, so it can work independent of the body.
However, Descartes also admitted in his Meditations that somehow the mind and the body, despite their interdependence, happen to interact with each other and somehow this interaction results in a perceived unity: “…for in truth, I could never be separated from it or from other bodies: I felt in it and on account of it all my appetites and affections [and] I was affected in its parts by pain and the titillation of pleasure” (Descartes 1969:162).
Elizabeth and Descartes engaged in a correspondence from 1643 to 1949, and explored a variety of philosophical issues, among them the body-mind problem as well as the principles of geometry and mathematics, and ethics. Letter I: Elizabeth to Descartes, July 1646 This short letter begins with Elizabeth inviting Descartes to a meeting in the Hague, before she leaves for Berlin with her family.
Dubbed the ‘mind-body problem,’ the topic has seen different refutations and defences and continues to be a subject of interest because it speaks to our common experiences. The concept of a mind that could exist outside of the body has been the most common interpretation of his words from ‘Meditations.’ Thus the statement that “Descartes has unfairly been caricatured by many philosophers as a villain who sent us down the dead-end road of mind-body dualism” (Hoffman 4).
Cartesian dualism focuses on two opposites being able to exist at the same time in space, but coexist peacefully together.
This idea does not make a lot of logical sense at first glance, nevertheless, this was Descartes's legacy. Cartesian dualism exists in the sense that, like the great thinkers Plato and Aristotle who had gone before, he agreed that there should be some uniformity as to how the universe was regulated.
We can no longer limit reality to a scope that reduces reality to what we see, touch or experience through the senses. Historic development has expanded culture through scientific knowledge. It would be regressive to think that mind is a subjective experience, formless, beyond physical constraints, obliterating evidence in the functional analysis of behaviour.
These people are Materialists, who claim that the mind is actually a physical object completely unseparable from the rest of the body, and is just caused by brain chemistry. One of the ways in which Materialists challenge
out the fundamental nature of existence, one that precludes the possibility of the mind and body being reduced to the same material (the contrary belief is known as monism). Considered together, these implications pose a problem as they relate to finding meaning in life. The