Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Descartes' inconsistency

There is a well-known inconsistency in Descartes' mind-body theory.

On the one hand, Descartes stresses the importance of mind-body dualism. He writes, "My mind, by which I am what I am, is entirely and truly distinct from my body, and may exist without it". But on the other hand, he also insists on the mind-body unity. "I am not only lodged in my body as a pilot in a vessel.... I am besides so intimately conjoined, and as it were intermixed with it, that my mind and body compose a certain unity".(both quotations are from his MEDITATIONS)

These two points seems in contradiction. But what Descartes argued is that the mind and the body are conceivable in isolation from each other in principle. However, as a matter of fact, the mind is always rooted in the body through sensations, emotions, desires, and never be separated from it. According to him, the 'principle' of mind-body relation should be different from the 'fact'.

Is this a persuasive argument?