Meditation I. Descartes reflects on numerous deceptions he has believed in, and the ensuing faultiness of the body of knowledge he has developed based on those falsehoods (Descartes Existence of God 17). Consequently, Descartes decides to relinquish the inherent knowledge and develop a new one based on definite foundations. Notably, he realizes that he has to find a reason to doubt his current opinions to establish a firm foundation for his knowledge.
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Descartes reasons that senses, which are sometimes deceptive, have influenced his learning (Descartes Philosophical Works 6). He notes that dreams convince him that he is detecting real objects. Descartes believes that dream images emanate from wake experiences like fictional mermaid painting made of real things – a woman and fish (Descartes Philosophical Works 7). Thus, Descartes decides to cast doubt on complex things (e.g. physics, medicine, and astronomy) but not on their common and simple parts like geometry and arithmetic.
On further deliberations, Descartes reasons that even simple things could be doubted. Mainly, this is because God can turn people’s ideas into lies. Descartes argues that the reasoning that God cannot let people believe in false things is untrue. Further, assuming that there is no God presents a higher chance of deception since a perfect being could not have created people’s imperfect senses (Descartes Philosophical Works 8). Notably, Descartes discovers that it is nearly impracticable to keep his initial assumptions and opinions out of his mind. As such, he chooses to assume such notions are untrue to overcome the inherent thinking. Finally, Descartes assumes that an evil demon (instead of God) is deceiving him so that nothing that he thinks he knows is true.
Meditation II. Initially, Descartes believes that he does not exist, he has no body, no senses, and his memory is defective (Descartes Philosophical Works 9). Therefore, the place, movement, and extension are mistaken concepts. In this regard, he is only sure of one thing – the absence of certainty. Although Descartes thinks that he lacks the sense and body, such notion does not imply his nonexistence. Again, the concept of physical nonexistence could mean that he does not exist.
Descartes realizes that to have doubts he should exist. Besides, the evil demon can only mislead him if he exists (Schubert 17). Further, “I” should exist to be deceived and doubt; thus, I am I exist (Descartes Philosophical Works 9). Descartes thought he possessed body and soul, through which he moved, nourished, thought, and sensed. However, he argued that he could exist without nourishment, sense, and movement, but not without thinking. In short, Descartes reasons that he is only a thing that thinks.
Meditation III. Descartes advocates for “supreme God, eternal, infinite, [immutable], omnipotent, and creator of all things outside Himself” (Descartes Philosophical Works 15). He believes that he and everything else are the creation of God. As such, Descartes reasons that God’s idea should have a more goal-oriented reality, than his (Descartes) formal reality. He realizes that God is both an infinite and finite substance.
Notably, Descartes believes that the idea of God should not have emanated from himself (Descartes Philosophical Works 16). Therefore, God exists and must have originated with His idea. According to Descartes, desire and doubts of individuals emerge from the understanding that people lack something. Therefore, people cannot be aware of such lack unless they know a perfect being that possesses it. Descartes concludes that he can doubt the existence of everything else, except God because of his apparent and distinct perception.
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Descartes assumes the likelihood of himself being a “supremely perfect” individual. In other words, he supposes that his deficiencies constitute potentialities, which he is slowly improving to achieve perfection (Descartes Philosophical Works 17). However, he rejects that option, because God is actual not potential, his constant improvement will not lead to perfection, and, the potential being is not a being at all since the idea of God emanates from infinite actual being (Descartes Philosophical Works 17). He notes that if he could exist without God, then he emanated from himself, parents, or another being that is “less perfect” compared to God. Mainly, if his existence is associated with himself, then he should have desires and doubts. On imperfect being and parents, Descartes thinks that God’s idea served as the foundation of his maker. In retrospect, God’s idea can emanate only from God.
Thesis of Mind-Body Dualism
According to Descartes, the thesis of mind-body dualism is that “mind and body are separable from each other once he is free of his initial wholesale doubt concerning the real existence of body” (Broadie Soul and Body 297). In his first meditations relating to doubt, Descartes believes that the business of mind is to imagine and think, but not to animate the bodily systems. Through the mind, Descartes finds thinking. Notably, irrespective of what he does, Descartes is unable to persuade himself that he is nonexistent. At first, however, Descartes is not able to declare that he or his mind can exist without the body because unless proven, it is not possible that the mind’s existence or its primary activity of thinking to some extent relies on the body.
Although the mind does not need the body in the manner in which the animating principle requires the body to animate something, the mind can rely on the body in some way such as in the provision of life to mind (Broadie Soul and Body 297). Using his definite and diverse thoughts, Descartes reasons that the body and the mind do not relate or manage each other. In this line of reasoning, Descartes considers himself to have established everything that he clearly and idiosyncratically perceives as true (Broadie Aristotle and Beyond 101). As a result, Descartes concludes that mind and possibly soul in the theological sense, are separable from the body (Freeman 360). Mainly, this argument is the foundation of Descartes in proving that the soul and mind are immortal.
Problem of Interaction in Substance Dualism
Fundamentally, I believe that an ambiguity problem of interaction plagues the Descartes’ mind-body dualism. Notably, if the physical world is the finite mind’s dream object of Descartes, then body and mind cannot exist as independent entities. In this case, it is nearly impossible to demonstrate that a finite mind whose dream in which it is embodied, and its body is part of the physical world may be free from having such related thoughts. However, in the assumption that the physical world exists as an independent entity, the world like that of Descartes body may reasonably be considered responsible for the appearance of the physical corporeal which is present in the mind of Descartes. In retrospect, physical existence will disappear once a separation between the mind and the body occurs.
Broadie, Sarah. “Soul and Body in Plato and Descartes.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 10.1 (2001): 295-308. Print.
Aristotle and Beyond: Essays on Metaphysics and Ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Descartes, Rene. “Meditations on the First Philosophy.” The Philosophical Works of Descartes. Trans. Elizabeth S. Haldane. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 1996. 1-32. Print.
Meditations on First Philosophy in which the Existence of God and the Distinction of the Soul from the Body. 3rd ed. 1993. Trans. Donald A. Cress. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company. Print.
Freeman, Michael. Law and Neuroscience: Current Legal Issues. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Schubert, Frank D. A Modest Certainty. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2012. Print.