The MindBody Problem Dualism Versus Dual Aspect

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The Mind-Body Problem: Dualism Versus Dual Aspect Theory Essay, Research Paper Abstract The mind-body problem, which is still debated even today, raises the question about the relationship between the mind and the body. Theorists, such as Ren? Descartes and Thomas Nagel, have written extensively on the problem but they have many dissenting beliefs. Descartes, a dualist, contends that the mind and body are two different substances that can exist separately. Conversely, Nagel, a dual aspect theorist, contends that the mind and body are not substances but different properties. However, although Nagel illustrates the problems with Descartes= theory, Nagel=s theory runs into the problem of panpsychism. In this paper, both arguments will be discussed to determine which, if either,

side is stronger. The Mind-Body Problem: Dualism Versus Dual Aspect Theory Perhaps the oldest problem in the philosophy of the mind is the mind body problem. The mind body problem arises from two basic observations: we have minds and we have physical bodies. Descartes and Nagel are philosophers who examined this problem with the intent to learn the true relationship between the mind and body. Although they share this in common, their philosophies differ greatly. Through the examination of each philosopher=s position, this paper will attempt to show how Descartes and Nagel used two different theories, dualism and the dual aspect theory, to satisfy the mind-body problem and which argument is the stronger of the two. Descartes argued in his AMeditations on First Philosophy@ that the

mind is a thinking, non-divisible, non-extended thing and that the body is a non-thinking, divisible, extended thing. In his sixth Meditation, Descartes states A…I have a body with which I am very closely united, nevertheless, since on one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself in so far as I am only a thinking and not an extended being, and since on the other hand I have a distinct idea of body in so far as it is only an extended being which does not think, it is certain that this AI@ …is entirely..distinct from my body and that it can … exist without it@(Descartes 74). Descartes argument for this statement is seen in the following premises: 1) If I can clearly and distinctly distinguish a from b, than I can be certain that a is distinct from b. 2) I can clearly

and distinctly distinguish my body from my mind. 3) My mind must be distinct from my body. Descartes believes that since the mind and the body are two different things, then they can exist separately. This is the theory of dualism. In the Sixth Meditation, Descartes continues with his discussion about the mind-body problem by addressing the relationship between the mind and body. Descartes states that Anature …teaches me by these feelings of pain, hunger, thirst, and so on that I am not only residing in my body, as a pilot in his ship, but furthermore, that I am intimately connected with it…@(Descartes 76). This relationship is the connection between the physical needs of the body and the mental acknowledgment of those needs. Although the mind and body are blended, the mind

is the most essential. Thomas Nagel approaches the mind body problem in a different manner. Nagel acknowledges that there is a close connection between mental life and the body, but he further questions the origin of our objective and subjective experiences. In response to the dualist theory, Nagel states that AI myself believe that though the truth of dualism of mind and body is conceivable, it is implausible@(Nagel 29). He further states that the main objection to dualism Ais that it postulates an additional, nonphysical substance without explaining how it can support subjective mental states whereas the brain can=t.@ (Nagel 29). Nagel is referring to the inadequate explanation for the complex processes that create mental states and consciousness. Instead, Nagel offers the dual