So my mind is a distinct thing from my body. Furthermore, my mind is me, for the following reason·. I know that I exist and that nothing else belongs to my nature or essence except that I am a thinking thing; from this it follows that my essence consists solely in my being a thinking thing, even though there may be a body that is very closely joined to me. I have a vivid and clear idea of •myself as something that thinks and isn’t extended, and one of •body as something that is extended and does not think. So it is certain that •I am really distinct from •my body and can exist without it.
In the Sixth Meditation Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism main argument used is if a person clearly and distinctively understands one thing as distinct from another it is distinct. To prove this Descartes uses two arguments; the argument of knowledge and the argument of extension. The first which is the argument of knowledge claims that proves his existence through the act of thinking, while he is not able to fully prove that man’s body exist, Thus a man is a thinking being and nothing else (this is because if something is doubtful or dubitable it can be false) his body is distinct from his mind.
This is the best way to discover what sort of thing the mind is, and how it differs from the body. How does it do that? [Descartes answers this in terms of ‘we’; this version uses the singular ‘I’ just for clarity’s sake.] Well, here I am supposing that everything other than myself is unreal, while wondering what sort of thing I am. I can see clearly that I don’t have any of the properties that bodies have-I don’t have a spatial size or shape, and I don’t move-because those properties all fall on the supposed-to-be-unreal side of the line, whereas we’ve just seen that I can’t suppose that I am unreal. So I find that the only property I can ascribe to myself is thought. So my knowledge of my thought is more basic and more certain than my knowledge of any corporeal thing.
First we must check the premises and their evidences if a person clearly and distinctively understands one thing as distinct from another it is distinct. The evidences of these are since body and mind have a different property like regarding that of indubitable existence. Existence for Descartes can only be proven through and by doubting it and to a point when one can no longer doubt it; therefore it is the actuality of the thing. So for Descartes the only thing immediately real is the mind. As stated above in the quote found in his Principles of Philosophy arranged and translated by Bennet. The mind is real, the body dubitable (this is resonant to Descartes radical doubt). The most striking thing about this is Descartes conclusion that a Mind can exist on its own. I would agree with Descartes that sense perception cannot be trusted; this is because today like optical illusions are very popular on how these mislead the senses away from the true presentation of the object.
The mind isn’t immediately affected by all parts of the body but only by the brain-or perhaps just by the small part of it which is said to contain the ‘common sense’. [Descartes is referring to the pineal gland. The ‘common sense’ was a supposed faculty, postulated by Aristotle, whose role was to integrate the data from the five specialized senses.] The signals that reach the mind depend upon what state this part of the brain is in, irrespective of the condition of the other parts of the body. There is abundant experimental evidence for this, which I needn’t review here.
I do not agree however in the independence of the mind to that of the body even though it is affected by the body through sensations and supplements. What then if an external object (like food or medicine) is capable of increasing or decreasing the activity of the mind, well this is similar to physical sensations how sense experience comes to the mind bearing with it uncertain thoughts. Is death an illusion for Descartes? The destruction of the corporeal vessel of the mind (which from what I read is like the soul or essence of an existing being, much like in reference to Christian concept of the soul as immortal), so for Descartes a thinking being is an immortal being (since it is independent of body; which requires the mind to direct it and external objects to keep in capacity to move and sense), I think this is only to conform with the Church so as not to brand his work as acceptable.
I think Descartes would have different distinction of the mind and body, if today’s science was available to him, he would’ve calibrated his concept to a more plausible one because of the complications that arises especially with the sciences.
The argument from extension is I am a thing that thinks and not an extended thing. I has a distinct idea of body as an extended thing. Therefore, my mind is distinct from my body. My interpretation of this argument is an extension of the Cogito argument, the mind is able to think, therefore it exist. But a body is subjecting to doubt since what it receives (sensations) may be wrong or right, regardless of its possibility to be right it must be taken as false. As with the argument of Knowledge, Discussed above. I will base this interpretation of this argument with these two quotations below:
53. Each substance has one principal attribute; (1) for •mind it is the attribute of •thought, (2) for body it is •extension.
A substance can be known through any attribute at all; but each substance has •one principal property that constitutes its nature and essence, all its other properties being special cases of that. (1) The nature of corporeal substance is extension in length, breadth and depth; and any other property a body has presupposes •extension as merely a special case of •it. For example, we can’t make sense of shape except in an extended thing, or of motion except in an extended space. (2) The nature of thinking substance is thought; and anything else that is true of a mind is merely a special case of that, a way of thinking. For example, we can make sense of imagination, sensation and will only in a thinking thing, But we can make sense of extension without bringing in shape or movement, and to make sense of thought without bringing in imagination, sensation, or the like. Anyone who thinks hard about these matters will see that this is so.
Here Descartes attributes thought to the mind and extension to body. The mind is independent for Descartes for it can make sense of it self because it has the special case of the Will.
There is a great difference between the mind and the body. Every body is by its nature divisible, but the mind can’t be divided. When I consider the mind-i.e. consider myself purely as a thinking thing-I can’t detect any parts within myself; I understand myself to be something single and complete. The whole mind seems to be united to the whole body, ·but not by a uniting of parts to parts, because:· If a foot or arm or any other part of the body is cut off, nothing is thereby taken away from the mind. As for the faculties of willing, of understanding, of sensory perception and so on, these are not parts of the mind, since it is one and the same mind that wills, understands and perceives. ·They are (I repeat) not parts of the mind, because they are properties or powers of it·. By contrast, any corporeal thing can easily be divided into parts in my thought; and this shows me that it is really divisible. This one argument would be enough to show me that the mind is completely different from the body, even if I did not already know as much from other considerations ·presented in the second meditation·
The damage to the body can be taken received by the brain and can be transmitted to the Mind. Descartes argue that because the lack of some part of the body and the inability of the mind to feel this void means that it is separate from it. The damage to a body is no damage to Mind. As I presented before the problem of Death, what if the body sustains such damage it ceases to function as a vessel. What happens to the independent Mind? Descartes may have been a tad too far with his conclusion that the mind can exist independently of body. Only God would know what would happen to the Descartes’ mind when his body died.
My conclusion about Descartes argument on the real distinction of mind and body is the lack of proof provided. The first which is the argument of knowledge subsequently that the mind is distinct from the body because of their difference in being indubitable and dubitable; the mind being indubitable, because of its ability to think which for Descartes contributes to it being existent as a thinking being and the body dubitable since it can be doubted thus could or could not exist. I’d agree to a degree with Descartes that things that can cast doubt shouldn’t be accepted as fact, but he goes as far as casting his body as an unnecessary thing to existence since he concluded that mind can independently. This lacks proof since no Mind has been known without its vessel. The second argument towards the distinction of Mind and body is that the Mind is the simplest and that the body is only an extension of it. Also does not prove that the body can exist alone even if it is a simple thing. For the same reason that there is no proof was presented out of his philosophy. I do not agree with the conclusion of the Mind-Body Dualism proposed by Descartes, for it lacks proof and is committing the fallacy of begging the question.