José 12.19.2017 In light of the readings from

José Turrubiartez

Intro to Philosophy

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Dr. Peter Young




In light of the readings from the course, should
we believe in the existence of an immaterial mind (i.e. a soul)? What are the
main arguments in support of it? What are the arguments against? Which side
presents the more compelling evidence overall? Why?



            Throughout the
semester we have been reading a series of philosophers with different theories
and perceptions of the mind, body and soul. At the beginning of the semester we
focused on Plato’s idea that the soul exists after death. We discussed a series
of ideas that consisted of the Argument of Opposites; which was the idea that
in order for something to be dead, it must have been alive at some point and
vice versa. The Theory of Recollection, which is an explanation of how we can
come to know certain things in live without having any prior knowledge to it,
such as the concept of equality. The Argument from Affinity, which on the one
had places the body as being visible and mortal, and on the other hand places
the soul as being invisible and immortal. Lastly, we discussed the Theory of
Forms, which concentrated on the idea that form, unlike itself does not admit
its opposite. Since then we have discussed the thought of the body, mind and soul
as being interconnected, and we have come to question the relationship between
these ideas. Out of the entire philosopher’s, the one that most intrigued me
was René Descartes. It seems he had one of the most plausible arguments for the
existence of the immaterial mind. In an effort to contradict his findings, I
will present arguments he used to defend this belief, and introduce to you
arguments that challenge it, in an effort to proof that the existence of the
mind without the body is nothing but a lie, rooted in this idea to believe that
there is something before and after life.

It is important to first note that Descartes
believed in the idea of mind-body dualism. This is the view that some things
that are relating to the mind don’t necessarily have physical properties; his
idea was that the mind and the body could be separated and different. This
relationship encompasses mind and matter, object and subject. Descartes
believed that the mind is non-physical and non-spatial. Descartes correlated
the mind with this idea of self-awareness; we will refer to this as
consciousness. He separated this from the brain, as he saw the brain being the
intelligent decision making entity. In short Descartes believed that there were
two fundamentally different sorts of substances in the universe. The physical
things, which are what computers, chairs and bodies, are made up of which is
extended in space; he called this, “res extensa.” He also described the working
of the mind, which isn’t in space at all, thinking “stuff” also known as, “res
cogitans.” We must understand that Descartes mission was to doubt everything he
could in order to find something indubitably, which he thought was certain
knowledge. He found that he could doubt everything, except that he was
thinking, since doubting something would mean he was thinking, and in order for
the concept of “thinking” to happen there has to be a “thinker” doing the
thinking, hence where his famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am” originated
from. Descartes used three forms of dualism to justify his theory for the
immaterial mind. These are Cartesian doubt, Conceivability argument, and
divisibility argument. Let’s start off with exploring the first one.

Cartesian doubt is by far one of the most
popular arguments from Descartes. It basically states that there are two types
of substances that exist, and those are mental and physical. This is the main
idea I described earlier which is that the mental and physical substances are
completely different, independent and separate from each other. The argument
here is that you can have a physical thing, such as a chair, extended in time,
as in being just there, and have the chair not have any thought. While on the
other hand you can have mental things with thoughts, but no physical properties,
these things do not exist in the physical world. In order to understand the
problem with this let’s explore Leibniz’s Law. Leibniz’s law consists of two
principles, “The Principle of the Indiscernibility of Identicals,” and “The
Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles.” The Principle of the
Indiscernibility of Identicals basically states that if two things are
identical, they have the same properties. The Principle of the Identity of
Indiscernibles states that if two things have exactly the same properties, they
are identical. What you think of about something is not a property of the thing
itself, it’s a property of you, conflating the two is the mistake. He (Descartes)
can doubt his body or his mind, but that has to do with him personally, he hasn’t
actually established that the things themselves have different properties.

 An example that is commonly use to refute this is the following: Lois
Lane believes superman can fly, but doesn’t believe that Clark Kent can fly,
therefore Clark Kent and Superman are separate. This is wrong, what you think
about something, is not a property of the thing itself. Just because something
can be an object of doubt under a certain description does not mean it is a
real property of a thing, someone who is not you, may recognize an object a
certain way, but fail to recognize it a different way. Another hole in
Descartes idea is that, we know that what goes on in our bodies is affected by
our brain, and we think the brain has something to do with the mind, so how
does a non-physical mind affect a physical brain, how can a non-physical thing
impact a physical thing. It is for this reasons that I disagree with the idea
that we should believe in an immaterial mind.

The Conceivability Argument, Descartes basically
states that if something is conceivable then it is logically possible, while at
the same time, something that is inconceivable is also logically impossible. I
ask that you please be patient with me, with that being said; it is possible,
for someone to exist without a body; having a body is not an important factor.

However, this can be considered inconceivable so it is impossible that someone
could exist without the mind. If this is the case then that means that having a
mind is a crucial detail of that person, which would mean that the person is an
immaterial thing that also thinks. Now let’s explore this further. Imagine you
have “A” without “B” existing; creating “A” without “B” is not the same as
creating “A” without creating “B.” Where do I begin with this, Descartes in a
way is contradicting himself, to be separated from or exist without the body is
something that is unimaginable, so then it is not rationally possible.

Descartes assumes that he fully understands the ideas of minds and bodies, and
he doesn’t. He is completely arbitrary and doesn’t generate a satisfying

His divisibility argument does not get us that
far either. Descartes states that the body does not have the property of
possibility to exist without the body. The body is spatially divisible into
many parts, contrary to the mind that is spatially indivisible. The
divisibility argument states that the mind is a substance, that has ontological
independence, basically addressing the idea that the mind is different from the
body. The belief here is that the mind can function the same if any parts,
except the brain are amputated. This is not only illogical, but it lacks common
sense. We scientifically know that the brain cannot exist without the body, and
the body cannot exist without the brain. To add to this most physical
properties aren’t divisible. Take for example, being a cow, or any animal for
that matter, is not spatially divisible.  

            In order to
understand where Descartes is coming from we need to understand who Descartes
was as a person. Descartes was a man of many trades, but most importantly he
was a man of God. He was an extremely religious. He was a devout Catholic man.

His goal was to create work that supported the idea and realm of the existence
of God. We can see his strong stance on God in his work. He actually wrote
Meditations in part to defend the Catholic Church, his faith. The reason I find
this important to note is because I find it extremely manipulating of him to
create work to justify why religion, in this case Catholicism was good. Reading
his work and finding out that there was an intended purpose to defend God makes
me wary and I question if his intensions were to seek true indubitably
knowledge, or was he just some kind of token philosopher that created work to
lead parishioners who had gone estrange or were having doubts about Catholicism
back to the religion.  It all seems to
sketchy and quite honestly very insincere and deceitful that aside I still
wouldn’t agree with his arguments for the existence of the immaterial mind.

            It should be
noted that some of the arguments made against him back in the 1600’s were
challenged and in fact proved to be reasonable, and while I think the arguments
made against him were good, I find them completely outdated and very
complicated to understand. It is much easier to use present day arguments to
counteract his position on the existence of the immaterial mind. Science has
always been a part of our lives, Descartes believed in science. However,
Descartes and many other philosophers had limited resources because of the
technology that was available to them at the time, and for this I give them
some benefit of the doubt.  Who is to say
that Descartes wouldn’t have come up with ideas that were backed by the science
we have of the brain and physical body today? Then again, what if having the
evidence we have now didn’t matter, after all Descartes was a religious person,
a devout Catholic, what’s to say that he wouldn’t ignore all the scientific
facts that were discovered between his time and our time in an effort to make
Catholicism and the idea of God more appealing to people.

I would not know how to answer that, but I do
know that in our present day world, science based on tangible evidence and
facts makes more sense than Descartes arbitrary thoughts of how the mind and
body work. Not to mention that that relationship between body and mind is
extremely complicated both at a mental and physical level. The relationship
between the mind and body is so interconnected by physical attributes that can
be seen and explained that it would be ridiculous to try to find a reason as to
why the mind exist without the body without having any tangible scientific
evidence available to proof such a claim.

 I want to
make it clear that I enjoyed Descartes thoughts on dualism, and his arguments
in support of the immaterial mind, but I would have to disagree with this
claim. I personally do not believe that the mind can exist without the body and
that body can exist without the brain, but I will say that the only way I can
find this to be possible would be if a person was brain dead but their body was
being kept alive by machines, in which case the relationship wouldn’t
necessarily be between the mind and the body, but the machine and body, but I
don’t think that is a reasonable explanation to the existence of the mind
without the body, if anything it would be the existence of the body without the