Descartes' Mind/Body Dualism
by Gordon L. Ziniewicz

Mind or Soul ("Ghost")
Mental Substance
Body ("Machine")
Physical or Extended Substance
Non-spatial consciousness and objects of consciousness (simple and compound ideas). Spatial (three-dimensional) matter in motion (including one's own body).
Can determine itself; is absolutely free; can accept or reject any notion. Is determined (moved) by other bodies in accordance with mechanical laws (nature is like a clock, where one part moves another).
Self-moving (compare to the living soul in Aristotle). Moved by others (compare to the artificial in Aristotle)
Realm where I am king: the city of the mind can be torn down and rebuilt so as to be logically ordered; one can tear down past systems of ideas and start over). Realm where I am a subject: the external city should not be torn down and rebuilt; others have authority over my body (the Church and Civil authorities).
Perfect order is possible. Perfect order is impossible.
Realm where obscurity and confusion can be overcome; certainty can be achieved through clear and distinct ideas. Realm where obscurity and confusion cannot be overcome; words cannot adequately represent clear and distinct ideas.
Realm of truth: metaphysics is based on intuition and deduction of clear and distinct innate ideas (soul, God, and body); however there is no innate idea of justice; the mind has no absolute standards for ethics/politics, though it does have standards for measuring and manipulating nature (science and technology). Realm of action: ethics and politics; human conduct must be adjusted in accord with imperfect social custom (nomoi) and the teachings of the Church (there are no absolute moral standards discoverable by reason alone).
Inner revolution (methodic doubt and meditation). Outer conformity (obey the laws, though imperfect).
Contradiction in thought can be overcome. Contradiction and inconsistency in speech and action unavoidable.
Progress means progress in mathematics and science leading to progress in technologies that provide health and conveniences and tools; mental progress means knowing more (scientific progress). Progress means achieving power over bodily nature, ability to manipulate matter in motion (prolonging life and providing comforts and useful equipment); progress means technological progress, not social progress or social reform.


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Copyright © 1992 - 2012 Gordon L. Ziniewicz
This page last updated 10/14/12

Please note: These philosophical commentaries, though still in process, are the intellectual property of Gordon L. Ziniewicz. They may be downloaded and freely distributed in electronic form only, provided no alterations are made to the original text. One print copy may be made for personal use, but further reproduction and distribution of printed copies are prohibited without the permission of the author.