David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Philosophical Forum 1 (3):259-273 (1969)
After claiming on the basis of the Cogito argument that he can assert with certainty that he exists, Descartes turns to an examination of his nature. He concludes that he is a nonmaterial, nonextended entity whose essence is to be conscious. Critics have insisted that this con¬clusion is not justified by the arguments he offers in its support. They object in particular to his attempt to justify the claim that he is a nonmaterial entity merely on the grounds that he can doubt the existence of a material world but cannot doubt his own existence. In my paper I explain how, by the introduction of certain reasonable premises, Descartes's arguments may be made to appear much less implausible and his mistakes much more interesting than his critics have acknowledged. I argue that, given the premise that he can conceive of himself as existing without a body, he can conclude not only that he is not essentially a material being but that his essence excludes his being a material entity. Descartes' error lies not so much in the movement from his premises to his conclusion as in his failure to clarify sufficiently his premise that he can doubt the existence of matter without having to concede his own nonexistence. In asserting that premise some criterion of his identity is presupposed. I discuss two which are compatible with his claim that he is a soul. Using one of those criteria, a psychological one, he can justify his premise, but he cannot use the argument I have proposed in his defense to reach the desired conclusion. That argument requires that he conceive of himself as a substance and employ a criterion of substantial identity as the criterion of his identity. Yet if he adopts this criterion he can assert his premise only if he is a nonmaterial substance. Thus, asserting it begs the point at issue. It is only by confusing two possible conceptions of "himself" that he seems to be able both to assert a priori that he could exist as a soul and infer from this that he is a soul
|Keywords||Mind-body Modern Descartes|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
David Kyle Johnson (2013). Do Souls Exist? Think 12 (35):61-75.
Similar books and articles
Maria Helena Rozemond (1989). Descartes's Conception of the Mind. Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles
Stephen Yablo (1990). The Real Distinction Between Mind and Body. In Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 149--201.
Daniel Holbrook (1992). Descartes on Mind-Body Interaction. Southwest Philosophical Studies 14:74-83.
Stephen Yablo (1990). The Real Distinction Between Mind and Body. In David Copp (ed.), Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 149-201.
Michael Wreen (2005). Descartes, Doubt, and Dualism. Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 8.
Tad M. Schmaltz (1994). Malebranche on Descartes on Mind-Body Distinctness. Journal of the History of Philosophy 32 (4):573-603.
Lisa Shapiro (2003). Descartes Passions of the Soul and the Union of Mind and Body. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 85 (3):211-248.
Marleen Rozemond (2010). Descartes and the Immortality of the Soul. In John Cottingham & Peter Hacker (eds.), Mind, Method and Morality: Essays in Honour of Anthony Kenny. OUP
Keith David Yandell (1997). The Human as Mind-Body Union: An Account and Defense of Descartes's Interactionist Dualism. Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
Justin Skirry (2001). A Hylomorphic Interpretation of Descartes's Theory of Mind-Body Union. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 75:267-283.
Sarah Broadie (2001). Soul and Body in Plato and Descartes. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 101 (3):295–308.
M. Pakaluk (2003). Degrees of Separation in the "Phaedo". Phronesis 48 (2):89 - 115.
Marleen Rozemond (1995). Descartes's Case for Dualism. Journal of the History of Philosophy 33 (1):29-63.
Steven-J. Wagner (1983). Descartes's Arguments for Mind-Body Distinctness. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43:499-518.
Justin Skirry (2004). Does Descartes's Real Distinction Argument Prove Too Much? American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 78 (3):399-423.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads376 ( #1,556 of 1,725,584 )
Recent downloads (6 months)26 ( #37,185 of 1,725,584 )
How can I increase my downloads?