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Descartes and the Immortality of the Soul

In John Cottingham & Peter Hacker (eds.), Mind, Method and Morality: Essays in Honour of Anthony Kenny. OUP (2010)
Descartes held that the human mind or soul is indivisible, unlike body. In this paper I argue that his treatment of this feature of the soul is intimately connected to his engagement with Aristotelian scholasticism. I discuss two strands in Descartes. There is a long tradition of arguing for the immortality of the human soul on the basis of this view. Descartes did use this view in defense of dualism, but I argue that he held that the soul’s immortality should be established rather on the basis of its status as a substance. This line of thought, I contend, is connected to his rejection of (most) Aristotelian substantial forms. Furthermore, the indivisibility of the human soul emerges repeatedly in connection to the union and interaction of mind and body in ways that connect to Aristotelian scholastic treatments of these issues.
Keywords Descartes  Mind  Immortality  substantial form  mind-body union  holenmerism  corporeal substance
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