Springer (2021)

Lynda Gaudemard
Aix-Marseille University
This monograph presents an interpretation of Descartes's dualism, which differs from the standard reading called 'classical separatist dualism' claiming that the mind can exist without the body. It argues that, contrary to what it is commonly claimed, Descartes’s texts suggest an emergent creationist substance dualism, according to which the mind is a nonphysical substance (created and maintained by God), which cannot begin to think without a well-disposed body. According to this interpretation, God’s laws of nature endow each human body with the power to be united to an immaterial soul. While the soul does not directly come from the body, the mind can be said to emerge from the body in the sense that it cannot be created by God independently from the body. The divine creation of a human mind requires a well-disposed body, a physical categorical basis. This kind of emergentism is consistent with creationism and does not necessarily entail that the mind cannot survive the body. This early modern view has some connections with Hasker’s substance emergent dualism (1999). Indeed, Hasker states that the mind is a substance emerging at one time from neurons and that consciousness has causal powers which effects cannot be explained by physical neurons. An emergent unified self-existing entity emerges from the brain on which it acts upon. For its proponents, Hasker’s view explains what Descartes’s dualism fails to explain, especially why the mind regularly interacts with one and only one body. After questioning the notion of emergence, the author argues that the theory of emergent creationist substance dualism that she attributes to Descartes is a more appropriate alternative because it faces fewer problems than its rivals. This monograph is valuable for anyone interested in the history of early modern philosophy and contemporary philosophy of mind.
Keywords Dualism  Descartes  Substance dualism  Creationism  Emergentism  Hasker  Cartesian
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Reprint years 2021
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ISBN(s) 3030754138   9783030754136
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Chapters BETA

In this book, I have addressed a range of issues. What means Descartes’s real distinction argument? What is the mind? Did Descartes think that the mind was able to exist on its own without the body existing? Does Descartes’s theory of mind relate to some kind of emergent dualism? Is this conception ... see more

The Real Distinction Between Mind and Body

The emergentist reading of Descartes that I propose in this book is mainly challenged by Descartes’s real distinction argument found in the Sixth Meditation. In this argument, Descartes concludes that the mind can exist without the body. Many scholars argue that, for him, the mind does not need the ... see more


There is a legend about Descartes that we all know of. According to this legend, Descartes claimed that there are two kinds of fundamental substances existing separately from each other: nonphysical substances , whose essence is thought, and physical substances, whose essence is spatial extension. T... see more

Challenging the Cartesian Mind Paradigm

In this chapter, I argue that, for Descartes, the faculty of imagination belongs to the essence of the mind. As imagination needs the body to occur, this claim conflicts with the separatist interpretation of real distinction argument. Furthermore, Descartes’s view of imagination leads to reconsider ... see more

The Emergence of the Cartesian Self

In the previous chapters, I showed that the traditional separatist interpretation of Cartesian mind-body dualism should be rejected because it is not consistent with Descartes’s conception of substance, of human being, and of imagination. For Descartes, a substance is a thing existing on its own wit... see more

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