PHL100: Descartes's Meditation VI
Descartes's Meditations VI
Interactive Substance Dualism
- Do material things exist independent of my mind? Yes:
there are at least mathematical objects.
- I often use imagination to think of matter (here
imagination includes the idea of the faculty of having
images, not just the ability to create fictions)
- Images given in imagination are not clear and
distinct: I can imagine a chiliagon, but I know that
is not clear and distinct (the image is vague and
like my image of a 999 sided figure)
- I can understand a pentagon
- Understanding is the mind looking at mental contents.
- Imagination is the mind looking at images of sense.
- I also sense things.
- I have a body
- I sense my body's states
- I sense external objects and their features
- But only that I am a thinking thing is essential to what I
am. I have a distinct idea of my body, so it is not the same as
- I cannot understand myself without my mental faculties, but
I can understand myself without my body
- My sensations are not under my control: they come from something
independent of me (my body)
- The body is divisible, the mind is not
- My mind is not immediately affect by the body, but thoughts
- We can intercede in a motion of the body, but not in a progress
Descartes is the clearest early proponent of a view we today
call interactive substance dualism. We can consider these points
Arguably, this view remains the dominant one today among most people. It
is not widely held, however, among the most respected philosophers.
- Substance: this is a technical metaphysical term
meaning kind of being. One substance differs from another
if they are potentially independent. That is, two things
are of two substances if each could exist without the other.
- Dualism: the view that there are two substances. Descartes
supposes that these are mind and body.
- Interactive: mind and body interact, according to Descartes.
Each causes changes in the other.
- An answer to skepticism
- Interactive Substance dualism