Homework Question on Rene Descartes Substance Dualism
- Descartes’ Substance Dualism and Materialism (50 marks)
- In your own words, provide a concise formulation of Descartes’ Substance Dualism. In your own words, provide a concise formulation of materialism.
- In particular explain the distinction between reductive and eliminative materialism.
- In light of the criticisms offered of both dualism and materialism, which account is more plausible? Explain why.
Homework Answer on Rene Descartes Substance Dualism
In his Meditations VI, Descartes maintained that there is no entity that exhibits both mental and material attributes. His argument for substance dualism also referred to as argument from separability can be understood from two perspectives. The first perspective is that of substance as a subject of properties and the second perspective is that of substance as an independent entity. The defining characteristics of the mind according to Descartes, was largely a reflexion while that of the body was just a spatial addition. Mind and body on these perspectives are separate entities.
Descartes argument for substance dualism begins with the affirmation that the mind and body are substances that exist. The argument proceeds by acknowledging that the defining characteristics of the mind are cogitation while those of the body are extensions. When argued as such, Descartes contends that those that cogitate are not extended and those which are extended cannot cogitate. This argument can be concluded by saying that the mind is not the body and the body is not the mind.
Materialism contends that, that which can be said to exist is matter. This argument therefore asserts that everything that exists in the world today is composed of material and all phenomena including the mind exist because of interaction of matter. This argument is contrary to dualism since it asserts that mater is the only substance. There are two perspectives that can be used to enhance proper understanding of materialism. These are reductive materialism and eliminative materialism.