Sophia on the web
A Resource Guide for Philosophy Students
Created by Jennifer Leslie Torgerson, MA
This page last modified: October 14, 2012
© copyright, 1997 - present
1596 – 1650 CE
Baird and Kaufmann. Philosophical Classics: From Plato to Nietzsche, 2nd Edition. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997 ).
Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy: Book Two. (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1985 ).
Rene Descartes. Meditations on First Philosophy With selections from the Objections and Replies; John Cottingham, Translator. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994 ).
W. T. Jones. A History of Western Philosophy: The Medieval Mind, 2nd Edition. (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, 1980 ).
Daniel Kolak. The Mayfield Anthology of Western Philosophy. (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing, 1998).
Louis P. Pojman. Classics of Philosophy. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998).
David Scott (University of Victoria). On Malebranche. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Philosophers Series, 2002).
T. V. Smith and Marjorie Grene. Philosophers Speak for Themselves: From Descartes to Locke. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1967 ).
The principle works of Descartes
Descartes was a French Philosopher, and is often considered to be the first modern philosopher. Meditation #1 demonstrates the "Method of Doubt" for which Descartes was famous. Descartes was a rationalist and a skeptic.
rationalism: the view that all human knowledge is acquired through reason as the primary source, prior and superior to sense experience. Rationalists think that all valid knowledge can be arrived at through a priori demonstration or an analytic demonstration that can be known prior to any sensual experience.
skepticism: the view that all, (or at least some part of) human knowledge is beyond reasonable proof. Descartes is a mild type of skepticism, which uses a tentative doubt in the process of reaching certainty. This is sometimes referred to as suspension of judgment: All assumptions or conclusions are questioned until they pass the test of critical analysis.
Skepticism may present:
1) A state of doubt,
2) A state of suspension of judgment,
And 3) a state of unbelief or nonbelief.
Skepticism ranges from a complete disbelief in everything, to a tentative doubt in a process of reaching certainty.
Rules for the Direction of the Mind
1628 (published 1701)
(1) The end of study should be to direct the mind towards the enunciation of sound and correct judgments on all matters that come before it.
"Certainly it appears to me strange that so many people should investigate human customs with such care, the virtues of the planets, the motions of the stars, the transmutations of metals, and the objects of similar sciences, while at the same time practically none bethink themselves able good understanding, or universal Wisdom, though nevertheless all other studies are to be esteemed not so much for their own value as because they contribute something to this. Consequently we are justified in bringing forward this as the first rule of all, since there is nothing more prone to turn aside from the correct way of seeking out truth than this directing of our inquiries, not towards their general end, but towards certain special investigations. I do not here refer to perverse and censurable pursuits like empty glory or base gain; obviously counterfeit reasonings and quibbles suited to vulgar understanding open up a much more direct route to such a goal than does a sound apprehension of the truth."
(2) Only those objects should engage our attention, to the sure and indubitable knowledge of which our mental powers seem to be adequate.
"We must note that there are two ways by which we arrive at the knowledge of facts, viz. by experience and by deduction. We must further observe that while our inferences from experience are frequently fallacious, deduction, or the pure illation of one thing from another, thought it may be passed over, if it is not seen through, cannot be erroneous when performed by an understanding that is in the least degree rational."
(3) In the subjects we propose to investigate, our inquiries should be directed, not to what others have thought, not to what we ourselves conjecture, but to what we can clearly and perspicuously behold and with certainty deduce, for knowledge is not won in any other way.
intuition: "By intuition I understand, not the fluctuating testimony of the senses, nor the misleading judgment that proceeds from the blundering constructions of imaginations, but the conception which an unclouded and attentive mind gives us so readily, and distinctly, that we are wholly freed from doubt about that which we understand. Or, what comes to the same thing, intuition is the undoubting conception of an unclouded mind, and springs from the light of reason alone; it is more certain than deduction itself in that it is simpler, though through deduction, as we have noted above, cannot by us be erroneously conducted. Thus each individual can mentally have intuition of the fact that he exists, and that he thinks; that the triangle is bounded by three lines only, the sphere by a single radius, and so on. Facts of such a kind are far more numerous than many people think, disdaining as they do to direct their attention upon such simple matters."
2 + 2 : : 1 + 3
2 + 2 = 4
1 + 3 = 4
"These two methods [intuition and deduction] are the most certain routes to knowledge, and the mind should admit no others. All the rest should be rejected as suspect of error and dangerous. But this does not prevent us from believing matters that have been divinely revealed ad being more certain than our surest knowledge, since belief in these things, as faith in obscure matters, is an action not of our intelligence, but of our will. They should be heeded also since, if they have any basis in our understanding, then can and ought to be, more than all things else, discovered by one or other of the ways above-mentioned, as we hope perhaps to show at greater length on some future opportunity."
(4) There is need of a method for finding out the truth
Descartes examines Logic, Science, and Mathematics and states that Mathematics (esp. Geometry) is a simple mental exercise that helps one to develop the mind's ability to handle more and more complex sciences.
(5) Method consists entirely in the order and disposition of the objects towards which our mental vision must be directed if we would find out any truth. We shall comply with it exactly if we reduce involved and obscure propositions step by step to those that are simpler, and then starting with the intuitive apprehension of all those that are absolutely simple, attempt so ascend to the knowledge of all other by precisely similar steps.
Rule 5 is seen as a summary of Descartes' Method.
(6) In order to separate out what is quite simple from what is complex, and to arrange these matters methodically, we ought, in the case of every series in which we have deduced certain facts the one from the other, to notice which is fact is simple, and to mark the interval, greater, less, or equal, which separates all the others from this.
(a) "we must note first that for the purpose of our procedure [.]"
(b) "[s]econdly we must note that there are but few pure and simple essences, which either our experiences or some sort of light innate in us enable us to behold as primary and existing, per se, not as depending on any others."
(c) "[f]inally we must in the third place note that our inquiry ought not to start with the investigation of difficult matters."
(7) If we wish our science to be complete, those matters which promote the end, we have in view must one and all be scrutinized by a movement of thought which is continuous and nowhere interrupted; they must also be included in an enumeration which is both adequate and methodical.
(1) If A then B.
(2) If B then C.
(3) If C then D.
(4) If D then E.
Therefore, if A then E.
other versions of hypothetical arguments:
Examples of hypothetical syllogisms:
Discourse on Method
note how Descartes has modified his Rules for the Direction of the Mind, in a more concise, refined version
Scientific Method (deductive/rationalist method): Descartes’ Method of Philosophy (Discourse on Method)
(1) To accept nothing as true which you do not clearly recognize to be so;
(2) To divide up each difficult question into many simpler parts;
(3) To start with the simpler matters and, and rise progressively to the most difficult;
(4) And finally, to make sure you have omitted nothing.
Other methods of science
Scientific Method (inductive/empirical method): F. Bacon (Novum Organum)
(1) Collect data by observation;
(2) Make a generalization about the data (an axiom or law);
(3) Replicate (collect more data to show generalization is cogent or reliable.
Scientific Method (Contemporary method- mixed of induction and deduction):
(1) Awareness and definition of a problem; (both empirical and rational elements)
(2) Observation and collection of data; (inductive generalization/empirical)
(3) Organization and classification of data; (both empirical and rational elements)
(4) Formulation of hypotheses; (both empirical and rational elements)
(5) Deductions from the hypotheses; (rational; uses syllogistic logic not empiricism)
(6) Testing and verification of the hypotheses. (replication)
induction: drawing a conclusion which goes beyond the information given in the premises. The conclusion of an inductive argument can only be held with probability.
deduction: drawing an inference (conclusion) which necessarily follows from the premises. The conclusion of a deductive argument can be held with certainty.
Meditations on First Philosophy
1641 (1642, second edition) Latin
1647 French Edition
In Meditation #1 Descartes doubts 3 things. First he doubts the senses. Our senses sometimes deceive us. We ought never to trust completely those things which we once doubted. Therefore we ought to always doubt the senses and any propositions of which the belief in is based upon our senses. Second, Descartes doubts that he is awake. The dream argument goes something like this: all persons dream sometimes. There are no conclusive indications by which dreams can be distinguished from waking life. Therefore at any given time a person ought not to be sure that (s)he is not dreaming. The third and final argument in Meditation #1 is the evil demon argument. An all-powerful evil genius could: (a) provide us with the sense impressions that we have without making anything which answers to them (i.e. without making a real external world, physical world); and (b) so fashion us that we are always mistaken in matters of mathematics and things "true by logic". I do not know that there is not an all-powerful deceiving God. Therefore I ought to always doubt all propositions about material objects and the external world (even the proposition that there is an external, physical world), and all propositions of mathematics as well as things "true by logic".
In Meditation #2, Descartes demonstrates that he exists. "So that after having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we must come to the conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it." This is the famous "cogito ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am". So, Descartes has shown that he is a man who thinks, and the more he thought about this the more "clear and distinct" the conclusion became. Descartes felt that whatever idea the mind conceived that was clear and distinct (or understood by intuition), that that idea was true.
"But what am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has sensory perceptions."
Sum res cogitans ('I am a thinking thing')
Meditation two is also an example of Descartes' Method of Doubt
"I will suppose then, that everything I see is spurious. I will believe that my memory tell me lies, and that none of the things that it reports ever happened. I have no senses. Body, shape, extension, movement and place are chimeras. So what remains true? Perhaps just the known fact that nothing is certain.
Yet apart from everything I have just listed, how do I know that there is not something else which does not allow even the slightest occasion for doubt? Is there not a God, or whatever I may call him, who puts into me the thought I am now having? But why do I think this, since I myself may perhaps be the author of these thoughts? In that case am not I, at least, something? But I have just said that I have no senses and no body. This is the sticking point: what follows from this? Am I not so bound up with a body and with senses that I cannot exist without them? But I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing in the world, no sky, no earth, no minds, no bodies. Does it now follow that I too do not exist? No: if I am convinced myself of something then I certainly have existed."
Descartes also imitates the Dialectic or Socratic Method
"What then did I formerly think I was? A man. But what is a man? Shall I say 'a rational animal'? No; for then I should have to inquire what an animal is, what rationality is, and in this way one question would lead me down the slope to other harder ones, and I do not now have the time to waste on subtleties of this kind. Instead I propose to concentrate on what came into my thoughts spontaneously and quite naturally whenever I used to consider what I was."
Criticisms of the cogito, and the method of doubt
In order to claim that one doubts, it is necessary to presuppose: (1) awareness of self; and (2) awareness of truth. If I am deceived, then I exist. It is not possible to totally doubt the existence of self, and of truth. To claim that there is doubt about the self is a claim that only can be made by a self. In order to doubt, it too does require knowledge of the true, or what counts for true, states of affairs.
Hence, the method of doubt was not required to get to the first truth: cogito ergo sum. Awareness of self and of truth (or what counts for true states of affairs) is known a priori, or as Descartes would say, by intuition.
He even goes so far as to understand substance, or that which underlies a thing. In his wax example, the wax is stripped naked of its accidents, and its substance revealed.
Pierre Gassendi remarks in the Fifth Objections: "This always eludes us; and it is only a kind of conjecture that leads us to think that there must be something underneath the accidents. So I am amazed at how you can say that once the forms have been stripped off like clothes, you perceive more perfectly what the wax is. Admittedly, you perceive the wax or its substance must be something over and above such forms; but what this something is you do not perceive, unless you are misleading us. For this 'something' is not revealed to you in the way in which a man can be revealed when, after first of all seeing just his hat and garments, we then remove the clothes so as to find out who and what he is. Moreover, when you think you somehow perceive this underlying 'something', how, may I ask, do you do so?"
Descartes replies to Gassendi (5th Replies): "I did not abstract the concept of the wax from the concept of its accidents. Rather, I wanted to show how the substance of the wax is revealed by means of its accidents, and how a reflective and distinct perception of it (the sort of perception which you , O Flesh, see never to have had) differs from the ordinary confused perception. I do not see what arguments you are relying on when you lay it down as certain that a dog makes discriminating judgments in the same way as we do. Seeing that a dog is made of flesh you perhaps think that everything which is in you also exists in the dog. But I observe no mind at all in the dog, and hence believe there is nothing to be found in a dog that resembles the things I recognize in a mind."
Descartes was a dualist. Dualism is the belief in two separate, distinct substances. Descartes believed that humans had a two-fold composition, those of soul substance (or mind) and body substance.
Substance: [substantia in Latin: that which underlies, or upholds something] according to Descartes- Substance is that which can be conceived alone by itself without needing something else in terms of which it is known, and without depending on something else for its existence. This would effectively leave only one true substance, God substance. Descartes believed that there were three kinds of substances: (1) God substance, (2) created finite spiritual substance (soul), and (3) created finite material substance (body).
The pineal gland, at the base of the brain, interacts with bodies to produce willing, consciousness, ideas, imagination, etc., or experiences of mind. This is called interactionism.
Interactionism: The mind and body interact, yet remain separate and distinct from each other by the mysterious function of the pineal gland. (pin-e-al) Substances interact; they oppose each other; they logically and ontologically exclude each other. The can be conceived and exist without each other. It is contradictory to say that thinking occurs but there is nothing doing the thinking. It is contradictory to say that spatial dimension exists but there is nothing that is extended or that has that dimension.
Critique of Descartes' Mind- Body dichotomy:
How do two separate and distinct substances interact and yet maintain their separateness?
Descartes does not provide us with an adequate explanation.
The following are other solutions to the Mind-Body problem provided by philosophers, other than Descartes:
This solution was proposed by the French philosopher Malebranche (1638- 1715), in Of the Inquiry of the Truth (De la Recherché de la Verite, 1674/5). In general, the belief that the apparent reciprocal action of mind to body is caused by an intervention by God, producing the occasion of a change in one, a corresponding change in the other. So it is only in, for example, the act of God's thinking/willing my hand to move, in which the my mind has the occasion to cause my body to move in a desired manner (hand moves). It is only at that moment that mind "moves", (while maintaining its separateness), the body; there is no interaction required because God is the cause of all action. Every mental truly corresponds to its correlating bodily state. Mind and body do not interact. (Malebranche was also a dualist: extended substance (body) and unextended substance (mind)).
1. 0.......0........0........0..... 2. 0 God sustains the motion of the billiard ball (this is where Descartes and Malebranche agree), as well as keeping it in a particular place and time (local). God is the true cause of all other causes. Malebranche goes a bit further by claiming that only God has causality, and mind and body do not have their own causality.
This solution was proposed by the Prussian philosopher, Leibniz (1646- 1716) and is also called parallelism (or parallel functioning). Leibniz wrote Monadology and Discourse on Metaphysics (to name only 2). Mind and body do not interact. God has established a harmony between mind and body. Mental states and bodily states correspond at every moment due to this preestablished harmony. For example, if two clocks seem to be keeping perfect time, there are three ways this could arise: (1) through mutual influence; (2) through constant adjustments by the mechanic who cares for them; and (3) through their own inbuilt individual exactitude. Leibniz thought that the clocks, which represent the mind and matter universe, were built so perfectly that they will always keep perfect time. Leibniz was a rationalist and an idealist, with two categories of immaterial substance (monad). Leibniz will be discussed in more detail, later in the course. (For a full page about Leibniz click here.)
(1) Critiques of occasionalism- a) Existence and so-called necessary truths cannot be demonstrated in an a priori manner, according to empiricists. Empiricists would claim that the only true, reliable account of reality, especially existence, is derived solely through sense experience. The position of occasionalism relies upon a rationalistic, analytic demonstration to support their positions. (But the rationalist would reply: existence, necessary truths, and correct comprehension of reality can be demonstrated in an analytic, ontological manner). b) We are not truly able to make free decisions. Although occasionalism is only a soft-determinism, some claim that a necessitated universe is incompatible with free will.
(2) Critique of Parallelism (or preestablished harmony) - Parallelism seems to cut the universe into two, and denies rather than solves the problem.
TO SEE MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC CLICK HERE
Spinoza (1632 -1677), a Dutch philosopher held the view that mind and body were just two aspects of the same one reality. This is pantheistic, or the belief that all is God. Mental reality is subjective or internal, and bodily reality is objective or external. We know our inner life intimately, but we only know the physical world second-hand through sense experience. Spinoza was a rationalist. (For a full page about Spinoza click here.)
causal argument for the existence of God
(1) I, Descartes, have an idea of an infinite, most perfect being, God.
(2) There must be at least as much reality (either formally or eminently) in the efficient cause as in the effect of that cause.
(3) The idea of an infinite, most perfect being could have only come from an infinite most perfect being.
(4) There cannot be an infinite regression here; eventually one must reach a primary idea, the cause of which will be like an archetype which contains formally (and in fact) all the reality (or perfection) which is present only objectively (or representively) in the idea.
(5) Therefore, God is the source of my idea of Himself, and my idea of Him cannot be any more real than its source.
(6) Therefore God exists.
"Undoubtedly, the ideas which represent substances amount to something more and, so to speak, contain within themselves more objective reality than the ideas that represent finite substances.
Now it is manifest by the natural light that there must be at least as much (reality) in the efficient and total cause as in the effect of that cause. For where, I ask, could the effect get its reality from, if not from the cause? And how could the cause give it to the effect unless it possessed it? It follows from this both that something cannot arise from nothing, and also that what is more perfect-- that is, contains in itself more reality cannot arise from what is less perfect. And this is transparently true not only in the case of effects which possess (what the philosophers call) actual or formal reality, but also in the case of ideas, where one is considering only (what they call) objective reality. A stone, for example, which previously did not exist, cannot begin to exist unless it is produced by something which contains, either formally or eminently everything to be found in a stone; similarly, heat cannot be produced in an object which was not previously hot, except by something of at least the same order (degree or kind) of perfection as heat, and so on. But it is also true that the idea of heat, or of stone, cannot exist in me unless it is put there by some cause which contains at least as much actual or formal reality to my idea, it should not on that account be supposed that it be less real. The nature of an idea is such that of itself it requires no formal reality except what it derives from my thought of which it is a mode. But in order for a given idea to contain such and such objective reality, it must surely derive it from some cause which contains at least as much formal reality as there is objective reality in the idea. For if we suppose that an idea contains something which was not in its cause, it must have got this from nothing; yet the mode of being by which a thing exists objectively (or representatively) in the intellect by way of an idea, imperfect though it may be, is certainly not nothing, and so it cannot come from nothing.
And although the reality which I am considering in my ideas is merely objective reality, I must not on that account suppose that the same reality need not exist formally in the causes of my ideas, but that it is enough for it to be present in them objectively. For just as the objective mode of being belongs to the causes of ideas-- or at least the first and most important ones-- by their very nature. And although one idea may perhaps originate from another, there cannot be an infinite regress here; eventually one must reach a primary idea, the cause of which will be like an archetype which contains formally (and in fact) all the reality (or perfection) which is present only objectively (or representively) in the idea. So it is clear to me, by the natural light, that the ideas in me like (pictures, or) images which can easily fall short of the perfection of the things from which they are taken, but which cannot contain anything greater or more perfect. [...]
Among my ideas, apart from the idea which gives me a representation of myself, which cannot present any difficulty in this context, there are ideas which variously represent God, corporeal and inanimate things, angels, animals, and finally other men like myself. [...]
It is enough that I understand the infinite, and that I judge that all the attributes which I clearly perceive and know to imply some perfection-- and perhaps countless others of which I am ignorant-- are present in God either formally or eminently. This is enough to make the idea that I have of God the truest and most clear and distinct of all of my ideas."
Fx = A
when there is formal truth (no error in judgment) and material truth (idea represents the thing).
The form (F) is contained formally in the object (X), but only objectively in the idea (A).
eminently: degree, or pre-eminent manner (a priori knowledge of causality).
formal: a direct correspondence with what is found in the effect (based on a priori knowledge of causality).
formal falsity: occurs only when there is an error in judgment.
material falsity: occurs when ideas represent non-things.
substance: a thing which can exist independently (i.e. a stone, me).
primary qualities of objects: objective qualities, actually in the thing itself (i.e. extension).
secondary qualities of objects: the way in which the object affects the subject (i.e. sweetness).
mode: (modus, measure in Latin) a combination of cognitive elements (intension) into a compound whose denotation (extension) is not antecedently decided; for example, the 'union' of form and matter.
Primary qualities of objects are not contained with me; they are not perfect (ideas about primary qualities of objects). The idea of God did not originate in me.
Note about Descartes, and his causal argument for the existence of God:
It is usually only proper to call a posteriori arguments cosmological, or arguments that work from effect to cause. Usually all such arguments use premises derived from sensation.
Descartes' causal argument for the existence of God is an argument that starts with the effect, the idea of God that is caused by God; hence, it seems to be cosmological. It too is an argument about cause, and cosmology is the study of the cause of the universe. But effect to cause arguments is seen as a posteriori, and moreover, cosmology is usually seen as an empirical study as well. Thus it is best to call Descartes' argument for the existence of God in Meditation Three "causal" or "eidological" since Descartes is a rationalist speaking about innate, a priori concepts, such as, the idea of God.
ontological argument for the existence of God
Rene Descartes' formulation of the ontological argument for the existence of God:
[We are not certain if Descartes knew Anselm's version.]
(1) Anything which I clearly and distinctly apprehend to belong to an object of thought does indeed belong to it.
(2) I, Descartes, have an idea of a most perfect being, God.
(3) I know clearly and distinctly that actual and eternal existence is part of His nature-- i.e., is part of the idea of the most perfect being-- and it is impossible to conceive God as not actually existing.
(4) Therefore, existence is part of the nature of God.
(5) Therefore, God actually and eternally exists.
"Hence it is just as much of a contradiction to think of God (that is, a supremely perfect being) lacking existence, (that is, lacking a perfection) as it is to think of a mountain without a valley. [...] But there is a sophism concealed here. From the fact that I cannot think of a mountain without a valley, it does not follow that a mountain and a valley exist anywhere, but simply that a mountain and a valley, whether they exist or not, are mutually inseparable. But from the fact that I cannot think of God except as existing, it follows that existence is inseparable from God, and hence that he really exists. It is not my thought that makes it so, or impose any necessity on any thing; on the contrary, it is the necessity of the thing itself, namely the existence of God, which determines my thinking in this respect. For I am not free to think of God without existence (that is, a supremely perfect being without a supreme perfection) as I am free to imagine a horse with or without wings."
Has Descartes made a category-mistake?
Gilbert Ryle, in his The Concept of Mind (1949), criticizes Descartes by saying he, and anyone who claims that mind is a substance with causality, has made a category mistake.
"I shall often speak of it with deliberate abusiveness, as 'the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine'. I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false not in detail but in principle. It is not merely an assemblage of particular mistakes. It is one big mistake. It represents the facts of mental life as if they belonged to one logical type or category (or range of types or categories), when they actually belong to another. The dogma is therefore a philosopher's myth. In attempting to explode the myth I shall probably be taken to be denying well-known facts about the mental life of human beings, and my plea that I aim at doing nothing more than rectify the logic of mental-conduct concepts will probably be disallowed as mere subterfuge. [...] The theoretically interesting category-mistakes are those made by people who are perfectly competent to apply concepts, at least in situations with which they are familiar, but are still liable in their abstract thinking to allocate those concepts to logical types to which they do not belong." (pages 16-17)
Hence, since Descartes has claimed the he is a thinking substance (sum res cogitans) he has committed the category-mistake. Descartes has attributed qualities such as substance, causality to the mind, and the clearer and more distinct idea of God, the only true substance since it only could be conceived alone. Ryle denies that mind is a substance. Ryle too is denying that God is a substance. Substance and causality are terms that should only apply to the category of material substance, and what Descartes has assumed to be a different substance, spiritual, is not. Substance is not unextended. To be called substance according to Ryle, it is extended, or caused by material substance.
"[... S]o long as John Doe continues to think of the Average Taxpayer as a fellow-citizen, he will tend to think of him as the elusive insubstantial man, a ghost who is everywhere yet nowhere.
My destructive purpose is to show that a family of radical category-mistakes is the source of the double-life theory. The representation of a person as a ghost mysteriously ensconced in a machine derives from this argument. Because, as is true, a person's thinking, feeling and purposive doing cannot be described solely in the idioms of physics, chemistry and physiology, therefore they must be described in counterpart idioms. As the human body is a complex organized unit, though one made of a different sort of stuff and with a different sort of structure. Or, again, as the human body, like any other parcels of matter, is a field of causes and effects, so the mind must be another field of causes and effects, though not (Heaven be praised) mechanical causes and effects. [...]
We still distinguish good from bad arithmetic, politic from impolitic conduct and fertile from infertile imaginations in the ways in which Descartes himself distinguished them before and after he speculated how the applicability of these criteria was compatible with the principles of mechanical causation.
He had mistaken the logic of his problem. Instead of asking by what criteria intelligent behavior is actually distinguished from non-intelligent behavior, he asked 'Given that the principle of mechanical causation does not tell us the difference, what other causal principle will tell it us?' He realized the problem was not one of mechanics and assumed that is must therefore be one of some counterpart to mechanics. Not unnaturally psychology is often cast for just this role." (pages 18- 22).
Since is seems unattractive to call a human a machine, or nothing but material causes, some have falsely created the idea of mind or soul. There too is the problem of the detemininistic nature of mechanism, and the nature of free choice, so too some do want to keep the realm of the intellect free from such determinism. Ryle says that these reasons are all a sort of false logic, and that the human body is not an ordinary body, not a mere machine, but there is no reason to conclude that mind is different from the mechanical world. To do so is to make a category-mistake. Ryle is not making a metaphysical claim, but an analytical-logical claim. He is trying to clarify the use of the term mind in language. He is not trying to reduce the substance of mind to the substance of matter he contends, but merely trying to clarify the concept of mind.
Descartes is now going to turn his mind away from imaginary things "towards things which are objects of the intellect alone and are totally separate from matter. And indeed the idea I have of the human mind is so far as it is a thinking thing, which is not, extended in length, breadth or height and has no other bodily characteristics, is much more distance than the idea of any corporeal thing."
This Meditation is about "Truth and Falsity." What of the evil demon? Is it possible to ever be certain of anything ever again? What about the doubt?
"To begin with, I recognize that it is impossible that God should ever deceive me. For in every case of trickery or deception some imperfection is to be found; and although the ability to deceive appears to be an indication of the cleverness or power, the will to deceive is undoubtedly evidence of malice or weakness, and so cannot apply to God.
Next, I know by experience that there is in me a faculty of judgment which, like everything else which is in me, I certainly received from God. And since God does not wish to deceive me, he surely did not give me the kind of faculty which would ever enable me to go wrong while using it correctly."
Since the idea of God is clear and distinct, and it is clear and distinct that omnibenevolence is a part of His essence, it would not be possible for God to give us a faulty mind, or try to deceive us. So what is the source of error?
Descartes explains the gradation of being, or degrees of perfection. He explains: "I realize that I am, as it were, something intermediate between God and nothingness, or between supreme being and non-being: my nature is such that in so far as I was created by the supreme being, there is nothing in me to enable me to go wrong or lead me astray; but in so far as I participate in nothingness or lacking in countless respects, it is no wonder that I make mistakes, I understand, then, that error such is not something real which depends to have a faculty specially bestowed on me by God; it simply happens as a result of the fact that the faculty of true judgment which I have from God is not infinite."
Error is not pure negation, but a privation or lack of knowledge. But how could anything created by a perfect being be less than perfect? It is not a reason to doubt the existence of God, merely because the human intellect is fallible (limited), whereas God is infinite, immense, and infallible. And it is also not possible to understand the nature of God by merely looking at one of His creations in isolation. The entire universe needs be examined to begin to understand the immensity of God. So, where does error come from?
"Next when I look more closely at myself and inquire into the nature of my errors (for these are the only evidence of some imperfection in me), I notice that they depend on two concurrent causes, namely the faculty of knowledge which is in me, and on the faculty of choice or freedom of the will; that is, they depend on both the intellect and the will simultaneously. Now all that the intellect does is to enable me to perceive the idea which is subjects for possible judgments; and when regarded strictly in this light, it turns out to contain no error in the proper sense of the term. For although countless things may exist without there being any corresponding ideas in me, it should not strictly speaking, be said that I am deprived of these ideas, but merely that I lack them, in a negative sense. This is because I cannot produce any reason to prove that God ought to have given me a greater faculty of knowledge than he did; and no matter how skilled the craftsman I understand the craftsman to be, this does not make me think he ought to have put into every one of his works all the perfections which he is able to put into them. Besides, I cannot complain that the will or freedom of choice which I received from God is not sufficiently extensive or perfect, since I know by experience that it is not restricted in any way."
The scope of the will is broader than the scope of the intellect and we try to use will in matter we do not understand. Since the will is indifferent, it easily turns aside from what is true and good. The lack lies in the use of the will, not in the faculty itself, as received by God.
Is the thinking nature in me?
"But now, besides the knowledge that I exist, in so far as I am a thinking thing, an idea of the corporeal nature comes into my mind; and I happen to be in doubt as to whether the thinking nature which is in me, or rather which I am, is distinct from this corporeal nature, or identical with it. I am making the further supposition that my intellect has not yet come upon any persuasive reason in favor of one alternative rather than the other. This obviously implies that I am indifferent as to whether I should assert or deny either alternative, or indeed refrain from making any judgment on the matter. [...] My experience in the last few days confirms this: the mere fact that I found that all my previous beliefs were in some sense open to doubt was enough to turn my absolutely confident belief in their truth into the supposition that they were wholly false.
If, however, I simply refrain from making a judgment in cases where I do not perceive the truth with sufficient clarity and distinctness, then it is clear that I am behaving correctly and avoiding error. But if in such cases I either affirm or deny, then I am not using my free will correctly. [...] In this incorrect use of free will may be found the privation which constitutes the essence of error. The privation, I say, lies in the operation of the will in so far as it proceeds from me, but not in the faculty of the will which I received from God, nor even in its operation, is so far as it depends on him. [...] What is more, even if I have no power to avoid error in the first way just mentioned [the finite intellect lacks understanding sometimes], which requires a clear perception of everything I have to deliberate on, I can avoid error in the second way [the indifferent and unlimited freedom of will], which depends merely on my remembering to withhold judgment on any occasion when the truth of the matter is not clear."
It is the nature of finite intellect to lack understanding. We cannot complain that the will is broader than that of the intellect. Just because we misunderstand at times is no complaint, at least we can understand. Privation is not found in God, but in us.
imagination vs. understanding
"So the difference between this mode of thinking [imagination] and pure understanding may simply be this: when the mind understands, it in some way turns towards itself and inspects one of the ideas which are with it; but when it imagines, it turns towards the body and looks at something in the body which conforms to an idea understood by the mind or perceived by the senses."
Imagination is not necessary and we would not be the same without it.
Understanding is directed inward (towards the mind) and imagination is directed outward (towards the body). Imagination is perhaps, a result of the external or bodily existence.
Do things resemble ideas?
"Since the sole source of my knowledge of these things was the ideas themselves, the supposition that the things resembled the ideas was bound to occur to me. In addition, I remembered that the use of my sense had come first, while the use of my reason came only later; and I saw that the ideas which I formed myself were less vivid than those which I perceived with the senses and were for the most part, made up of elements of sensory ideas. In this way I easily convinced myself that I had nothing at all in the intellect which I had not previously in sensation. [Nihil in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu] [...] Later on, however, I had many experiences which gradually undermined all the faith I had had in the senses. [...] [A]lthough I do not think I should heedlessly accept everything I seemed to have acquired from the senses, neither do I think that everything should be called into doubt. [...] First, I know that everything which I clearly and distinctly understand is capable of being created by God so as to correspond exactly with my understanding of it. Hence the fact that I can clearly and distinctly understand one thing apart from another is enough to make me certain that the two things are distinct, since they are capable of being separated, at least by God. [...] Thus simply knowing that I exist and seeing at the same time that absolutely nothing else belongs to my nature or essence except that I am a thinking thing [sum res cogitans]. It is true that I may have (or, to anticipate, that I certainly have) a body that is very closely joined to me. But nevertheless, on the one hand I a clear and distinct idea of myself, in so far as I am simply a thinking, non-extended; and on the other hand I have a distinct idea of a body, and can exist without it. [...] Now I can clearly and distinctly understand myself as a whole without these faculties, that is, without an intellectual substance to inhere in. This is because there is an intellectual act included in their essential definition; and hence I perceive that the distinction between them and myself corresponds to the distinction between the modes of a thing and the thing itself."
"My next observation is that the mind is not immediately affected by all parts of the body, but only by the brain, namely the part which is said to contain the 'common' sense."
[This supposed faculty which integrates the data from the five specialized senses (the notion goes back ultimately to Aristotle). 'The seat of the common sense must be very mobile to receive all the impressions coming from the senses, but must be movable only by the spirits which transmit these impressions. Only the conarion [pineal gland] fits these conditions.' (Letter to Mersenne, 21 April 1641). Comment by John Cottingham, in his translation of Meditations on First Philosophy].
"Every time this part of the brain is in a given state, it presents the same signals to the mind, even though the other parts of the body may be in a different condition at the time. This is established by countless observations, which there is no need to review here.
I observe in addition, that the nature of the body is such that whenever any part is moved by another part which is some distance away, it can always be moved in the same fashion by any of the parts which lie in between, even if the more distant part does nothing. For example, in a cord ABCD, if one end D is pulled so that the other end A moves, the exact same movement could have been brought about if one of the intermediate points B or C had been pulled, and D had not moved at all. In similar fashion, when I feel a pain in my foot, physiology tells me that this happens by means of nerves distributed throughout the foot, and that these nerves are like cord which go from the right foot up to the brain. [...] It is quite clear from all this that, notwithstanding the immense goodness of God, the nature of man as a combination of mind and body is such that it is bound to mislead him from time to time. [...] This deception of the senses is natural, because a given motion in the brain must always produce the same sensation in the mind; and the origin of the motion in question is much more often going to be something which is hurting the foot, rather something existing elsewhere. [...] [T]he exaggerated doubts of the last few days should be dismissed as laughable. This applies especially to the principle of reason for doubt, namely my inability to distinguish between being asleep and being awake. For now I notice that there is a vast difference between the two, in that dreams are never linked by memory with all the other actions of life as waking experiences are. [...] For from the fact that God is not a deceiver it follows that in cases like these I am completely free from error. But since the pressure of things to be done does not always allow us to stop and make such a meticulous check, it must be admitted that in the human life we are often liable to make mistakes about particular things, and we must acknowledge the weakness of our nature."
How do two separate and distinct substances interact and yet maintain their separateness? Descartes does not provide us with an adequate explanation.
Other solutions to the Mind-Body problem provided by philosophers other than Descartes: (Malebranche, Leibniz, and Spinoza)-
(1) occasionalism: This solution was proposed by the French philosopher Malebranche (1638- 1715), in Of the Inquiry of the Truth (De la Recherché de la Verite), 1674/5). In general, the belief that the apparent reciprocal action of mind to body is caused by an intervention by God, producing the occasion of a change in one, a corresponding change in the other. So it is only in, for example, the act of God's thinking/willing my hand to move, in which the my mind has the occasion to cause my body to move in a desired manner (hand moves). It is only at that moment that mind "moves", (while maintaining its separateness), the body; there is no interaction required because God is the cause of all action. Every mental truly corresponds to its correlating bodily state. Mind and body do not interact. (Malebranche was also a dualist: extended substance (body), and unextended substance (mind).
1. 0.......0........0........0..... 2. 0
God sustains the motion of the billiard ball (this is where Descartes and Malebranche agree), as well as keeping it in a particular place and time (local). God is the true cause of all other causes.
(2) preestablished harmony: This solution was proposed by the German philosopher, Leibniz (1646- 1716) and is also called parallelism (or parallel functioning). Leibniz wrote Monadology and Discourse on Metaphysics (to name only 2). Mind and body do not interact. God has established a harmony between mind and body. Mental states and bodily states correspond at every moment due to this preestablished harmony. For example, if two clocks seem to be keeping perfect time, there are three ways this could arise: (1) through mutual influence [Descartes' Interactionism]; (2) through constant adjustments by the mechanic who cares for them [Malebranche's Occasionalism]; and (3) through their own inbuilt individual exactitude [Leibniz]. Leibniz thought that the clocks, which represent the mind and matter universe, were built so perfectly that they will always keep perfect time. Leibniz was a rationalist and an idealistic dualist (two kinds of monads). For more about Leibniz click here.
(3) Double-aspect theory (identity theory)
Spinoza (1632 -1677), a Dutch philosopher held the view that mind and body were just two aspects of the same one reality. Spinoza wrote the Ethics, in which he describes his theory that God is that which can be conceived alone, perfect, and that which has a dual nature: that of thinking and being extended. This does not imply that God has a body or is corporeal. The Absolute is the only substance and his nature is immaterial. This is pantheistic, or the belief that all is God. Mental reality is subjective or internal, and bodily reality is objective or external. We know our inner life intimately, but we only know the physical world second-hand through sense experience. Only God is substance according to Spinoza. Spinoza was a rationalist. For more about Spinoza click here.
(1) Critiques of occasionalism- a) Existence and so-called necessary truths cannot be demonstrated in an a priori manner, according to empiricists. Empiricists would claim that the only true, reliable account of reality, especially existence, is derived solely through sense experience. The position of occasionalism relies upon a rationalistic, analytic demonstration to support their positions. (But the rationalist would reply: existence, necessary truths, and correct comprehension of reality can be demonstrated in an analytic, ontological manner. Such truths are deemed to be beyond the need for verification and are just given.) b) We are not truly able to make free decisions. Although occasionalism is only a soft-determinism, some claim that a necessitated universe is incompatible with free will. c) Because God must constantly adjust his creation (or produce causal occasions) it seems that God may not in fact be omnipotent. Why couldn't God create a correspondence between mind and body that he does not need to constantly maintain?
(2) Critique of Parallelism (or preestablished harmony) - Parallelism seems to cut the universe into two, and denies rather than solves the problem. Leibniz reduces material substance to nothing more than well-founded phenomena. He has based his position on a priori concepts that cannot be established empirically, and seem to not be self-evident to all. Leibniz has also reduced material substance to nothing more than well-grounded phenomena (hence it is not a substance per se).
(3) Critique of Double Aspect Theory- Spinoza too has relied on a priori concepts not accepted by empiricists (or all rationalists). Double Aspect theory is thought to be a crude reductionism, in that it reduces what dualists call mind substance and body substance to nothing more than mere aspects of another more real substance. Mind and body are merely consequences of the substantial causal activity. Only God is seen to be "free" according to Spinoza, hence everything in the universe is determined by the Absolute's nature, and it seems that even His nature is necessary and determinate. (Spinoza thought that God did not have limit, even though He is extended. He is simple, and perfect, and cannot have parts, or limitations, hence His necessary nature (that He is simple, etc.) is not a limitation).
The range of metaphysical choices
(With detail paid to thinkers to be discussed later in the course)