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Introduction to Philosophy

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Running head: INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPH 1
Introduction to Philosophy
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INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPH 2
1. Descartes’ Substance Dualism and Materialism
Descartes’ Substance Dualism
According to Descartes, there are two aspects of man the spiritual substance and material
substance. The spiritual substance makes up the mind of which has thinking is its main function.
The material substance is therefore the body. Descartes explains extension as the essence of the
body. Descartes’ mind-body dualism therefore states that the mind and body are distinct
substances that exist independent of each other.
Descartes maintained that it was not possible for a substance to possess both material and
mental attributes. This brought forth the six meditations that were meant to bring out the aspect
of “separability”. To further separate the two, mind/soul and body, Descartes goes into depth in
his meditations to define the mind as the “thinking thing” and the body, or the extension, as the
“unthinking thing”. The mind is therefore characterized by thought while the body by extension.
Descartes is renowned for his task on substance dualism because of the numerous arguments he
gave to support his philosophy. However, one of the arguments that stand out is that of
“separability”. In his sixth meditation, the following excerpt explains this argument and how it
helps him further substance dualism argument.
“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. The question of what kind of power is required to bring about
such a separation does not affect the judgment that the two things are distinct. Thus,
simply by knowing that I exist and seeing at the same time that absolutely nothing else

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