janetthomas

When Réne Descartes (1596-1650) made his pronouncement “cognito ergo sum” he asserted that there was one thing of which he was certain and indubitable and that was that the mind is better known than the body and, therefore, must be distinct from the body[1]. Descartes argued that the body is an ‘automaton’ which, with sufficient knowlege, even its complex behavioural responses could be explained in purely mechanical terms.[2] However, he went on to say that what could not be explained mechanistically was the human capacity for thought[3]. Therefore, he compounded the nature of humanity into two distinct substances, ‘an incorporeal spirit and a purely mechanical body’[4].  This essay will attempt to answer why Descartes thought that we must understand the mind and the body as different substances and whether his argument was valid in relation to the later physicalist account of the…

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