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Concepts of Mind-Body Dualism by Rene Descart


In his meditations, Rene tries to explain and ascertain the world’s existence and true nature. Most of his assumptions are science-based, whereby doubt forms the core or starting point. Out of doubt, he tries to differentiate reality from perceptions, hence discovering the existence of things with certainty. He uses doubt to verify that, for real the human mind exists, hence out of doubt human beings construct different ideas that fit their daily lives. The sixth meditation primarily centers on the reality of material things and actual differences between the body and mind. In this meditation, Descartes presents two arguments, which describe the existence of material things. In one argument, Descartes bases the existence of material things on the power of imagination, whereas in the second argument he presents his arguments based on human senses. There is a clear differentiation between human imagination and conceptual understanding of things and the existence of objects in nature.

The Sixth Meditation: Mind-Body Dualism

In his “cogito argument,” Descartes clearly ascertains his existence; hence, this makes him question further the reality about his nature, which according to him is something he perceives to know. From his discoveries, Descartes ascertains that he is “des cogitans;” a subject whose main function is to be aware of occurrences. In the body-mind dualism, the connection between the mind and the body puzzles Descartes, whereby he asks himself some questions, which help him to discover the connection between the two. Descartes tries to discover why some changes in the body make him behave or act in a specific manner in order to counter or satisfy such desires. For example, Descartes asks himself why changes in the stomach prompt him to search for food, although there is no clear connection between decisions made and changes in the biological functioning of the body. To him, nature dictates everything he does both in his body and in the external world. This makes Descartes again put into question the existence of material things, although he feels his discoveries provide a firm basis for explaining the existence of material things this makes him make an assumption that there is no need to put into question the full existence of things perceived by individuals as material. Descartes perceives himself as a thinking thing, whereby the body and mind are different, based on the assumption that the body unlike the mind has extensions. Due to this, Descartes believes that in reality, his being is very different from the body, and to some levels, the two (himself and his body), can exist as single units (Bennet pp. 27- 32)

Sensory insights are never active on their own, but instead, at all times there have to be some external activators external to the body that dictate their activeness. These activators can either be other objects external to one’s body or God. To some extent, these external objects or bodies may have known realities almost the same as the sensory perceptions or sometimes unknown to an individual. To Descartes such perceptions by the mind may have origins (creators) that are almost similar to them, hence to say that such perceptions result from different sources not similar to them (perceptions) is a lie. One point to note here is that the mediator bases his assumptions on the fact that God is never a liar. Hence, hence the mediator’s assumption on the existence of material things is debatable. This is because Descartes bases his doubts on the existence of material things on his own perceptions, which change or vary according to human experiences.

In reality, most sensory perceptions result from individuals’ outlook of life occurrences. On the other hand, many objects in an individual’s external environment determine how individuals perceive objects in their surrounding environment. In this regard, it may never be wrong to argue that God himself created these perceptions because for sure how comes there is a variation across different individuals when it comes to defining reality? One main thing to note here is that it is possible to separate the meditator and perceptions built in the mind. This is because the meditator is not aware of when and why the mind creates such perceptions of things and objects, but they occur involuntarily. This clearly gives a firm basis for arguing that, some forces external to the body cause all human perceptions and thinking patterns. Although Descartes ascertains that sensory perceptions result from external objects that are similar to the perceptions, is not right due to the fact that the human mind only receives perceptions and processes them into actions, but they never originate there.

The assumption that sensory perceptions result from external things contradicts some level of philosophical thinking. This is because considering the nature of the mind one can argue that, there is a clear differentiation between the mind and the mortal body. Descartes’ meditations support this assumption, hence forming a clear distinction between the mind and the body. Critically analyzing working patterns of two different people; although there may exist similarities in their working patterns, there exist many factors differentiating them, hence by analogy their minds are bodies are practically two distinct objects, that vary in their perception of reality. In this regard, it is never wrong to assume that human actions and perceptions of reality are pure products of the mind and not the body. Although this to some extent contradicts the assumption in the second meditation, where Descartes considers himself as a thinking thing, it helps to prove that human actions are a result of directions from the mind and not the body (Descartes pp.48-60).

One main contradicting point here is that, if the body and mind are two distinct entities, then how comes they can coordinate and drive an individual? This results from the fact that, if one assumes that, the mind and the world are two distinct objects, then the body must contain the mind. Due to this fact, it is never wrong to say that the main connection between the mind and body are nerve connections, which help to pass information across different body parts. These nerve connections at least give the mind an opportunity of knowing what is happening in its surrounding environment by use of the causal interface. This assumption is in agreement with Descartes’s second meditation, where he asserts that the causal interface aids communication between body parts.

In normal situations a combination of forces resulting from the body and mind make individuals make sure all activities they participate in are gratifying or satisfy their innate wants. In this regard, for individuals to make decisions they consider ethically correct, they must set aside all sensory perceptions and apply their intellect. For example, it is very illogical to use heat sensations in case of fire, instead of the pain one perceives may cause. Due to this, it is accurate to conclude that the main significance of human senses is to provide required information to individuals from their immediate environment. One thing to remember before obeying instincts from senses is that sometimes human senses can deceive, hence the need for critical evaluation of all sensory perceptions before reacting to external stimuli. This goes hand in hand with Descartes’s arguments that, sensory perceptions are directing forces, and in case there is doubt, then one has the obligation of ascertaining the reality in them.

To Descartes, there is a clear difference between body qualities perceived as primary or secondary. These include qualities such as color and heat (secondary), and size and texture (primary). Perception of primary qualities by individuals is easy, whereas perception of secondary qualities is hard. This is because many secondary qualities are lack geometrical properties, which are common in primary qualities. In addition, the extensive property of the body can help to distinguish clearly primary body qualities. This agrees with Descartes’s argument that, secondary qualities either originate from the mind only or both the mind and the body. Due to this then one can argue that human perceptions never originate from material objects, but rather material objects are only causal factors (Wilson pp.68-70).


In conclusion, sensory perceptions should only give directions, which individuals should only obey if intellectual reasoning agrees with such perceptions. In this regard, individuals must always be careful through critically analyzing situations from a reality point of view, and not perceptions by the body. This is because sometimes body perceptions deceive, hence giving wrong pictures of occurrences.

Works Cited

Bennet, Jonathan. Meditations on first philosophy in which are demonstrated the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and body. Google docs. 2007. Web.

Descartes, Rene. Meditations of first philosophy. Montana: Kessinger publishing 2004. Print.

Wilson, Catherine. What is the importance of Descartes’s meditation six? Goggle docs. 2005. Web.

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StudyKraken. "Concepts of Mind-Body Dualism by Rene Descart." November 30, 2021.


StudyKraken. 2021. "Concepts of Mind-Body Dualism by Rene Descart." November 30, 2021.


StudyKraken. (2021) 'Concepts of Mind-Body Dualism by Rene Descart'. 30 November.

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