Re Rene Descartes, Meditations

University Abstract
The view of the existence of two forms of realities occupied the minds of early philosophers such as Descartes. This same view gained support from other philosophers such Plato even before Descartes. The question of consciousness however became a puzzle to many with much debate building whether the mind and body had any consciousness. The material and the immaterial substances seemed not to exhibit any consciousness as Descartes defends in the sixth meditation. The paper will take a critical look at how consciousness cannot be established in the physical body not even in the immaterial thing, the mind.

Consciousness in the Physical Body and the Brain
Descartes believes in the existence of two parts of human beings the body and mind. Both of the body and mind exist distinctively, the thinking and the non thinking. He thought that the body could exist at times without the mind. He attributed the thinking part to being either a body or supernatural being superior to the non thinking substance. Descartes therefore takes these distinctive bodies as the body and the mind with the mind being the one capable of ones consciousness.

His argument therefore is that the mind and the body are two independent substances in a human being. To him the body is just a mere machine which is complemented by the mind as compared to animals which he describes as mindless machines. According to Descartes, the mind is just but a mental substance because it is a thinking being as he maintains in meditation VI.  The body is a physical substance in nature because it is a non thinking being as Descartes mentions in Meditation six. This observation explains why Descartes claims the neither the physical body nor the mind can have consciousness (Descartes, n. d).

Descartes believes that the thinking being is the passive faculty in human bodies which gets and recognizes objects, a faculty he could not have unless there existed some power within him or in something else that would bring out the ideas. Since the ideas produced were at most times against his will and cooperation and did not incur from his ability, he concluded that the power were not himself but of God or any other being or beings superior to him. The nature given to him by God instructed him to avoid pain instilling things and circumstances and instead seek what brings him pleasure.

His understanding of things was at times based on nature which is the external world and the way we perceive the external world. He reckons that nature taught him a lesson that he had a body and when he felt pain, something was wrong with his body. Nature also taught him that he needed food while he was hungry and water while he was thirsty. He however says that some of the things he believed to have been taught by nature were as a result of poor judgment, for example, the belief that the space is empty (Descartes, n. d). He goes further to assert that the good use of sensory perception presented to him by nature were to direct the mind on what was beneficial and destructive to his whole being including the mind.

Descartes at the end of the meditation tries to draw the connection between the sensory and the non sensory bodies. According to him the mind is related to the body in that it is sensitive to change and has the ability to influence other parts of the body. He however notes that the mind is only connected to pineal gland which is a small brain part with the nerves connecting it to the rest parts of the body. This mechanism he says were put in place by God (Descartes, n. d). On normal situations the correct information from the brain is sent but on situations contrarily, conditions like dropsy would result.

In general, the body and mind are two distinct substances as perceived by earlier philosophers who believed in dualism. In todays life, the judgment made in courts can benefit from Descartes, sixth meditation to ensure justice is done among criminals who consciously or unconsciously commit crime and get incarcerated. The judicial systems can have rulings that may treat various individuals with mental disorders in a different manner.


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