Descartes and Nagel on Psychophysical Dualism Analytical Essay by Jay Writtings LLC

Descartes and Nagel on Psychophysical Dualism
An analysis of the perspectives of Rene Descartes and Thomas Nagel on the privacy of experience and psychophysical dualism.
# 119823 | 1,450 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on May 26, 2010 in Philosophy (Metaphysics) , Philosophy (Epistemology)

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The writer outlines Rene Descartes' classic position on and conclusions from the argument on consciousness and the mind-body connection. The writer then examines the position of Thomas Nagel, whose 1974 paper, "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" has some similarities to Descartes' position but also diverges from it in important ways. The writer brings out how Nagel's paper is an appeal to shift philosophy of mind from empirical methods to those of phenomenology, as well as stress that naturalism, such as he holds, is not identical with physicalism, which he does not support.

From the Paper:

"Descartes is perhaps most famous for his dualism of mind and body. This dualism was something that he apprehended from his starting point of certainty, that he existed because he was a thinking being and so was certain of his own existence. But since the only proof of his existence was the fact that he was a thinking being, an account of the nature of his existence could not go beyond that fact. As a result Descartes' account of his own nature is radically different from that of the physical world: "Of course, my conception of myself differs from my conception of a stone in that I think of myself as a thinking and unextended thing while I think of the stone as an extended and unthinking thing" (Descartes 125). By "extended" Descartes means that the stone as a physical, "unthinking thing" occupies space, while he, as a "thinking thing" does not."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Perry, John and Michael Bratman, eds. Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Third edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy. Perry, 116-39.
  • Nagel, Thomas. "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" Perry, 382-90.

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