thumbnail of From Socrates To Sartre; #11; Body and Soul
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It was a very simple one chill twentieth century French philosopher admin who made the best known of all the comments on this portrait of Descartes which we are looking at now then said this is a terrible man to have as your teacher. He looks at you as if to say here is another one who will never get things straight. Or was a contemporary teacher might say. Here is another knucklehead another fool another dumb dumb. Fortunately Descartes was never a teacher. We have seen de cartes hard code mathematical reasoning combined with his passionate personal drive for certainty. We have seen these arrive at a rational absolutely certain geometrical proof step by step he established first to that I exist and then know that God exists then that the physical world exists and that all of my clear and distinct self evident idea is true. Since God guarantees them and that the whole of the physical and human worlds
correspond therefore to mine a clear and distinct ideas. Thus my rational clear and distinct self evident ideas are the key to nature to all of reality. And mathematics is the key to reason. Cartesian rationalism is as bold a claim for human reason as has ever been made Cartesian rationalism is the claim that the structure over the world corresponds to the structure of our reason of our rational ideas. But let us look at this reality at this world which they caught constructed and which he claims to be a true picture of the world in which we live. The most striking feature of the Cartesian world of reality as Descartes philosophy describes it is that it erects a split a division a duality a dichotomy
between two different kinds of reality between mental spiritual thinking substance such as myself and God. And on the other hand physical spatially extended substance such as my body mountains flowers dogs planets. These two kinds of substances constitute two different and separate worlds. They represent two realities. Between them there is a gap which can never be bridged. As we've said that a car cuts the PAI of reality into Descartes here has presented the classic case of a dualism within reality of metaphysical dualism. Dualism is the name for any theory which claims that there are two ultimate and irreducible components in the subject whatever the subject may be to be explained. Cartesian Dualism is called psycho physical dualism to
indicate that the duality consists of the psychological conscious mental kind of reality on the one hand and of the physical spatial extended kind of reality on the other hand psychophysical dualism may be defined as the doctrine that reality has two kinds of attributes mental and physical and that the one kind of attribute can never be shown to be a form all or be reduced to the other. So for a psycho physical dualism mind can never be shown to be derived from or a form or a function or reducible to matter. Cartesian psychophysical dualism formulate its doctrine in terms of substances since for Descartes as we have seen attributes such as mental or physical cannot exist except as the attributes of substances. Mostly
remember this is how they can prove that my being conscious of the attribute of thinking show necessarily that I exist as a thinking substance that is as the substance in which the attribute of thinking is going on. Also you remember this is how he showed that my clear and distinct ideas of the attribute of extension prove that substances with the attribute extension exist as the cause of my ideas. Most Cartesian psychophysical dualism is the doctrine that reality consists of two kinds of substances one thinking mental spiritual substances and two extended physical spatial substances. Now we can understand why Cartesian psychophysical dualism is regarded as the sharpest and clearest formulation of metaphysical dualism. It is because Descartes has made
one attribute one property or quality of the principal attribute of each kind of substance and he determined which the principal attribute is by this question. What is my clear and distinct idea of this thing. What is my clear and distinct idea of its essential necessary quality or attribute. And for mental spiritual substance the principal attribute is thinking. It is therefore a thinking kind of substance substance which is conscious which means what they caught it thinks understands affirms denies wills refuses imagines and feels but this attribute of thinking is the very attribute which is distinctly lacking in the piece of wax in spatially extended bodies and in the motion of bodies from one space or place to another. It is lacking in the mechanical cooking of earthly clockworks it is lacking in the celestial movement of the planets. It
is lacking in the bodies of animals and humans. There is no consciousness in any of these and physical substance is defined. On the other hand. Why it's being extended in space. Physical substance is measurable by geometry which is the science of spatial measurement its motion is mechanical and it is in fact a case of spin that a physical substance moves on impact as the cogs in the machine impact upon the cog in other wheels as one billiard ball impacts upon another. But being physically extended is the very attribute or property which is lacking to mental substances. Minds thinking things consciousness. These are not extended in space. They are not measurable. They are not in motion they do not function like clockwork. Was it by mechanical
clockwork that they caught resolved for once in his life to doubt everything. To overthrow all his beliefs. To attempt to use methodological skepticism in order to reach an absolutely certain belief that was no clockwork. That was nothing mechanical. That was the masterful triumph of a free spirit of a thinking thing of a mental substance thinking substance mental spiritual reality by definition lacks any spatial extension occupies no space is not measurable or quantifiable is not in motion. Where for example is thinking in my head. Physical substance spatially extended mathematically measurable lacks any mental spiritual or conscious attribute. Physical things cannot think physical things have no consciousness and so we are confronted by the dual twofold substances and their attributes of
Descartes. The World On the one hand spatially extended mechanical substances which have no consciousness and no mind. On the other hand a mental conscious spiritual thinking substances which have no body and have no spatial extension. Day carts psychophysical dualism was well expressed by an old English couplet which says what is matter never mind what is mind no matter. And there was no way in which the absolute differences between these two kinds of reality can ever be bridged abolished or overcome the gap the chasm that opens between them can never be closed. For this reason Cartesian Dualism is the most extreme example of psychophysical dualism in the history of modern philosophy. But we may see how extreme Cartesian psychophysical dualism is
by looking at it in terms of another problem a problem which has tormented philosophy ever since the time of St. Augustine. And that is the problem of free will and determinism since as Descartes says nothing comes from nothing and everything that exists has a cause. Determinism takes over from this and argues that everything that exists is the necessary and inevitable result all of its causes and could not be otherwise than it is. Modern determinism from the time of Descartes was inspired by science and its necessary causal laws and modern determinism is Accordingly the view that everything that happens happens necessarily and follows some causal law of science. Determinism characterizes the world of spatially extended substances in motion physical bodies
move as the necessary and inevitable result of pressure or impact on them or other bodies. This is the way the planets move their motion is determined by the necessary mechanical laws of astronomy. This is the way the machinery of a clock work moves by the necessary causal impact of the one cog wheel upon another with the movement of the second wheel being the necessary and inevitable effect of the first wheel. It is in total opposition to the necessary dependent and inevitable and mechanical determinism of the physical universe which they caught Copernicus and Galileo had described their stands in opposition to wall of this the free will of spiritual thinking mental substance. The doctrine of free will is the denial that determinism applies to the actions of human beings free will is the doctrine which claims that
human beings are unlike the mechanical motion of planets or a clockwork machinery. The doctrine of free will claims that human beings are not determined by antecedent causes in what they choose to do as conscious thinking substances. They are free in their moral choices. They are not causally determined in their actions. And so if you pose through a picket line. If you make a contribution to a church or to a political party if you are insulting to another human being if you are physically cruel to an animal if you are a criminal or a saint the doctrine of freewill claims that these acts are done out of your own free will that you are a free agent in doing them. And in all your other actions as well. And therefore since antecedent causes I'm not responsible for your actions you are responsible. Since your will was free to do or not to do the action.
But the doctrine of determinism claims that you are not responsible that your action was the inevitable and this is the result of a host of antecedent causes working upon you. This issue between free will and determinism is especially controversial today in the field of criminal psychiatry in which the question is is the criminal's act the necessary result of antecedent causes so that he could not help doing what he did. Or was he free to do otherwise. These questions have important consequences for the treatment of criminals is a crime the inevitably determined effect of necessary prior causes or does the criminal attacker have a free will in choosing his actions. Is his biological heritage to blame for resign or an unloving family or the capitalist system of so society. Are these to be blamed for his act. Or is the criminal responsible for his own actions. For Descartes it is of course the case that human beings as thinking
conscious are mental substances in their thinking. Affirming denying and willing as Descartes says the freedom of the human will is infinite. Human beings have infinite freedom in the power to make moral decisions and are accordingly responsible for their moral decisions. Bostick hard to dualism of thinking and spatially extended substances establishes the opposition between thinking substances as having free will and physical substances as being subject to causal determinism. But the full impact of Cartesian Dualism is yet to be mention. It is the impact of Cartesian dualism upon me the individual human being. It is not only the world which consists of two irreducible divergent distinct opposing substances and their attributes but is the individual human being who now may be seen to be split in two by Cartesian psychophysical
dualism. Am I not I thinking things a mind a consciousness with free will. But am I not also a body specially extended measurable quantifiable and organic mechanism a clockwork which is causally determined. But now I see that according to Descartes my mind and body are utterly absolutely distinct as in the universe itself with its two kinds of substances mental and physical. There is in me the same absolute unbridgeable gulf between mind which occupies no space and body which can or think there is in me the same lack of unity the same division and to do well Lotty. I myself consist of two seperate substances. Moreover the two substances which make up a human being are not of equal significance. For did not Descartes show that I am a thinking feeling but I am a substance whose nature it is to think and that my principal
attribute is thinking. I am then a mental substance a thinking thing. What then is the relation of my body as extended substance to myself as thinking thing they call himself tries to tell us in meditation 6. Where he says since on the one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself in so far as I am only a thinking thing and not an extended being. And since on the other hand I have a distinct idea of body insofar as it is only an extended substance which does not think it is certain that this I that is to say my soul by virtue of which I am what I am he says is entirely and truly distinct from my body and that my soul can exist without my body my mind according to Descartes is not. It is therefore not only and tire only different in its attributes from my body but it is totally independent of my body
and may exist without it. And as Descartes has shown us I know my own mind better than I know any physical thing including my own body. Then how shall I understand my relationship as a thinking thing to my own body. My body does not belong to my nature. Perhaps. Is it the case that the soul uses the body to how's it so or is it that the soul not only uses the body as its habitat but also directs some of the movements of the body. And so with like a pilot on the ship directing it as they caught himself suggests. Day cards show up correspondent our No. The young theologian who wrote the sixth objection set of objections to the meditations pounced on this problem immediately. The shop theologian Arnaud wrote today Carr that since Descartes has clearly and distinctly perceived himself to be a thinking thing. This leads to the conclusion
that man is as I know says and Tyrolese spirit while his body is merely the vehicle of spirit whence follows the definition of man as a spirit which makes use of a body. Descartes has led us into this extreme dualism of mind and body of an immaterial soul. How in a material body according to which they are so completely different that there can be no interaction between my own mind and my own body. But this runs counter to the evidence of every day life in which my mind and my body are constantly interacting. My body influences my mind when my body has to cope with a huge Sunday dinner or with a large intake of beer or hard liquor or even a small intake of a narcotic. My mind in all of these cases will soon register that it has been
affected. It becomes dull. My ideas are no longer clear and distinct. The distinction between dream and reality begins to blur. But how is this possible. On the basis of Descartes to dualism and conversely the evidence of everyday life shows that my mind influences my body that the causal relationship can also be from the mind and to the body. For example I decide in my mind to salute the flag or to wave goodbye or to shake hands or to whistle for my dog or to run for a bus and I salute I wave I shake hands I whistle I run according to the car to dualism. These could not happen. These actions which my mind has caused in my body are impossible for how could my mind which occupies no space is nonphysical. Make my body move. Motion is an attribute only a physical things and can be caused only by billiard ball or
clockwork impact upon other physical things. Why is Descartes let us into this impasse in which his extreme view will stick separation of mind and body denies what anyone can plainly see that mind and body do interact. That they are not such a different kind of reality that mind cannot produce at will. A handshake and the body cannot produce a feeling of pleasure. Don't loose in the mind. The answer to why Descartes has led us down this blind alley is that he was seeking as we know a compromise a reconciliation between the powerful new science and its mechanical deterministic laws of motion of physical bodies in space and on the other hand with the powerful church with just with its dogmas of a perfect infinite spiritual being who created man who is a finite and imperfect spiritual being. This God
who also created an earthly habitat for man. For the church truth about reality came from divine revelation not from science. You seem to Descartes that his dualism provided a compromise to ease the bitter enmity between the new science and the church. He believed that he could achieve this compromise by the dualism of completely distinct substances. This dualism provides the physical substance its motion according to causal laws. If determinism its predictability would be the exclusive province which science controls and immune from science on the other hand immune from the laws of physics and from determinism is mental substance mental substance is spiritual conscious not spacially extended not quantifiable not predictable. Mental substance does have free will. It is capable of spontaneity. It is able to know the eternally true ideas which are innate within it of self of
God and nature is able to be thinking remembering feeling responsible and moral. This kind of substance would be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the church with no interference from science. And so as we've seen that Carter cuts the poddy of reality giving the physical and scientific side to the scientists and the spiritual side to the theologians and philosophers. Unless the Cartesian theory of dual substances appeared to Descartes to effect a compromise between the church and the scientists. To each its own jurisdiction. To the scientist matter and its mechanical laws of motion to the theologians of the church. Mental substance. The Souls of human beings. This is the Cartesian compromise but Descartes himself was unhappy with his physical psychophysical dualism. He was perfectly well aware of the interaction between mind and body and he trying to show that interaction was possible on his own
strictly dualistic theory. He argued in what is perhaps the weakest contribution of his entire philosophy. That interaction between the soul and the body is possible because the Soul is primarily located in the pinacle gland in the brain. And there was so acts as a thinking substance but at the same time it also receives sensations from the body. The pinion a gland he argued is the transfer point between soul or mind and body. Through the penny alone and the soul can move the muscles and nerves of the body and the motions of the body can in turn influence the mind. Unfortunately for Descartes argument there was absolutely no evidence of the pinacle gland has such functions. It has other functions. Moreover the penny alone device cannot explain how an extended immaterial soul can have an
effect on a part of the brain or how the physical pinning of the gland can have any effect upon the immaterial soul. A last point on Descartes psychophysical dualism. They karts attempt to show that there was indeed the possibility of interaction between Soul and Body Mind and Matter had destructive consequences for the Cartesian compromise that he had placed so much stress upon. Or if the immaterial spiritual soul can bring about through the Pincio gland changes in its body and by means of the body on other bodies this would destroy the new science and its mechanical motion by introducing a spiritual element into causality. I myself as a spiritual thinking thing become then a strange alien cause in a mechanistic causal world and on the other hand if through the pinnacle gland my body can bring
about changes in my mind. Then my mind is affected by the laws of motion of the body and becomes part of the mechanical clock work of the body. So interaction would destroy the mechanistic laws of science or it would destroy the mind as an independent immaterial substance. And so the Cartesian compromise fails it fails either because there was no interaction between mind and body or if there is interaction. This destroys the mechanism of science or it destroys the independence of the mind. Although the Cartesian compromise failed the influence of Descartes remains alive and a potent force for over 300 IAS since the meditations appeared in sixteen hundred forty one. Cartesianism has dominated the intellectual world to be a philosopher at all. You must deal with him. You can agree or disagree or find another POV but you must deal with Descartes
scepticism his rationalism his mathematical model of truth his covert toe proof his subjectivism is not a physical dualism of mental and physical substances and his attempt to make peace between religion and science. Writing 100 years later the Scottish philosopher David Hume dealt with a car while you violently opposing him you opposed they cots rationalism with amoral powerful empiricists he opposed Descartes scepticism with a more powerful skepticism. He rejected the koto prove and Kautz proof of God as nonsense. He rejected Descartes some metaphysical dualism with its claim that there are two callings of substance. Why do you knowing that we can ever have any proof of that mental or physical substances exist. HUME posed a cart's causal
mechanism by destroying de cartes idea of cause and effect. We may say that he dealt with a car by destroying him in turning to David Hume. We are about to encounter the excitement of the most destructive force in the history of Western philosophy. For.
Maryland Senator for Public Broadcasting.
From Socrates To Sartre
Episode Number
Body and Soul
Producing Organization
Maryland Public Television
Contributing Organization
Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/394-558czjkv).
Episode Description
Descartes V: Psychophysical Dualism: Certainty Amid Doubt - Psychological Dualism. Two kinds of substances; mind and body; thinking and extended. The physical world; bodies in mechanical motion, determinism. Mind excluded from nature; free will. Metaphysical dualism and its insuperable difficulties; how can mind and body interact? Failure of the attempt to harmonize scientific mechanical universe with separate realm for the Christian soul. Yet the mind-body dualism, the dualism between self and its objects, and subjectivism remain influential for every philosopher since. A philosophy of absolute certainties for an age of conflict.
Series Description
"From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
Created Date
Asset type
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Copyright Holder: MPT
Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Maryland Public Television
Identifier: 36579.0 (MPT)
Format: Digital Betacam
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “From Socrates To Sartre; #11; Body and Soul,” 1978-08-18, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “From Socrates To Sartre; #11; Body and Soul.” 1978-08-18. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: From Socrates To Sartre; #11; Body and Soul. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from