What Am I? A Study of Cartesian Dualism and Objections to It

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Olaf Hauptmann
3. term, Applied Philosophy, Master (Master Programme)
The focus of this paper is to access Descartes’ argument for mind body dualism. Descartes conclusion is that we have a thinking self that is separate from the body. The paper will look at various arguments for and against this conclusion. After Descartes we proceeds to Hume’s critique of dualism. The focus of this paper is to access Descartes’ argument for mind body dualism. Descartes conclusion is that we have a thinking self that is separate from the body. After Descartes we proceeds to Hume’s critique of dualism. Hume has four arguments against dualism. First it is investigated which of his arguments address Descartes’ claims. The second argument is found to be most pertinent. The conclusion of the second argument is that there is no one self or consciousness just a bundle of perceptions. The argument is analysed by contrasting it with Descartes and it appears that Descartes has superior explanatory force.
The Humian argument becomes the focus going forward. While the argument seems to have some flaws it should be noted that several subsequent philosophers take up similar claims. In the following section we access how David Kaplan through his language philosophy arrives at a claim very similar to Hume. Kaplan analyses the use of the first-person pronoun. This causes Kaplan to reject Frege’s idea that we all have a primitive self-acquaintance. Not that different from Hume’s idea that within we have no self to behold. Kripke does a careful analysis both of Frege’s and Kaplan’s claims and establishes quit convincingly that the primitive self-acquaintance is needed for us to be able to coherently refer to ourselves when we think, speak or write.
In the second section we look at Kripke’s modal argument for dualism. Kripke uses examples of states of pain in the brain and nerves as opposed to feelings of pain to establish that the mind and brine have different identities, and therefore cannot be one. Finally, we examine two objections to Kripke’s argument. First from James Madden who seeks to undermine both Descartes’ and Kripke’s argument. Madden show that these arguments rely on conceivability and claims that this is what makes them weak. An analysis of the example that Madden uses, intending to show that conceivability is inscrutable, surprisingly turns out to be more of an argument in favour of conceivability. With Kripke’s doctrine of essential properties it is shown that “James Madden is a reptile” is not possible in any world. Finally, we will look at Kripke’s own objection to dualism. This claims that the fact that personal identity is crucially affected by parents through the sperm and egg. The claim which Kripke only hints at is outlined and analysed. While this does pose challenge for dualism, we also outline a possible solution.
The conclusion of this paper it should seem could be a smashing endorsement of Cartesian dualism. However, it is recognized that is a very big question and that this paper by no means address all the objections. Instead, it cautions that both sides ought to arm themselves humility. As Kripke puts it: “The mind body question is wide open and extremely confusing.” (Kripke, 1980, p. 155)
LanguageEnglish
Publication date3 Jan 2022
Number of pages53

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