Descartes’ Thoughts about the Body and Soul

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“I think, therefore I am.” Assuredly, no other epithet can be more suitable for the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Ren© Descartes than that of “Father of Modern Philosophy.” From his opinion about the existence of God to his use of mathematics to support his work, Descartes undoubtedly revolutionized the method of reasoning of man. According to Descartes, doubting everything around one was only a procedure to arrive at an indisputable truth. If something was clear to the French philosopher, it was that the individual could not doubt that one is thinking. From this reasoning comes his idea regarding God’s existence; he claims that God must be real since the concept of His presence could not have originated from anything. Although it must be taken into account that during the time in which he lived, his theory might be influenced by the fact that the Church did not always agree with the scientific advances (such as the case of Galileo Galilei). This concept can also be subjected to several interpretations, and among them, to several oppositions. For example, one cannot argue that merely because an author has created a fantasy world, that world exists because the author thought about it.

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Equally important is Descartes’ thoughts about the relationship between body and soul. It is quite curious that his conclusions can be compared to a computer nowadays, which indicates once again that he was a man ahead of his time. He argues that man is mind first then a body, but that these two are linked and work in perfect unison. At the same time, this logic of his seems to only apply to humankind, since he believed that animals possess only the corporeal aspect. He also felt that nature’s role was only to be used for the benefit of man. This reasoning could be seen as prophetic since less than a century later the Industrial Revolution started. This could be interpreted as men having absolute power over nature since its only purpose is to serve him; but it is a fact that men has not always been wise about their every decision.

The use of deductive reasoning was crucial to Descartes to carry out his research, and it is a procedure that is still taught in schools nowadays. This procedure is based on dividing the difficulties into as many parts as necessary to solve them. He also thought that by first working on the simplest things and then moving to the more complex ones the trial would be less challenging. As a matter of fact, Descartes’ methods are of excellent use to students since he advised to review the thinking constantly to be sure that nothing has been omitted. In other words, Descartes claimed that in an investigation one should not take for granted that which could be doubted.

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