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Descartes and the Body-Mind Relationship The p

The purpose of this essay is to identify Rene Descartes' assessment of the relationship between body and mind and to determine whether or not Descartes' formulation of this relationship is valid, given his starting point. It will be argued herein that Descartes (1986, p. 11) was essentially correct when he noted that "The mind is proved to be really distinct from the body, but [it] is shown, notwithstanding, to be so closely joined to it that the mind and the body make up a kind of unit."

Descartes (1986), in his Sixth Meditation, was very deeply concerned with the question of existence and the related question of knowledge. He felt that there was a difference between the imagination and pure intellect or conception. He used the example of a piece of wax to illustrate how man moves from the knowledge of a set of particulars to the knowledge of a whole. This I used to illustrate the difference between mind and body.

The discussion of wax emphasizes the fact that the substance known as "wax" is a composite of many things. Wax can convey the sweetness of the honey that it contains in the beehive. It can give off some smell of the flowers from which the wax was made. Man can also, simply by looking at wax, identify its color and its size. By touching wax, he can learn its contours. All of these bits of knowledge do not necessarily add up to a full knowledge of wax itself (Descartes, 1986).

Descartes (1986) says that when one puts wax in fire, its superficial properties change. Nevertheless, the substance remains wax though in a different form. What man learns is that wax was more than the sweetness of honey, the smell of flowers, a particular shape, or a particular color. Wax was a substance that changes with regard to its outer form based on environmental conditions.

In using this example, Descartes (1986) is telling the reader that the conception of wax gained by placing it in the fire is not bro...

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