Descartes's dualisme

Inge Bahrs

Studenteropgave: Speciale


The purpose of this thesis is to examine Descartes dualism. The paper is organized into two main sections. The first section examines the advantages and disadvantages of Descartes dualism. As an advantage, dualism opens up the possibility to separately describe the mental and physical parts of human beings. However, Descartes dualism prevents one from examining the mental and physical sides as a cohesive whole. By employing two arguments, doubt and the clear and distinct cognition, Descartes seeks to create a foundation consisting of two substances, the mental (res cogitans) and the physical (res extensa). He does not succeed, however, in proving that the mental states can exist without the physical states. The mental and the physical states are different and cannot belong to the same category of substance. This results in a double structure in the physical world with a non-physical structure. The Cartesian dualism is interactionistic, because Descartes claims that the physical states can cause mental stages and vice versa. The interaction between these two types of states occur in the pineal gland. He does not explain how mental states, which are not in the physical space, can influence a specific place in the body. Some commentators on philosophy claim that Descartes changed his argument after he wrote the Meditations. Paul Hoffman sees the letters to Regius and Mesland as a sign of unitarism, that does not correspond with the dualism found in the sixth meditation. Hoffman posits that the human being is a single, unitary object. Even if Descartes writes that mind and body are united in substance, this does not mean that they create a new substance. John Cottingham and Tad Schmaltz introduced the idea of trialism by adding a third attribute to Descartes dualism. Schmaltz and Cottingham claim that Descartes gradually dismissed the concept of a simple dualism and added the concept of trialism in his later works. Schmaltz understand Descartes human being as consisting of three parts: mind, body, and the union of mind and body. Because Descartes perceives mind and body as two complete substances in themselves, they cannot create a third substance.

UddannelserFilosofi og Videnskabsteori, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato19 aug. 2007
VejledereErik Bendtsen


  • Tad Schmalz
  • Paul Hoffman
  • dualisme
  • John Cottingham
  • René Descartes