The Relationship between the Notions of the Substantial Union and the Interaction of Soul and Body in Descartes’ Philosophy
Keywords:mind, soul, body, substantial union, causality, interaction, Descartes
The author argues for the reductive interpretation of Descartes’ notion of the substantial union of soul and body, according to which the union is reduced to causal interactions. The opponents countered the reductive approach with the claims that Descartes (1) attributed sensations to the union rather than the soul; (2) held that the soul is the substantial form of the body; (3) identified some special conditions of the human body’s self-identity. In the article, the case is made that (a) these claims lack clear textual evidence: if their context is properly considered, Descartes’ corresponding statements are consistent with the reductive interpretation; (b) they do not give proper weight to other Descartes’ statements (in particular, his numerous unambiguous statements that sensations are the soul’s states). The author argues that the reductive interpretation is consistent with other Descartes’ statements to which its opponents appeal - that sensations arise from the union of mind and body and that the causal interactions between the soul and the body are explained with the reference to their union. The consistency is achieved if we interpret these statements in the sense that the enduring union between a soul and a body is an ontological prerequisite and, hence, an explanation, of all interactions between the soul and the body and their effects (such as sensations): these interactions and effects would not take place without the union between this particular soul and this particular body. Such explanation is similar to the explanation of certain natural events by the laws of nature: just as the gist of a law of nature can be reduced to a set of causal dispositions, so the content of the notion of the union can be reduced to the emergence and maintenance of a set of causal dispositions between a certain soul and a certain body.
Bodnarchuk, L., & Sen, A. (2014). Cottingham’s Conception of Descartes’s Trialism and Modern Discussions. [In Ukrainian]. Sententiae, 30(1), 196-209. https://doi.org/10.22240/sent30.01.196
Broughton, J., & Mattern, R. (1978). Reinterpreting Descartes on the Notion of the Union of Mind and Body. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 16(1), 23-32. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.2008.0683
Brown, D. (2014). The Sixth Meditation: Descartes and the embodied self. In D. Cunning (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes’ Meditations (pp. 240-257). New York, Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Cottingham, J. (1985). Cartesiam Trialism. Mind, 94(374), 218-230. https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/XCIV.374.218
Descartes, R. (1996). Œuvres complètes in 11 vol. (Сh. Adam, & P. Tannery, Eds.). Paris: Vrin.
Descartes, R. (2000). Metaphysical Meditations. [In Ukrainian]. Kyiv: Universe.
Descartes, R. (2014). Meditations on First Philosophy - Metaphysical Meditations. [In Latin, French, & Ukrainian]. In O. Khoma (Ed.), Descartes’ «Meditations» in the Mirror of Contemporary Interpretations (pp. 115-292). Kyiv: Duh i litera.
Garber, D. (2013). Séminaire Descartes. Nouvelles recherches sur le cartesianisme et la philosophie moderne. Retrieved November 13, 2017 from Mathesis. Séminaire Descartes website: https://f.hypotheses.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/1810/files/2015/03/SDGarber_Marion.pdf
Hoffman, P. (1990). Cartesian Passions and Cartesian Dualism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 71(4), 310-333. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0114.1990.tb00406.x
Hoffman, P. (1999). Cartesian Composites. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 37(2), 251-270. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.2008.0912
Hoffman, P. (2007). The Union and Interaction of Mind and Body. In J. Broughton, & J. Carriero (Eds.), A Companion to Descartes (pp. 390-403). Oxford: Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470696439.ch23
Koivuniemi, M., & Curley, E. (2015). Descartes on the Mind-Body Union: A Different Kind of Dualism. In D. Garber, & D. Rutherford (Eds.), Oxford studies in early modern philosophy (Vol. 7, pp. 83-122). New York, Oxford: Oxford UP. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198748717.003.0003
Loeb, L. (1981). From Descartes to Hume. Ithaca: Cornell UP.
Marion, J.-L. (2013). Sur la pensee passive de Descartes. Paris: PUF. https://doi.org/10.3917/puf.mario.2013.01
Nagel, T. (1974). What is it like to be a bat? Philosophical Review, 83(4), 435-450. https://doi.org/10.2307/2183914
Nolan, L. (2015) Cartesian Trialism on Trial: The Conceptualist Account of Descartes’ Human Being. In P. Easton, & K. Smith (Eds.), The Battle of the Gods and Giants Redux (pp. 137-174). Leiden, & Boston: Brill.
Radner, D. (1985) Is There a Problem of Cartesian Interaction? Journal of the History of Philosophy, 23(1), 35-49. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.1985.0012
Richardson, R. C. (1982). The «Scandal» of Cartesian Interactionism. Mind, 91(361), 20-37. https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/XCI.361.20
Rozemond, M. (1998). Descartes’s Dualism. Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London: Harvard UP.
Schmaltz, T. (1992). Descartes and Malebranche on Mind and Mind-Body Union. The Philosophical Review, 101(2), 281-325. https://doi.org/10.2307/2185536
Skirry, J. (2005). Descartes and the Metaphysics of Human Nature. London, & New York: Continuum.
Wilson, M. (1978). Descartes. London, New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203167670
Yandell, D. (1997). What Descartes Really Told Elisabeth: Mind-Body Union as a Primitive Notion. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 5(2), 249-273. https://doi.org/10.1080/09608789708570966
Yandell, D. (1999). Did Descartes Abandon Dualism? The Nature of the Union of Mind and Body. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 7(2), 199-217. https://doi.org/10.1080/09608789908571025
Zaldivar, E. (2011). Descartes's Theory of Substance: Why He was Not a Trialist. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 19(3), 395-418. https://doi.org/10.1080/09608788.2011.563519
How to Cite
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
- Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgment of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).