The problem of mind-body interaction and the causal principle of Descartes’s Third Meditation

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.31649/sent40.01.028

Keywords:

substance, real distinctness, dualism, efficient cause

Abstract

The article analyses recent English publications in Cartesian studies that deal with two problems: (1) the problem of the intrinsic coherence of Descartes’s doctrine of the real distinction and interaction between mind and body and (2) the problem of the consistency of this doctrine with the causal principle formulated in the Third Meditation. The principle at issue is alternatively interpreted by different Cartesian scholars either as the Hierarchy Principle, that the cause should be at least as perfect as its effects, or the Containment Principle, that the cause should contain all there is in its effects. The author argues that Descartes’s claim (in his argument against the scholastic doctrine of substantial forms) that it is inconceivable how things of different natures can interact does not conflict with the acknowledgement of interaction between things of different natures in the case of soul and body. The case is made that Cartesian mind-body interaction can agree with both the Hierarchy Principle and the Containment Principle, because the Principle is about total and efficient cause, whereas in the interaction, mental and brain states are only partial (and plausibly, in the case of brains states, occasional) causes. In particular, in the case of the causality in the brain-to-mind direction, the mind is conditioned by brain states to form the corresponding specific ideas on the basis of its innate general ideas of movements, forms, colours, etc. Eventually, for Descartes, the most natural way to deal with worries about the possibility of mind-brain interaction is to rely on God’s omnipotence, which certainly enables Him to arrange for such interaction.

Author Biography

Dmytro Sepetyi, Zaporizhzhia State Medical University

Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Department of Social Studies

References

Beaney, M. (2013). Analytic Philosophy and History of Philosophy: The Development of the Idea of Rational Reconstruction. In E. Reck (Ed.), The Historical Turn in Analytic Philosophy (pp. 231-260). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Beaney, M. (2019). Developments and Debates in the Historiography of Philosophy. In K. Becker (Ed.), The Cambridge History of Philosophy, 1945-2015 (pp. 725-758). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316779651.058

Bedau, M. (1986). Cartesian Interaction. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 10, 483-502. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4975.1987.tb00552.x

Beloff, J. (1994). The Mind-Body Problem. The Journal of Scientific Exploration, 8(4), 509-522.

Bodnarchuk, L., & Sen’, A. (2014). Cottingam’s Conception of Descrates’s Trialism and Modern Discussions. [In Ukrainian]. Sententiae, 30(1), 196-209. https://doi.org/10.22240/sent30.01.196

Broughton, J. (1986). Adequate Causes and Natural Change in Descartes' Philosophy. In A. Donagan, A. N. Perovich, Jr., & M. V Wedin (Eds.), Human Nature and Natural Knowledge (pp. 107-127). Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-5349-9_6

Brown, D. (2019). The Metaphysics of Cartesian Persons. In M. Reuter, & F. Svensson (Eds.), Mindy, Body, and Morality: New Perspectives on Descartes and Spinoza (pp. 17-36). London, New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351202831-2

Chalmers, D. (1996). The Conscious Mind. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Christofidou, A. (2019). Descartes: A Metaphysical Solution to the Mind-Body Relation and the Intellect’s Clear and Distinct Conception of the Union. Philosophy, 94(1), 87-114. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0031819118000323

De Rosa, R. (2013). Descartes’ Causal Principle and the Case of Body-to-Mind Causation. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43(4), 438-459. https://doi.org/10.1080/00455091.2013.847347

Descartes, R. (1931). The Philosophical Works of Descartes. (E. Haldane, & G. R. T. Ross, Transl.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1931.

Descartes, R. (1985). The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. (J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, & D. Murdoch, Transl.). Volumes I-II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511818998

Descartes, R. (1991). The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. (J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, D. Murdoch, & A. Kenny, Transl.). Vol. III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107340824

Descartes, R. (1996). Œuvres complètes in 11 vol. (Сh. Adam, & P. Tannery, Eds.). Paris: Vrin.

Elisebeth of Bohemia, Descartes, R. (2007). The Correspondence Between Princess Elisabeth and René Descartes (L. Shapiro, Ed. & Trans.). Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226204444.001.0001

Gorham, G. (2002). Descartes on the Innateness of All Ideas. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 32(3), 355-388. https://doi.org/10.1080/00455091.2002.10716523

Gorham, G. (2003). Descartes's Dilemma of Eminent Containment. Dialogue, 42(1), 3-26. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0012217300004182

Hoffman, P. (2009). Essays on Descartes. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Khoma, O. (2019). Contemporary global Descartes studies. Nadler, S. et al (2019). The Oxford Handbook of Descartes and Cartesianism. Oxford: Oxford UP. [In Ukrainian]. Sententiae, 38(2), 112-115. https://doi.org/10.22240/sent38.02.112

Laktionova, A. (2015). «Cogito Ergo Sum» and Philofsophy of Action. [In Ukrainian]. Sententiae, 32(1), 88-99. https://doi.org/10.22240/sent32.01.088

Lapointe, S., & Pincock, C. (2017). Introduction. In S. Lapointe, & C. Pincock (Eds.), Innovations in the History of Analytical Philosophy (pp. 1-23). London: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-40808-2_1

Loeb, L. (1981). From Descartes to Hume. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

O’Neill, E. (1987). Mind-Body Interaction and Metaphysical Consistency: A Defense of Descartes. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 25(2), 227-245. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.1987.0026

Nadler, S. (1994). Descartes and Occasional Causation. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 2(1), 35-54. https://doi.org/10.1080/09608789408570891

Nadler, S. (2005). Hope, Fear, and the Politics of Immortality. In T. Sorell. & G. Rogers (Eds.), Analytic Philosophy and History of Philosophy (pp. 201-217). New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Popper, K. (1953). Language and the Body-Mind Problem. Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of Philosophy, 7, 101-107. https://doi.org/10.5840/wcp1119537216

Popper, K. (1974). Objective Knowledge: Evolutionary Approach. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Radner, D. (1971). Descartes’ Notion of the Union of Mind and Body. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 9(2), 159-170. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.2008.1109

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

Richardson, R. C. (1985). Union and Interaction of Body and Soul. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 23(2), 221-226. https://doi.org/10.1353/hph.1985.0038

Rorty, R. (1984). The historiography of philosophy: four genres. In R. Rorty, J. B. Schneewind, & Q. Skinner (Eds.), Philosophy in History (pp. 49-75). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511625534.006

Schmaltz, T. (2008). Descartes on Causation. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195327946.001.0001

Sepetyi, D. (2017). Descartes’ mind-body dualism in the contemporary retrospective. [In Ukrainian]. Filosofska Dumka, (3), 64-73.

Sepetyi, D. (2018a). The Relationship between the Notions of the Substantial Union and the Interaction of Soul and Body in Descartes’ Philosophy. [In Ukrainian]. Sententiae, 37(1), 136-152. https://doi.org/10.22240/sent37.01.136

Sepetyi, D. (2018b). Was Descartes a substance dualist? [In Ukrainian]. Actual Problems of Mind, (19), 36-63. https://doi.org/10.31812/apd.v0i19.2069

Sepetyi, D. (2019). Forty years after: reconsidering the problem of Descartes’s Natural Institution theory vs the Coextension theory. Filosofska Dumka, (1), 106-119.

Smith, K. (2017). Descartes’ Theory of Ideas. Retrieved November 13, 2017 from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/descartes-ideas/#ideasmodes

Wilson, M. (1978). Descartes. London, New York: Routledge.

Wilson, M. (1991). Descartes on the Origin of Sensation. Philosophical Topics, 19(1), 293-323. https://doi.org/10.5840/philtopics199119121

Downloads

Abstract views: 197

Published

2021-04-01

How to Cite

Sepetyi, D. (2021). The problem of mind-body interaction and the causal principle of Descartes’s Third Meditation. Sententiae, 40(1), 28–43. https://doi.org/10.31649/sent40.01.028

Issue

Section

ARTICLES

Metrics

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.