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Mind and Body in Hume’s and Descartes’s Views Essay

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Updated: Aug 23rd, 2020

In the history of philosophy, there have always been individuals who took two opposite sides of the coin. One of the most notable cases is a contradiction between David Hume and Descartes who shared different views based on what they did perceive of the body and the mind of an individual. From the very beginning, David Hume took the side of an empiricist who sought to explain knowledge on a non-theological basis (Jacquette 5). On the other hand, Rene Descartes was a rationalist who purported that each individual has a criterion for truth and knowledge. He did base his views on the proposition that each individual has the power to discern truth and it may not be necessarily true that God would intervene in both knowledge and truth. This outline seeks to outweigh the differences that lie between the two philosophers and the views they hold for how an individual perceives the body and the mind.

One major difference between their personalities and their responses to issues was their skepticism. Skeptical doubts affected Hume largely. For example, when left alone, he noted he would be on the verge of despair. His only consolation then would only be his friends. In his debate, Hume goes further and denotes that an individual who has a personality such as his needs to query in what they believe, failure to understand it would lead them to the bandwagon. He also added that part of skepticism assists individuals who have such personalities to save the peace of mind. On the other hand, Descartes did not support the idea of skepticism. In fact, he purported that an individual arose from solitude and he further developed many arguments in response to skepticism (Descartes 68).

Another major difference that befalls the two individuals is the position they hold regarding human psychology. Descartes realized that he broke off from solitude and that he was not alone in his life. Alongside his own survival was the existence of God, who he claimed was a linkage to other things that made up the material world (Descartes 105). To him, there is the rational intuition, a form of mental vision that recognizes clear and distinct perceptions. He did extrapolate the concept of rational intuition to cognitive activities. The cognitive activity seeks to investigate how experiences vary from one individual to another based on the different levels of senses that individuals have. Providing an example of cognitive activity, Descartes thought of how individuals transformed from their childhood to adulthood and how they perceive mental images of the outside world. Another example was how children always distinguished right from wrong (Descartes 7).

In contrast, Hume saw mental vision as being similar to hallucination. To his own view, he sought to investigate the nature of ideas and other instruments of understanding (Jacquette 44). This led him to claim that to every idea that we observe, there is a parallel impression that this creates. To him, these impressions occur under the capacity of sight, smell, sounds, tastes, or any other existing sensory activity based on available organs. While the two concepts may appear to be similar, he did seek to differentiate between them and made a conclusion that impressions are more vivid compared to ideas. Ideas were just mere copies of the impressions and they result from imagination or memory. According to Hume, we use these sensory activities in response to almost all our actions. He gave an example of how we use these sensory activities to respond to bodily states like hunger or thirst.

Works Cited

Descartes, Rene. Meditation on the First Philosophy. Cosimo, Inc., 2008. Print

Jacquette, Dale. David Hume’s critique of infinity. Leiden Boston: Brill, 2001. Print.

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