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Mind Body Problem in Philosophical Works of Spinoza, Malebranche, and Descartes Essay

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Examination of body and mind by Benedict Spinoza

Benedict de Spinoza is a very significant philosopher of the post-Cartesian period. He made crucial contributions in all classifications of philosophy. Benedict de Spinoza’s writings are equivalent to those of Jewish nationalism, Hobbes, Machiavelli, stoicism and Descartes.

On careful examination of his writings about the body and mind, one finds out that they are rich with a lot of metaphysics which is related to theories of the body and mind together with their specific consequences. Benedict argues that every finite extension is supported by a corresponding mode of finite and they are very close. His arguments emphasize the point that it is the body that creates the mind.

He further argues that as much as bodies are similar they create very different minds. He says that the mind is an external symptom of our bodies. This symptom is different because it is a reflection of the diverse microbodies that exist within the main body. He continues to say that different bodies have different abilities which are also a reflection of how our bodies are different internally. Spinoza is simply saying that if the mind is very flexible so that it can be influenced then thoughts that come out of it are likely to be flexible. According to him, different bodies have varying abilities to be able to carry out many different activities at the same time. Similarly, different bodies have different capabilities of sustaining pressure of numerous things being carried out on them at the same time. A combination of both is what leads to a mind of strong ability.

The strength of the mind produced by the body according to Spinoza can be assessed by looking at its ability to sustain several things being carried out on it at similar periods or its ability to carry out numerous activities at once. This is his formula for determining an enlightened mind. This ability of the body to sustain many things or carry out many things is enhanced by complicated microbodies which exist in the whole body. The mind of humans is an external expression of various bodies through thoughts. Micro bodies in the main body also influence our thoughts. Minds with the ability to match complex microbodies in comparison to those of the human body have the potential to conceptualize regular patterns in their thoughts.

According to Spinoza, a sense of perception is not a comprehensive judgment of a person’s body. This is because the sense of perception is not direct (Williams, p. 349).

Ethics and mind-body correlations by Nicolas Malebranche

Nicolas Malebranche’s writings receive two classifications; they have been classified as French Oratorian as well as the philosophy of nationalism. His writings are founded on Descartes and St. Augustine. His most celebrated works are about the vision in God as well as occasionalism.

On ethics and correlations, he took Descartes’ approach towards problems of the mind and body after having criticized it. He openly argues that nobody can come up with a conclusive idea of the mind and its abilities. Therefore, there is no point in trying to create a transparent view of the mind and its nature. He is quoted saying that when he goes through self-analysis of his capabilities and faculties, he always gets inner feedback. He says that he thinks and gets a sense of awareness of himself, but he does not get what comprises his thoughts, sensations, pain and passions, neither does he get feedback of how his soul connects with these qualities (Kim, p. 52).

This makes him conclude that he is not his light and his natural mind is very difficult to understand. He says that his mind cannot act on his body neither can his body influence his mind.

He agrees that the only force that can comprehensively control his life is God. According to Malebranche, God is the main controller and causer of change in the world. God even causes the movement of his arms when he lifts them.

His approach to mind and body correlations is therefore that of occasionalism. This perspective puts God in control of everything including our mind and body. The perspective maintains that our mind and body are not separated. The changes we see are God’s creation. These God’s creations are standard and orderly because God’s work is orderly and sequential. The laws according to Malebranche are made with an intention of God’s orderliness to make the universe a better place.

His dialogues of metaphysics are purely religious and put a lot of emphasis on God. He says that people acquire knowledge by analyzing ideas and that all ideas come from God. Ideas of knowledge are Godly and are organized by our thoughts. These ideas are independent.

His celebrated achievement was the explanation he gave on how a divine idea could be applied to address practical issues in corporeal perception of the mind. He urges people to perceive all things through God because he is the author of ideas into our minds to enable us to know the external world.

Nicolas Malebranche’s perspective towards body and mind is therefore motivated by his religion; Christianity. His works are similar to the teachings of the scripture which puts God as the sole controller of everything. His writings could also have been motivated by his career as a priest.

The Incorporeal Mind by Rene Descartes

He is referred to as the father of modern philosophy. He is celebrated for originating the idea of cogito ergo sum (translated to mean I think therefore I am).

His writings are based on philosophical scepticism. This is a perspective that requires that the philosopher doubts certain beliefs and knowledge to be able to carry out objective research. Scientists and philosophers have adopted his methodology and this has made them doubt the existence of God and humans.

His principle of the dualism of the intangible perceives the mind and the soul as different. He gives an example that if a limb is removed from the body, the mind does not suffer the effect of the missing limb. By applying the principle, he separates the physical and the metaphysical. This has helped scientists and philosophers to study the world without being biased by the supernatural question (Nadler, p. 89).

Descartes impact on philosophy and science rocked the world before and after his death. He agreed that man’s nature is a composition of the mind and body. The two sides of humanity often mislead and lead to errors in thoughts. The intellect’s responsibility is to correct this biasness.

Bibliography

  1. Kim, Joseph. Philosophy of the Mind, Cambridge MA: West View Publishers, 1998. Print.
  2. Nadler, Steven. The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.
  3. Williams, D. Lay. “Spinoza and General Will”, the Journal of Politics, 72 (2001): 341-356. Print.
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