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Thoughts & Feelings and Their Size, Shape or Color Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2021

Discussion

In this paper I argue that thoughts and feelings have different distinctive properties such as size, shape, color, and so on. My argument is in agreement with the writings of Rene Descartes on the mind-body relations. I do believe that systematic consideration of Descartes views reveals that he holds a qualified view about our thoughts of bodily shapes, sizes, location, and motions; and feelings or sensations of color, pain, taste, and so on as aspects of the mind (Heil, 1992). My reasons for believing in Descartes views are: one, when he talks of our ability to understand such qualities clearly or distinctly, he has mind qualities understood abstractly, as opposed to the specific, fully determinate qualities of actual bodies around us. Although it may be stimulated by sense, such apprehension is intellectual; two, insofar Descartes does acknowledge that we are able to apprehend reliably the size, position, shape, motion, and distance of actual bodies, he insists that we do not do so strictly by sense (Lawrence, 2002).

Descartes Mind-Body Relation Theory (Cartesian Dualism)

Rene Descartes advocated for the theory of the mind-body relation otherwise known as Cartesian dualism. Descartes maintains that individuals are composed of two distinct substances: one immaterial that is, the mind, spirit or soul; and the other material that is brains or bodies (Lawrence, 2002). Much of Descartes reasoning behind this conclusion stems from the fact that mind and body seem to have altogether different properties; reasoning I agree with entirely. Material substances can be characterized in terms of their specific size, shape, and location. However, immaterial substances cannot be characterized. Instead, the state of immaterial substances or the mind must be described in a very different way, in terms of thought, emotion, will, and others. While the minds of individuals can be located in time, they cannot be located in space. They have no size, shape, color or any extended property (Descartes et al., 1988).

The Attributes of the Mind

Throughout his contributions, Descartes differentiates sensations of color, taste, and others with size, shape, and motion ideas. He thought of color, taste, pain and so on as merely confused ideas, which fail to compare any quality existing in physical reality. According to him, these properties must be attributed to sense. For instance, Descartes in the principles of philosophy says of color: “when we think we perceive colors in objects although we might not know what this might be, that we call by the name of color, and we cannot understand any similarity between the color which we suppose to be in objects and what we experience to be in feel, yet, because we do not notice this, it is easy to allow ourselves to fall into the error of judging that that which we call color in objects is something entirely similar to the color we sense, and thus supposing what we in no way perceived is clearly perceived by us” (Descartes et al., 1988).

Color, pain and other things are distinctly perceived when considered simply as thoughts or feelings. This is clear from what is obscure. However, when these things are judged to existing outside of one’s mind, you cannot in any way understand what sort of things they are (Lawrence, 2002). And when anyone proclaims that he sees color in a body or feels pain in one of his foot, it is the same as if he has told us that he saw or felt something there, but was absolutely ignorant of its nature. Or else that he did not know what he was seeing. For perhaps when you examine your thoughts with less attention, you easily persuade yourself that you have some knowledge of it, because you suppose that there is something resembling the sensation of color or pain you are experiencing, yet if you investigate what you represented to him by this sensation of color or pain, appearing as they do exist in a colored body or painful part, you will find that you are really ignorant of it (Heil, 1992).

The Attributes of the Body

When Descartes denies that sensation or confused ideas compare or are similar to qualities in physical objects, part of what he has in mind is that sensations of color, sound, and so on do not present to us images of variations of motion and figure; but, such variations are all that is really present in the external world, are what accounts for the different confused sensations in us (Lawrence, 2002). For ideas of size, shape, motion and position, however, Descartes feels that they are not clear or sensed by us than they are or at least can be in bodies. Thus, he remarked; “we know in a quite different way what size or shape, or motion, or position, or duration, or number, and the like are in a body that we see, qualities I have already said are clearly perceived, than we know of color, or pain, or odor, or taste, or any other of those things are, which I’ve said must be attributed to the senses” (Descartes et al., 1988).

We understand size, shape and others quite differently from color, pain and others. This will be more evident especially if we consider the fact that size in a body which is visible, or shape or motion or situation and the like, which we clearly perceive in all bodies, are known by as in entirely different ways from that in which color is known in the same body, or pain, or odor, taste and other properties which should be attributed to the senses (Lawrence, 2002). Although in observing a body we are not less certain of its existence from the color we perceive in its regard than from the shape that bounds it, we nevertheless understand that property in it which causes us to term it shaped with much greater clarity than we understand what makes us to conclude that it is colored (Heil, 1992).

Conclusion

In sum, we do grow tired when we apply our thoughts to objects not present to the senses; we are therefore in the habit of judging these, not from present perceptions, but from preconceived opinions. In addition, our mind cannot pause to consider any one thing with attention without difficult and fatigue, and applies itself with the greatest difficulty to those objects present neither to the senses nor to the imagination. This may be due to the nature of the mind, because of its union with the body, or because during the initial years of our life we are so much occupied with feeling and thinking that we have acquired a greater facility and habit for thinking in this way than in any other (Heil, 1992). As a result, our understanding of substance is limited to thoughts and feelings. For they do not know that the only things imaginable are those that exist in extension, motion and shape, while there are many others that are intelligible; and they persuade that there is nothing that can subsist but body. Lastly, that there is no body that is not sensible (Lawrence, 2002).

Reference

Descartes, R., & Cottngham, J, Stoothoff, R., & Murdoch, D. (1988). Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heil, J. (1992). Philosophy of Mind. New York: Routledge.

Lawrence, M. (2002). Like a Splinter in your Mind. London: Wiley Blackwell.

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