Analyzing the Mind and Body Problem Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Mind/Body Problem

Mind/Body Dualism: Compare/contrast Cartesian Rationalism and at least one version of Empiricism.

Descartes Method

Descartes, who was fascinated with mathematical qualities of indubiability, certainty and clarity, considered philosophy as an antithesis of the said qualities since he perceived philosophy as a subject, which was based on shaky grounds. He then sought to provide philosophy with steady foundation through using math principles in his search for something that is clear and indubitable. He thought that such a foundation would offer a steady philosophical system on which all other philosophical truths would be anchored. So, he set on this difficult exercise, through systematically questioning/doubting all the "truths" that he thought he knew. Descartes thought that he needed to forget all the things that he held as his opinions, so as to later bring on other facts or opinions that would be better than his previous ones through rationally confirming everything that he thought he previously knew (Mohammed, 2012). He then resolved to doubt all the opinion he previously held so that it wouldn't be necessary for him to prove whether there was anything he knew that was true. He thought that it was wise to reject every opinion or knowledge he held by doubting everything, including his existence. He explained his denial for his physical existence by saying that what if the life we are living is all, but a big unending dream. He further argued that even in cases where we are dreaming we happen to think of the dream as a reality (Mohammed, 2012).

In rationalism, believing in so-called innate opinions happens because we must have the ideas before we were born, for instance, through reincarnation. Plato suggested this point his theory of forms, in which he contends that there is a place where we go to and get knowledge before we are given birth to in the physical world. In this context, innate opinions or ideas can be used to explain why some individuals happen to be naturally gifted when compared to others, even in cases where they have had similar educational experiences. Another characteristic of rationalism is the belief that reason is the largest source of knowledge. Rationalists argue that the five senses only equip individuals with opinions and not reasons. For instance, in his wax argument, Descartes explains that at first, a candle is in one cylindrical shape, but when it is lit, it begins to melt and then takes a shape that is totally different from its initial one. His explanation was an attempt to prove that senses can be deceiving and what people get from them are opinions that should not be trusted. The third characteristic of rationalism is deduction, which is proving something using certainty instead of reason. Descartes explains this point by attempting to prove that God exists via deductive reasoning. He stated that he has an idea that there exists a perfect substance and that since he is not a perfect substance then there is no way that the idea could be from him or any other man, meaning that there must be a formal reality that is perfect substance like God. Simply put, Descartes was saying that nothing that is imperfect can come up with a perfect thing (Clay, n.d.).

John Locke's Empiricism

John Locke refuted the existence of rationalistic theory of innate ideas. He stated that there exist no inborn ideas or facts and that all knowledge, is acquired through senses. The mind knows no innate truths and it is originally a blank tablet on which data acquired through senses are imprinted. Locke further explained that even inner truths are derived from outward sensations through sense-perceptions. According to author Krishnananda (2014), simple ideas are often received though senses and converted in the mind into complex ideas. Krishnananda continues that the mind can neither create nor destroy any new ideas, instead it simply processes ideas.

According to Locke, there are two types of ideas, those produced by simple sensations that do not correspond to the external situations and those that truly correspond to external situations. The first type of idea is referred to as secondary qualities and the second type are referred to as primary qualities. Tangibility, extension and so on, are fine examples of primary qualities, while sounds and colors are secondary qualities. Ideas are derived from sensation and reflection, in that, when people assume something exists, it is because that thing is perceivable through one or a combination of senses.

2. Compare/contrast Kantian Idealism and Phenomenology

Kantian Idealism

Kant contends that things are distinguished in themselves and in the manner that they appear to people. He further states that since things distinguish themselves then human beings have no cognition. This is what is referred to as transcendental idealism. He further attempts to explain his idealism through secondary qualities such as sound. However, some scholars have rejected Kant's attempt to explain his transcendental idealism through secondary points, stating that such an explanation should only be done using Berkeleian and Lockean account, arguing that neither of these two accounts can provide a proper basis for the explanation of Kant's theory (Allais, 2007). Reading Kant's explanation through a secondary quality such as colour or sound in the context of direct theory of perception can provide people with a sense in which things appear mind-dependent, which doesn't entail seeing them as real existing things (Allais, 2007).


In accordance to Jean-Luc Mat'ion, phenomenology, in an important way, takes on the role of philosophy in our century. This is actually an overstatement, which overlooks the current worldwide reaches of analytic philosophy. It is surely true that phenomenology has been one of the primary currents of Western and Eastern Europe, Latin and Asian America, all through the 20th century, involving some of the brilliant minds of that century, and in one way or another, engaging with numerous other contemporary philosophical currents, from positivism, empiricism, and neo-Kantianism (Natorp, Cassirer), to structuralism, and Hegelianism (Kojeve, Hyppolite, Jean Wahl, Gadamer, Mat'cuse) among many others. The most passionate advocates claim it to be the only certain and serious manner of conducting philosophy (Crowell, Embree, & Julian, 2001).

Phenomenology conventionally sought to be in opposition to idealist obscurantism and disputes, which carried on without properly-defined terms. Phenomenology and analytic philosophy both struggled to be brief and clear, and all of them were equally doubtful of ostentatious tales. In spite of these parallels, the traditions have stayed in a status of mutual ignorance and frequently, antagonism towards each other. From the conventional analytic point-of-view, phenomenology is normally regarded as historically powerful, however, viewed as exceptionally challenging, thick, and written in a thick terminology, a style surely not to be encouraged (Crowell, Embree, & Julian, 2001).

Husserl's mature phenomenology provided a fresh momentum to the attempt after Kant to comprehend the nature of the transcendental, to describe and sharpen the sense; and to primarily comprehend the range and boundaries of the philosophical venture itself. Husserl, in his mature thought, is against every form of naturalism of self-countering ideologies. Husserl argues for the precedence of absolute consciousness over object-hood and criticizes the false "absolutization of the world" in conventional philosophy (Crowell, Embree, & Julian, 2001).

3. Philosophical Response to this Epistemological Problem

The philosophy of mind is a region of philosophy defined by a set of philosophical inquiries or issues regarding the mind, and mental phenomenon. There is already a question to be asked here, regarding how people ought to distinguish things, for instance, events, procedures, conditions, and properties, as actually being mental. This is a question, which has not been responded to by all, in a similar manner. In general, questions in philosophy of mind are in two groups. First is a group of epistemological questions, which inquire what people could know when it comes to the mind. These entail inquiries regarding how people could know about the mental condition of others, the manner via which they can know about their own mental conditions, as well as the nature of these kinds of knowledge. The second group entails metaphysical questions, which inquire about the mind's basic structure. The issue that has taken over the philosophy of the mind in the last three centuries or so, and that shall offer the foundation of these notes, is a metaphysical one- the mind-body issue. On the surface, the mind-body issue appears to be a relatively easy one.

The actual force of the issue originates from two sets of hunches, both of which seem to be quite convincing. First is the hunch that the body and mind are two totally different types of things. The body is simply an extended thing in the physical world. As a physical thing in the world, it is also similarly positioned like other physical objects of the world to casually relate with the objects surrounding it. Human body sits on chairs, rides bikes, and even hugs other bodies. All of these are conducted in a manner that would appear to be completely respectable to a physicist. Just like…

Sources Used in Document:


Allais, L. (2007, July). Kant's Idealism and the Secondary Quality Analogy. Journal of the History of Philosophy, 459-484. Retrieved from Project Muse:

Clay, B. (n.d.). The Difference Between Rationalism and Empiricism; Rene Descartes is a Rationalist. Retrieved from:

Crowell, S., Embree, L., & Julian, S. (2001). The Reach of Reflection: Issues for Phenomenology's Second Century. Electron Press.

Krishnananda, S. (2014). Studies In Comparative Philosophy. Retrieved from Swami Krishnananda:

Cite This Essay:

"Analyzing The Mind And Body Problem" (2016, March 08) Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

"Analyzing The Mind And Body Problem" 08 March 2016. Web.1 April. 2020. <>

"Analyzing The Mind And Body Problem", 08 March 2016, Accessed.1 April. 2020,