Chapter

Confusion and Mind-Body Union

David Cunning

in Argument and Persuasion in Descartes’ Meditations

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780195399608
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866502 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195399608.003.0007
Confusion and Mind-Body Union

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This chapter focuses on Descartes’ argument for the real distinction between mind and body and his argument for the existence of material things. The first argument appears to employ the counterfactual premise that God can bring about whatever we clearly and distinctly perceive, and not that He has already done so (assuming that our clear and distinct perceptions are true). The chapter argues that the argument is not in fact employing a counterfactual premise, and that it appeals to God’s power only to facilitate the epistemic progress of the confused meditator and to prevent backsliding. The chapter argues that the proof of the existence of material things appeals to a clear and distinct perception of the existence of material things (and not just a propensity), but that as a result the proof informs us of the existence of bodies only insofar as they have geometrical properties like size and shape. Accordingly, the resolution of dream doubt does not provide a test for determining when everyday sensory perceptions are veridical. Instead it gives us a tool for doing science and for improving the chances of survival of our mind-body union. The chapter discusses Descartes’ pragmatism and his views on moral certainty versus metaphysical certainty.

Keywords: real distinction; pragmatism; propensity; union; backsliding; existence of material things; survival; science; dream argument

Chapter.  11699 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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