4 pages
Word Count
2177 words
Course Code

Mind & Body

February 22, 2016
Anybody who can read this book, or even this sentence, can think. It is tempting
to conclude, as Descartes did in his Second Meditation, that anybody who can read this
book, or even this sentence, has a mind. In addition, most of us are quite certain that we
have a body, although Descartes attempted to doubt even this. But the question of what
the relationship is between our minds and our bodies is one of the most enduring and
puzzling in philosophy. It is also one of the most immediate, because it has direct
consequences for our views about what and who we are.
Descartes believed that the mind and the body are distinct substances. He was
therefore a dualist, a person who believes that there are two fundamentally different
kinds of “stuff” (mental and physical) in the universe. The dualist is faced with the
difficult problem of explaining what the relationship is between these two fundamentally
different kinds of stuff. The usual view is this. Let’s say there is a song playing on the
radio (a physical event). You hear the song, and that causes you to remember or think of a
summer friend (a mental event). Your remembering in turn causes you to write your
friend a letter (a physical event). Here, a physical event (the playing of the song) causes a
mental event (the remembering), which causes a physical event (the writing). Here’s
another example: You hit your thumb with a hammer (physical event), which causes pain
(mental event), which in turn causes you to scream and hop up and down (physical
event). The view that mental and physical events interact in this way is called
interactionism. Dualistic interactionism represents most people’s commonsense view
about the relationship between the mental and the physical.
Unfortunately, there are two very difficult problems that an interactionist dualist
must solve. The first is the problem of what it is that makes your mind yours and not
someone else’s. Is it perhaps located in your body? But if so, what makes it move when
your body moves? Is it glued, stapled, or tied to your brain? If so, how do you attach a
nonphysical substance to a physical one? Perhaps it is not located in space at all. (How
could a nonphysical substance be located in space anyway?) But if it’s not, how exactly

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