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Cover

What Am I?

Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem

Joseph Almog

Publication Date - April 2005

ISBN: 9780195177190

160 pages
Paperback
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $47.95

Decodes Descartes's reasoning for distinguishing between mind and body

Description

In his Meditations, René Descartes asks, "what am I?" His initial answer is "a man." But he soon discards it: "But what is a man? Shall I say 'a rational animal'? No: for then I should inquire what an animal is, what rationality is, and in this way one question would lead down the slope to harder ones." Instead of understanding what a man is, Descartes shifts to two new questions: "What is Mind?" and "What is Body?" These questions develop into Descartes's main philosophical preoccupation: the Mind-Body distinction.

How can Mind and Body be independent entities, yet joined--essentially so--within a single human being? If Mind and Body are really distinct, are human beings merely a "construction"? On the other hand, if we respect the integrity of humans, are Mind and Body merely aspects of a human being and not subjects in and of themselves?

For centuries, philosophers have considered this classic philosophical puzzle. Now, in this compact, engaging, and long-awaited work, UCLA philosopher Joseph Almog closely decodes the French philosopher's argument for distinguishing between the human mind and body while maintaining simultaneously their essential integration in a human being. He argues that Descartes constructed a solution whereby the trio of Human Mind, Body, and Being are essentially interdependent yet remain each a genuine individual subject.

Almog's reading not only steers away from the most popular interpretations of Descartes, but also represents a scholar coming to grips directly with Descartes himself. In doing so, Almog creates a work that Cartesian scholars will value, and that will also prove indispensable to philosophers of language, ontology, and the metaphysics of mind.

About the Author(s)

Joseph Almog is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, and editor of Themes from Kaplan (Oxford, 1989).