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I've read several description of the Descartes' dualism but I'm still not really sure: Does Descartes comprehend the human rational mind, human psychology - the part of thinking that is not consciousness - as a part of res cogitans or res extensa?

I imagine this notion could have played a big role in the early modern understanding of the brain as a center of the human mind.

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    For Descartes there are "three substances, each characterized by an essence. The first and primary substance is God. [...] The other two substances, mind and matter, are created by God. [...] The essence of matter is extension [...] The essence of mind is thought." Thus the "rational mind" is the res cogitans. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 21 '17 at 19:02
  • What is part of res extensa (i.e. body, matter) is the brain. An important role in Descartes' account of human body is attributed to the Pineal Gland. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jan 21 '17 at 19:03
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    Hi. What do you mean by "the part of thinking that is not consciousness"? Is it about unconscious processes? – Ram Tobolski Jan 21 '17 at 22:45
  • what do you mean by rational mind in Descartes vocabulary? res cogitans is a term he uses to refer to thinking substance as opposed to res extensa which is material substance. – virmaior Jan 22 '17 at 6:56
  • @RamTobolski Kinda. When you learn to play piano or solve chess problems, you do so intentionally but many of the processes your mind (brain) does along the line are unconscious. – Probably May 5 '17 at 7:56
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Consciousness is an essential characteristic of the mind, the res cogitans, according to Descartes. In the Meditations the sphere of the mind is grounded in certainty, and this implied consciousness, for there could be no certainty, in the scale that Descartes required, in unconscious processes.

I am a thing that thinks, that is to say, that doubts, affirms, denies ... for as I remarked before, although the things which I perceive and imagine are perhaps nothing at all apart from me and in themselves, I am nevertheless assured that these modes of thought that I call perceptions and imaginations, inasmuch only as they are modes of thought, certainly reside [and are met with] in me.

In the Principles of Philosophy Descartes added the explicit phrase "immediate consciousness".

IX. What thought (cogitatio) is.

By the word thought, I understand all that which so takes place in us that we of ourselves are immediately conscious of it; and, accordingly, not only to understand (intelligere, entendre), to will (velle), to imagine (imaginari), but even to perceive (sentire, sentir), are here the same as to think (cogitare, penser).

Any auxiliary process or faculty which is not conscious, even if related to cognition and thinking, is delegated by Descartes to res extensa, and in particular to the brain. So for example memory, as a capacity to store "ideas" until they are recollected by the mind, is a feature of the brain (!).

Imagine that after leaving gland H, spirits pass through tubes 2, 4, 6, and the like, and into the pores or intervals that occur between the filaments composing part B ... of the brain. And assume that they are forceful enough to enlarge these intervals somewhat and to bend and rearrange range any filaments they encounter ... in such cases these patterns are no longer so easily erased, but are retained there in such a way that by means of them the ideas that existed previously on this gland can be formed again long afterward, without requiring the presence of the objects to which they correspond. And it is in this that memory consists. (Descartes, Treatise of Man)

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"Does Descartes comprehend the human rational mind, human psychology - the part of thinking that is not consciousness - as a part of res cogitans or res extensa?"

Everything is comprehended as consciousness. The point is that he is asking if consciousness is sheer illusion or if it is based on an underlying reality.

  • There's something about that, though, when you learn to play piano or solve chess problems, you do so intentionally but many of the proccesses your mind (brain) does along the line are unconscious. – Probably May 5 '17 at 7:58
  • I've heard about a dualistic/monistic alternatives theory that introduces something like the world of ideas/information where the actual physical processes (like your brain being able to solve chess problems) create a new quality when we interpret them as processes with meaning. Decartes didn't think this way when formulating his thoughts, did he? – Probably May 5 '17 at 8:04
  • "Decartes didn't think this way when formulating his thoughts, did he?" No. He's saying, even if the whole world is a false representation of something else, consciousness at least exists as the false representation, thus as the sure basis for any science. – user26700 May 8 '17 at 21:24

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