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I read that Cartesian Dualism is a subtype of Interactionism but I'm still confused. Can somebody help me to clear up this matter?

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    What is the difference between a squirrel and a rodent? (= same type of difference; one is a category of views that fit a pattern vs. a particular view that is in the category) – virmaior May 30 '17 at 0:38
  • @virmaior see my comment to Nanhee. – Alexander S King May 30 '17 at 17:24
  • @AlexanderSKing I don't think I'm asserting the same thing as Nanhee. To reword my comment (I don't know enough about the term "interactionism" to answer), Descartes has his view, which someone has placed into a recently manufactured category called "interactionism" along with other things. Why they've manufactured the category and what they think it unites and whether they read Descartes correctly are all things I don't know. (For many later descriptive categories, it's questionable whether they have value over just learning the views they categorize). – virmaior May 30 '17 at 23:19
  • To state an opposite example, Hare's two-level utilitarianism is a species of utilitarianism, but that's because he's modifying utilitarianism's general approach to solve what he perceives as a problem. Here, Descartes never calls himself an "interactionist" and the term probably didn't exist then. So it's difficult to parse out the relation except as "Bob decided to group A,B,C, and D together as things that have a form of 'interactionism'" (but n.b. it's not even clear what the OP is asking here). – virmaior May 30 '17 at 23:23
  • @virmaior So, you're saying, that it is not really necessary to answer this question, since you are squeezing somebody into categories post-hoc? – postnubilaphoebus Jun 1 '17 at 12:41
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Through the famous Cartesian skepticism, Descartes concludes that the world is composed of two substances: res cogitans and res extensa. Res cogitans means thinking things, like consciousness, mind, or spirit. Res extensa means things that extend or occupy space. Material things in the world belong to the substance of res extensa. Descartes asserts that almost all things in the world are purely res extensia, governed by the causal law. To him, a dog is just a causal machine. A crying dog, then, is nothing but a whining gear. The only exception to him is human beings. To Descartes, human begins are made out of both thinking and extending substances. I, for instance, am composed of body (the materiel thing) and mind (the immaterial thing). This view of human beings can be called Cartesian dualism.

By positing that human beings are made of the two kinds of substance, Descartes ended up creating a problem. By definition, substance exists on its own right. So the thinking being and the extending being do not need each other, but they surely look like interacting with each other from my own experiences. My mind tells my body to exercise, but my body says it is too tired. I feel that I am just one whole person. If substance is defined by the way Descartes stipulates, how the interaction between them is possible? This question is called the mind-body problem, which has made the minds of philosophers busy even to the present time (under the topic of philosophy of mind).

Responding to your question, as Vimaior aptly put it, interactionism is a family of thinking (category) that aims to solve the mind-body problem. Viewed in this light, Cartesian dualism can be said as his own particular answer since Descartes solves the problem by positing that the two substances interact in the pineal gland. His solution is far from satisfactory since the question is not where, but how. Descartes' solution is contrasted by Malebranche's occasionalism and Leibnniz's pre-established harmony theory in history of philosophy. Malebranche argued that God is the one that enables the interaction in every occasion of causation between mind and body. Leibniz maintained God already knew that my mind wanted to scratch my nose at this moment so he arranged their interaction far ahead of time.

  • Neither your response nor Virmaior's comment really answer the question: If Cartesian dualism is a subset of Interactionism, then what is specific to Descartes theory that doesn't apply to the other types of interactionism? – Alexander S King May 30 '17 at 17:24
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    You can say that none (Descartes, Malebranche, and Leibniz) actually committed to interactionism, since by definition, substances do not interact. By interactionism, as I stipulated in the third para, I meant a solution to the mind-body problem. What do you mean by interactionism? – Nanhee Byrnes PhD May 30 '17 at 17:49
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    My understanding of interactionism is that a) the mind and the body are separate substances and b) the mind has a causal effect on the body (and vice-versa) – Alexander S King May 30 '17 at 19:16
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    My understanding of 17th and 18th lingo is that substances do not interact with each other (no causation) by definition. If the two can interact, Malebranche's occasionalism and Leibniz's monad theories are simply ridiculous. (p.s.Descartes himself knew that pineal gland is a band-aid solution) – Nanhee Byrnes PhD May 30 '17 at 21:41
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    I would like to be more informed of how the term is used regarding Cartesian era. It will great if source (reading material) is indicated. – Nanhee Byrnes PhD Jun 1 '17 at 14:31

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