Philosophical Theories of Human Nature

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Category: Consciousness
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  I am my consciousness because I am the experiencer and able to cause suspicion. My consciousness allows me to doubt leading me to believe I do exist. I am directly acquainted with my thoughts through my mind without any connection to my body. I can only be sure of what I know, for example, I cannot know if I really have a body or if I really am watching tv because my senses can allow me to believe that I am dreaming. I can only have the thought that I am doing these things.

In “MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY” by Rene Descartes the second meditation which is titled “OF THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN MIND; AND THAT IT IS MORE EASILY KNOWN THAN THE BODY” Descartes from a dualism point of view develops an argument to answer the question “Who am I?” he argues that the mind is more beneficial than the body. He denied that he consumes senses or a body which caused him to question that without them can he not exist.

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In this passage, he is doubting his assumptions to find answers and because he can have these doubts he must exist. He mentions that he had a persuasion that there was nothing in the world not even himself but that didn’t mean he did not exist because the “I” which is him was persuaded, as for the same thing for him being deceived. It is the “I” that allows him to exist because he is deceived. For instance, “So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition (pronunciation) I am, exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind,” (Descartes, 1). Once he has formulated this theory he thought he was nourished, that he was able to move, perceived, and he thought, he combines these attributes to the soul all of which he doubts. He understands the only thing he cannot doubt is that he thinks, he exists even without those actions because they are not reliable.

In “MEDITATION VI OF THE EXISTENCE OF MATERIAL THINGS; AND OF THE REAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE MIND AND BODY OF MAN” Descartes does not doubt that he is a thinking thing being because even without a body we have a consciousness and the only way to have a sensory experience is to have a mind. He develops an argument called cogito ergo sum which means “I think, therefore I am” he is arguing here that our mind is primary and our bodies are secondary. He states, “And although I may, … I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, in as far as I am only a thinking and unextended thing, and as, on the other hand, I possess a distinct idea of myself, in as far as it is only an extended and unthinking thing, it is certain that I , [that is, my mind, by which I am what I am], is entirely and truly distinct from my body, and my exist without it,” (Descartes, 6). Descartes is saying that a “thinking and unextended thing” the mind does not take up space but we do think, and an “extended and unthinking thing” the body takes up space but does not think. When he says, “I have a body,” the “I” is the mind. Descartes wouldn’t doubt my theory that “I am consciousness” because I don’t rely on my senses to know that I do exist. As well I cannot doubt my conscious, because it is a form of thought.

David M. Armstrong from a materialistic point of view would disagree with my theory and argue that we are just bodies instead of the mind. He believes that science and materialism is the best way we’ll have an understanding of the mind. He discusses a materialist theory of the mind called behaviorism meaning that the mind isn’t behind the behavior of the body but a part of the physical behavior. However, he feels as if it is deeper than just behavior itself. So he then attempts to give behaviorism a different view which became the notion of a disposition to behave which is the tendency of a person to behave a certain way under certain circumstances. He uses glass as an example, glass will have a disposition towards shattering if put under pressure because of its brittleness. That is similar to the disposition of the mind. If we are upset that is a disposition to behaving that way but it can be expressed. For example, Armstrong states, “Thoughts are not to be identified with behavior, we think; they lie behind the behavior. A man’s behavior constitutes the reason we have for attributing certain mental processes to him, but the behavior cannot be identified with the mental processes,”(Armstrong, 213). His suggestion is that mental states are not just dispositions to behavior but physical states of the brain. Armstrong lastly speaks on a topic he calls “The Problem Of Consciousness” he is looking for an attribute of the mind that correlates to a “purely materialist theory of man” he gives an example of how a person can be driving a car for a period of time not aware of what he/she was doing and still maintain to drive. Therefore without being conscious mental processing is still occurring. 

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Philosophical Theories of Human Nature. (2021, Mar 22). Retrieved from