What Am I?: Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem

Paperback | April 14, 2005

byJoseph Almog

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In his Meditations, Rene 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 toharder 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 andnot 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 maintainingsimultaneously 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 oflanguage, ontology, and the metaphysics of mind.

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In his Meditations, Rene 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 toharder ones." Instead of understanding what ...

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

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 5.39 × 8.19 × 0.59 inPublished:April 14, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195177193

ISBN - 13:9780195177190

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"An important addition to scholarship on Descartes, Almog's account reaches back to and includes Arnauld, Caterus, and Gassendi as well as Saul Kripke; he treats all these commentators thoughtfully. It will be difficult, after reading this, for anyone to believe that Descartes espouses anysimple or straightforward two-substance-in-one-man view. College and university libraries should not be without this books."--CHOICE