Out of all the philosophers we have examined in this unit, Rene Descartes (On Thinking and the Soul) presents the best argument about what a soul and body are. In contrast, I believe that Locke s interpretation of the body, mind, soul and self was my least favorite interpretation. Ren Descartes believed the soul is a pure, unitary thinking thing that has no weight and occupies no space. The soul, according to Descartes, has clear and distinct ideas of matters that can be conceived of in mathematical terms.
The body, according to Descartes, is a material thing that operates mechanically, in accordance of cause and effect. The body moves mechanically through muscles and nerves and generates its own heat. Identity, Descartes believed, comes from the soul. The body acts as a container for the soul and is completely separate from a person s identity. Descartes also believed that thoughts in the soul depend only on the soul and not on the body. Therefore, since the only thing that the soul can do is think than he must be a soul. Locke believed that Descartes equation of the soul is completely false.
Locke noted that if the soul left the body during sleep (Descartes) than it could body hop into other individual. This outcome of Descartes theory is completely absurd to Locke. Locke believed that the identity of a person comes from his/her body. According to Locke, the same soul criterion used by Descartes won t do as an explanation. He believed that same matter could not be used as a criterion for human identity because matter in ones body turns over through the death of old cells and the birth of new ones. I agree with Descartes notion of self-identity because the soul is separate from the body.
I believe that ones body is plagued with several particulars such as hair, arms, legs etc. The soul is a universal entity, meaning everyone has one. I disagree with Locke s account of the body as a person s identity because he believed that people could lose consciousness or memory over parts of their lives. This lost part of someone s life would cause that person to change his/her identity. I believe that if the soul is the thinking agent and if it is universal, than it could not and would not lose consciousness or memory, causing a person to keep his/her original identity.
Rather, when consciousness or memory is lost, it is lost due to the imperfections found in a person s material shell, the body I believe, thanks to Descartes, that a person has two separate entities. The first is the body. The body is made up of particulars and other matter that allows it to function like a container. The second entity is the soul. Here, all thinking processes are done, the function of the brain is to separate the sensations throughout the body.