In his Meditations, RenA(c) 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 to harder 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 and not 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 maintaining simultaneously 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 of language, ontology, and the metaphysics of mind.
"A very interesting book that captures some very important and neglected elements of Descartes's thought. ...an interesting and thought-provoking attempt to spell out in contemporary terms ideas Almog finds in Descartes."--Mind
"A major work in several areas of philosophy, including the history of philosophy, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. The book is well-conceived, well-written, and elegantly argued. Indeed, I know of no book since Kripke's Naming and Necessity that presents these issues as clearly or that promises as important a realignment of our intuitions on some of these issues."--Stephen White, Tufts University
"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 any simple or straightforward two-substance-in-one-man view. College and university libraries should not be without this books."--CHOICE