Explore BrainMass

Descartes vs. Nagel: The Mind & Consciousness

Compare and contrast Descartes' view of the mind and Nagel's view of consciousness. Is Nagel a Cartesian? Does he share Descartes' view of the the mind? Why or why not?

Focus on Descartes' Meditation 6 and Nagel's "What is it Like to Be a Bat?"

You may also look at Meditations 1-2.

Solution Preview

Dear Student,
As promised, here is the comparative essay-solution you asked for in your posting. Make sure to study the references especially the web ones as it will help you in expanding the ideas here. Good luck! Attached is the Word version. Print it as your guide.

OTA 105878

Descartes & his ideas on the Mind

Cogito ergo sum

The Academics dub Rene Descartes (1596-1650) as the "Father of Modern Philosophy". While he lived in the early 17th centuries, his works continue to be studied & heavily influence modern philosophy. His views on the mind & its distinction from the body, while based upon Greek Philosophy were original & seminal in a sense that they became the foundation of the first systematic account of the mind/body question in philosophy. While undertaking his studies at the Jesuit college of La Fleche, he became fascinated in the contrast between philosophy & mathematics. The former being controversial & the latter being exact. His first essay on physiological philosophy, De Homine & his subsequent work, Meditations he tried to apply a structure of inquiry which eventually became fundamental in the natural sciences. All his philosophical inquiries, however complex centered on a single principle - Thought Exists. The lines that we now so easily say - "I think, therefore I am," were of his work. For Descartes thought or the mechanism of the mind cannot be separated from the self. Where then does the body end and the mind begin?

For him, the mind is what allows his existence - he perceives his body through his senses, he ...

Solution Summary

This is an extensive solution providing a discussion of the similarities & differences between the views & philosophies of Descartes & Nagel on consciousness, awareness & thinking. Rene Descartes is labelled as the father of Modern Philosophy particularly due to his ground breaking work, 'Meditations'. In it he labours to explain & understand self-consciousness & the mind & what it means & symbolizes to one's being. Nagel is one of today's more profound thinkers. His 1974 work, 'What is it like to be a bat' delved into subjectivity & objectivity, looking into unique individual experiences & the physical being as particulars that identify & mold a person, making an argument that the scientific study of the mind for the purpose of understanding consciousness lacks individualization of experience. The solution is in the form of a comparative essay and it situates the thinkers chosen in their places in history. Provided is an extensive list of references for expansion of research into the subject matter.