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  • 1. Reality’s Two for One Special:A Comparison Between Descartes’ Dualism and Spinoza’s Monism
    Cheryl Bennett
    PHI 200
    Professor Henry
    May 24, 2010
  • 2. Is Reality Reality?
    Is what humanity calls Reality really reality, and is humanity dual in nature or monistic? Rene Descartes and Baruch Spinoza were two philosophers that attempt to investigate and answer that particular question by using both mathematical theories and intense examinations of the universe, humankind, and the psyche.
  • 3. Rene Descartes
    • Born in 1596 near Tours, France.
    • 4. Died in 1650 in Sweden due to pneumonia.
    • 5. Was a mathematician who tried to prove his philosophy theories through mathematical means.
    • 6. Commenced the belief in rationalism and the dualism of the mind and body.
    • 7. (SparkNotes Editors, 2006, pp. 138-140)
  • Rene Descartes: Famous writings
    • Comments on a Certain Broadsheet, 1647
    • 8. Conversation with Burman, 1648
    • 9. Correspondence, post hum. 1657
    • 10. The Description of the Human Body, 1647
    • 11. Discourse on the Method, 1637
    • 12. Geometry, 1637
    • 13. Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641
    • 14. Passions of the Soul, 1649
    • 15. Principles of Philosophy, 1644
    • 16. Rules for the Direction of the Mind, 1630
    • 17. Treatise on the World, 1633
    • 18. (The Professor Network, 2004)
  • Baruch Spinoza
    • Born in 1632 in Amsterdam, Holland.
    • 19. Died in 1677.
    • 20. Was a lens grinder and mathematician.
    • 21. Was an excommunicated Jew due to his beliefs that the Hebrew bible was just a teaching tool and that God was the universe and not a supernatural being.
    • 22. (The Professor Network, 2004)
  • Baruch Spinoza:Famous Writings
    • A Theological-Political Treatise, 1670
    • 23. Ethics Demonstrated According to the Geometrical Order, 1677
    • 24. Hebrew Grammar, 1677
    • 25. On the Improvement of the Understanding, 1662
    • 26. Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being, 1660s
    • 27. Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, 1663
    • 28. Thoughts on Metaphysics, 1663
    • 29. (The Professor Network, 2004)
  • Similarities
    • Believed in hard determinism.
    • 30. Believed mathematics the best assessment of truth and knowledge.
    • 31. Believed that God was the primary substance which created all other substances.
    • 32. Were fearful of persecution by church officials.
    • 33. Their written works were banned by the church for heresy for centuries.
  • Contrasts
    • Dualism
    • 34. The mind and body are two distinct and separate substances extended from God.
    • 35. Monism
    • 36. The mind and body are one substance dependent upon God.
  • Metaphysics: Descartes
    • Believed that the mind and body were different substances separate from each other, “if mental states are generated by the brain they have no effect in the world.”
    • 37. (Irwin, 2002, pp. 68-69.)
    • 38. The Universe can be explained both mechanically and mathematically since all actions are in some way an adjustment of the interchanges between the physical body and the ethereal mind substances since each subsists independently from the other.
    • 39. (Frost, 1942, pp. 31-33.)
  • Metaphysics: Spinoza
    • There is only one substance, God/nature; therefore, the body and mind are one and the same even though they may act independent from each other.
    • 40. Everything (action and material) is due to a series of triggers like a tree’s existence is triggered by the actions of another substance such as the wind, rain, and sunshine.
    • 41. (Frost, 1942, pp. 33-35.)
  • Epistemology: Descartes
    • Rationalism
    • 42. Mathematical methods of Reasoning:
    • 43. Intuition: the understanding of self-evident principles
    • 44. Deduction: orderly, logical reasoning from self-evident propositions
    • 45. Skepticism
    • 46. (Lavine, pp. 93-99)
  • Epistemology: Spinoza
    • Believes there are two characteristics of knowledge:
    • 47. Imagination: A faculty of forming imagistic representations of things, derived ultimately from the mechanisms of the senses.
    • 48. Intellect: A faculty of forming adequate, non-imagistic conceptions of things.
    • 49. There are three types of wisdom
    • 50. Opinion or Imagination: Indiscriminate or uncertain influences like word of mouth and sensory information.
    • 51. Reason: Mutual or proven concepts like triangles have three sides that meet together by way of three angles.
    • 52. Intuitive: The definite facts about a subject along with the how and why the facts are true.
    (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1999)
  • 53. Ethics: Descartes
    • God places thoughts and actions into humankind’s mind; therefore, humans are not liable for their actions.
    • 54. The mind is capable of free will but the body is dependent upon the mind for its actions.
    • 55. (Frost, 1942, p.92.)
  • Ethics: Spinoza
    • a person acts ethically when “guided by reason.”
    • 56. Virtue’s two classes:
    • 57. Tenacity: “the Desire by which each one strives, solely from the dictate of reason, to preserve his being”
    • 58. Nobility: “the Desire by which each one strives, solely from the dictate of reason, to aid other men and join them to him in friendship.”
    • 59. (The Cambridge Dictionary, 1999.)
  • Free Will: Descartes
    • Everything has a cause and that cause was caused by another influence.
    • 60. (Lavine, pp.124-125)
    • 61. The mind alone has the ability to make its own choices but the body does not.
    • 62. (Frost, 1942, p.92)
  • Free Will: Spinoza
    • Free will is determined by a person’s desire to do the right thing for two reasons:
    • 63. either to preserve their survival
    • 64. or make friends.
    • 65. A person’s actions are ultimately determined by God.
    • 66. (The Cambridge Dictionary, 1999, par 11-12)
  • Personal Identity: Descartes
    • “I think, therefore I am”
    • 67. Since he was conscious of the awareness of his thoughts, he must exist.
    • 68. His hypothesis that ideas are from the mind only and not the physical brain tissue. Therefore, mental states have no effect in nor are they affected by the physical world.
    • 69. (Irwin, 2002, pp. 42-46, 68-69.)
  • Personal Identity: Spinoza
    • A person’s memories are their identity since the body and mind are one.
    • 70. Personal identity remains the same regardless of physical changes, like a person losing weight does not alter who they are mentally.
    • 71. Identity can be erased if a person’s memories are erased through injury or disease.
    • 72. (Lin, 2005.)
  • Evil: Descartes
    • God is perfect and incapable of error
    • 73. Humankind makes and acts upon bad choices due to insufficient evidence because their understanding from God is incomplete.
    • 74. (Frost, 1942, p.92)
  • Evil: Spinoza
    • Good (or evil) just is what serves (or hinders) the long-term interests of life.
    • 75. Defined evil as the equivalent to a lack of logical knowledge since any action taken without reason only produces undesirable results.
    • 76. (Frost, 1942, p.92)
    • 77. Evil comes from the obstruction of a person’s desire to do the right thing since people yearn to be righteous, either to preserve their survival or to gain allies
    • 78. (Kemerling, 1997, par 26-28.)
  • God: Descartes
    • God is the ultimate substance possessing maximum perfect positivity.
    • 79. Human beings are an extension of God’s singular substance and are divided into two separate imperfect substances.
    • 80. (Lavine, pp.104-105)
  • God: Spinoza
    • God is the universe/nature; the one and only true substance.
    • 81. Man is a single imperfect extension of God’s perfect singular substance.
    • 82. (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1999.)
  • Glossary
    • Metaphysics- The study of ultimate reality
    • 83. Epistemology- The study of knowledge
    • 84. Ethics- The study of moral value
    • 85. Free will- The will is free to make its own choice of actions.
    • 86. Determinism- The theory that everything happens necessarily in accordance with one or more scientific causal laws and that there is no free will.
    • 87. Personal identity- The belief that people change throughout their lives and yet remain physically the same but not mentally the same.
    • 88. (Abel, 2010, pp. 5, 7, 181, 186.)
  • References
    Abel, D. (Ed.). (2010.) Doing Philosophy: An Introduction Through
    Thought Experiments. McGraw Hill: NY
    Frost Jr., S., (1942.) Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers: A Survey
    of Their Basic Ideas. New York: NY
    Irwin, W., (Ed.).(2002.) Popular Culture and Philosophy: The Matrix
    and Philosophy (Vol. 3.). Chicago, IL: Open Court
  • 89. References
    Kemerling, G., (1997.) Baruch Spinoza. Retrieved May 8, 2010
    Lavine, T., (1984.) From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic
    Quest. New York: NY
    Lin, M., (2005). Memory and Personal Identity in
    Spinoza. Canadian Journal ofPhilosophy, 35(2), 243- 268,353.  Retrieved May 8, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 912992801).
  • 90. References
    Popkin, R. and Stroll, A., (1981.) Philosophy Made Simple. New York: NY
    SparkNotes Editors. (2006.) Philosophy Classics. New York: NY
    Spinoza, Baruch (1632-1677). (1999). In The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Retrieved on May 8, 2010 from
  • 91. References: Images
    The Professor Network. (2004.)Baruch or Benedict Spinoza. Retrieved on May
    8, 2010 from
    The Professor Network. (2004.)Rene Descartes. Retrieved on May 8, 2010 from