Arnold Geulincx and Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism

Arnold Geulincx and Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Geulincx, one of the important representatives of Cartesian philosophy, was born in Antwerp. He taught in Leuven and Leyden. He died in Leyden in 1669. He wrote his works in Latin and these works were published after his death. The main ones are: Quaestiones Quodlibeticae (1653); Disputatio medica inauguralis de febribus (1658); Logica fundamentis suis restituta (1662), Methodus inveniendi argumenta (1663), De virtute (1665).

Geulincx tried to resolve Descartes’ mind-body dualism on a logical basis. First of all, he accepted Descartes’ cogito and argued that in order to understand the universe, it is necessary to act from the cogito. According to him, the contents of consciousness are divided into two: The acts that consciousness collects from itself; such as asking, thinking, judging. Apart from these, there are also sensations. Sensations are not created directly in consciousness, but occur in consciousness as a result of external factors. That is, the causes of sensations are outside our consciousness. Since we do not know these causes, we cannot know how they occur. Just as the body is not the cause of the sensations in the soul, the will occurring in the soul is not the cause of the movements in the body. External stimulation and internal desire are not the main causes that create a sensation in the soul, a movement in the body, but only intermediate-causes or means. So what is the real reason? According to Geulincx, the real cause is God. God creates a design in the soul by means of excitation in the body; it creates a movement in the body on the occasion of will. This relationship, which is based on God between the will in the soul and the movement in the body, is called occasionalism or inter-causalism (occasionalism) in philosophy. Geulincx proposes a solution to the problem of the soul-body relationship that arose after Descartes, by claiming that God realizes the soul-body interaction in man, but he does not agree with the view that there is an interaction between the soul and the body.

Occasionalism is a philosophical approach based on the view that the relationship between the will in the soul and the movement in the body is established by God and that God is the only real cause.

Geulincx extended inter-causation to the world of matter, and suggested that it is incomprehensible for one body to act on another. One object making a change to another object is not included in the object concept. Therefore, the real reason why bodies affect each other is God. The effects of objects on each other are merely an occasion. As a result, objects are not active, but passive entities. The only cause acting in the universe is God, the infinite substance.

Geulincx also applied his occasionalism to the field of morality. According to him, man cannot create anything by himself. Man is a spectator of what God has created in him and must submit to God’s order. The highest virtue is the love of God and reason. The soul should not desire anything external, except what springs from its own essence: diligence, obedience, justice, humility are the main ethical values. Humility can be viewed in two ways: understanding our relationship with the world and understanding our relationship with God. So humility involves knowing ourselves and giving up on ourselves. The soul should not ask for anything from the material world, which has no real relation to itself. For man is not the cause of things in the outer world. He cannot know something for which he has no reason. He should not ask for anything about what he does not know, give up himself and the outside world, devote himself to God, try to fulfill our duties, not to be happy. Because only by giving himself to God and reason can the soul reach serenity and the highest good.

According to Geulincx, the soul should not hope for anything from the material world with which it has no real relationship, but should live by devoting itself entirely to God and reason.

This doctrine, which proposes to integrate with God by withdrawing from the outside world, reveals an attitude close to mysticism. Trying to reach the existence and knowledge of God without putting any intermediary between himself and God means to act and gain strength from his own spirit. From an epistemological and metaphysical point of view, starting from the cogito is an attitude that is easy to slip into mysticism. As a matter of fact, it can be said that all rationalist thinkers following Descartes have a tendency to mysticism in their philosophy.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook