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December 14, 2020
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December 14, 2020

Hi CASIMIR, I don’t need to respond to this for a grade point but thought if you could come up with a response, I’d use it. If you don’t have time; don’t worry about it. Can be a short response off the question. Thanks Jeff

Here are some thoughts relevant to several of this weeks posts. Descartes recognizes that thinking and ideas (like the idea of a chair or the idea that I will walk to the store later) seem to be a fundamentally different sort of thing than physical things/processes (like a chair or walking to the store), which have extension in space. Despite being fundamentally different things, mental things and physical things interact and form a kind of unity in human beings because human beings have physical bodies, including brains and nervous systems, as well as non-physical minds—which Descartes famously calls the ghost in the machine. The nature of the relationship between mind and body does remain something of a mystery on this account but the idea that Descartes thinks mind and mater are not interconnected is a misunderstanding.

Before considering the Santiago Theory of Mind it is important to stress that Descartes is using the term substance in a very different way than we might imagine. Obviously he does not mean to imply something physical because he fundamentally contrasts physical and mental substance. Even the term “mental thing” can be misleading because we often tend to think of things as concrete physical entities. By substance Descartes simply means reality or existence. Things can exist in a physical realm or a mental realm. These are the two fundament types of existence for Descartes. So, there is no reason why, on Descartes view, we might not be able to understand cognitive phenomena as processes. Some systems theory may be guilty of misunderstanding Descartes on this point.


the Santiago Theory views mind or cognition as a process. As such it is

a sort of emergent property of physical systems such as neural networks

or even other sorts of biological systems. While this account may offer

some elaboration of the nature of the relationship between the mental

and the physical it does not seem to break radically with Cartesian

Dualism in the way that it claims to. A process is not a physical thing.

Relationships and processes may have their basis in physical things but

are themselves distinct from the physical substances that are being

related or undergoing the process. And, at the end of the day, the idea

of a chair still seems like a fundamentally different sort of think than

a physical chair and this picture of mind does not seem to escape that

fundamental dualism. Even the idea that cognition as a process is an

emergent property of physical systems is not inconsistent with a

fundamentally Cartesian picture since Descartes already claims there is a

relationship (even a unity) between the mind and the body. So, do you think systems theory really breaks radically with Cartesian Dualism?

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Critical System thinking was first posted on December 14, 2020 at 4:32 pm.
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