The name of the French philosopher Rene Descartes is associated with the doctrine of the independent existence of mind and body. This doctrine is called dualism (Almog 62). His teaching is based on the following assumption. He thought that there are two types of substances "thinking substances" (not bodily substance) and "bodily matter" (living, material substance).
Considering the nature of the body, Descartes has appealed directly to the mechanical-hydraulic model. In his opinion, the excitement of man passed along the nerves - as a liquid through the pipes, and muscles with tendons are like the engine and springs. All movements of the mechanical body is not arbitrary but are caused by some external factors. According to the observation of Descartes, a significant part of the human body movement occurs without any involvement of consciousness. Precisely from these observations grows his notion "undulatio reflexa" - movements are produced without any participation of consciousness and will. So, Descartes is often called as the author of the theory of reflex activity.
In order to formulate his own concept of the interaction of mind and body, Descartes had to find a physical organ in which they could be combined. He believed that such a body should be somewhere in the brain. He suggested that this may be the pineal gland. Descartes describe this interaction in a typical mechanistic manner: moving along the neural tube, special liquid in a certain way is imprinted in the pineal gland, and on this basis the mind creates sensual images, perception. Descartes developed a philosophical system, which, as he expected, became a target for criticism. Even Bishop William Temple once wondered: "What day was the darkest day in European history?" - replied: "The day when Descartes become a philosopher."
Indeed on one side his philosophy is entirely correct. Personally I am supporting the idea that our thoughts are coming to a specific point in our body, from which is creating a physical reaction. That is if a person wanted to get out of bed - she thought about this and her body began to rise. Thus, she was not thought that at first she had to raise her back, put feet on the floor and straighten. Her body did it mechanically. In the same way, we are guided in everyday life. We can control only the basic functions of the mechanical responses (stop, accelerate the process, etc.). Although these processes we can simultaneously disconnect.
Pascal thought that human’s nature is completely and correctly explained by the Christian religion. He agreed that from the very beginning of his life, a man is simultaneously wretched and great. It is possible to sat that plenty of world’s religions recognize that a human is great, but they do not claim that he is wretched. Or vice versa, the man is wretched and sinful, but not great. (Roselli) Only Christian religion says that we have both these characteristics. The greatness of a person comes from the God’s image, as it is believed that we were created after the image and likeness of God. (Christian Research Institute) However, human beings are very weak. Pascal believes that people do not see their wretchedness unless they had some recalling of being great in the past, and from which they had fallen. Thus all our dignity consists in thought. (#200)
Pascal stated that when a person knows that he is wretched, he is great. Thus it is wretched to know one is wretched, but there is a greatness in knowing one is wretched. (#114) All these instances of wretchedness show man’s greatness. Human’s greatness and wretchedness are so clear that the true religion should necessarily show us that there is in a human some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness. (#149)
The paradox of man, being both great and wretched is easily traced in the history. The difference between human kingdom and animal kingdom is enormous. There is impossible to find Newton or Da Vinci among animals, yet animals at the same time, are not such cruel as Stalin or Hitler. (Leaderu.com)
It is claimed by Descartes, existence of God is not because of the human knowledge of thoughts. In fact, he believed that God exist because he let people believe in himself, he gave them this knowledge. (Newman) “It is not our thought makes it like this, but rather the importance of the thing itself, precisely existence of God that defines my thinking in this respect” (Grene, 203). In other words, Descartes said that it is impossible to come up with idea of God’s existence. God gives us the knowledge of his own existence. (Lacewing) Judging by that, it is possible to say that God could have given us the idea that our mind is separate from our body, that there is two worlds, physical and mental. (Oregonstate.edu)However, there are some flaws in philosopher’s statements. (HubPages) He said that one can imagine God, and thus somehow prove his existence, but one can imagine anything he or she wants, like birds with lion’s head, or flying cows etc., even though such things do not exist, one is able to think and believe in God existence, although could be wrong. (Kemerling)
Pascal suggests new ways of coming to belief in God. To some point the variants of the ways to belief of the scientists deny the classical dogmas of religion. Pascal makes connections between science and religion, and compares fundaments of scientific and religious worldviews. Pascal takes forward the idea of pure belief in God. Pure belief means belief that does not need proofs. But actually Pascal is in the one boat with both James and Lewis, because he supports the ideas of logical thinking in religion.
According to Pascal the man who beliefs does not sacrifice or loose nothing. So, it is beneficial for the person to believe. Pascal stand for believing without proof, because they think of benefits that human being can receive for belief. It is suggested by both scientists that the one does not loose nothing, if the one risks to belief. Pascal supports the ideas that the true belief is not about evidence. The risk involved in belief is understood by both scientists is understood as loosing of something that was sacrificed and loosing of belief itself. Pascal also suggested the new way of thinking about religion, and by his logical conclusions about believing without proofs Pascal actually denied the ideas of ‘dead hypothesis’.
Blaise Pascal, Pensees trans. A. J. Krailsheimer, (London: Penguin Books, 1966)
Christian Research Institute,. 'Greatness And Wretchedness - Christian Research Institute'. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.
Grene, Marjorie. Descartes. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985. Print.
HubPages,. 'What Did René Descartes Believe?'. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.
Kemerling, Garth. 'Descartes: Human Nature'. Philosophypages.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.
Lacewing, M. The Role Of God In Meditations by Descartes. 1st ed. 2009. Print.
Leaderu.com,. 'The Apologetic Methodology Of Blaise Pascal'. N.p., 2015. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.
Newman, Lex. 'Descartes' Epistemology'. Plato.stanford.edu. N.p., 1997. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.
Oregonstate.edu,. 'Descartes' Evidence For The Existence Of God', 2015. 18 Apr Jan. 2015.
Roselli, Greig. 'Greig Roselli: Blaise Pascal On The Contradictory Nature Of Human Beings'. Stonesoferasmus.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.