Lancelot Watson, M.S.T., S.T.M.


Education: Bachelor of Science in mass communications and philosophy (May 2006)

Master of Theological Studies from Boston University

Master of Sacred Theology from Boston University

McNair Project: Challenges to Descartes' Dualism (2005)

Mentor: Marcelo Sabatés, Ph.D.

The philosophical world is still experiencing the repercussions of Descartes’ substance dualism -- the view that mind and body are separate and distinct entities, physical and non-physical, with the non-physical (mental) exercising governance over the physical and the physical influencing the mental as well.

Descartes believes that mind and body are different because one thing cannot have two sets of properties that are different and unrelated in the way mental and corporeal properties are. His mode/attribute conception and description of substance embodies a strong notion of an individual substance as unified by means of a nature that determines and explains what types of properties it can have. This paper looks at how Descartes developed his view with special attention to his “Real distinction argument” by using essential elements of his ontology.

A wide range of arguments have been put forth to show that Descartes’ dualism had fatal flaws and many theories emerged as alternatives. Non-interactionism, idealism, behaviorism, physicalism, identity theory, and functionalism all had their era of popularity but over time were proven inefficacious in their pursuit. I survey these doctrines and in some cases examine their weaknesses. The views of Jaegwon Kim and John Searle as well as the critical interpretation of Descartes by Marleen Rozemond figure prominently in my survey.