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Minds Behind the BrainA history of the pioneers and their discoveries$
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Stanley Finger

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181821

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181821.001.0001

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René Descartes: The Mind-Body Problem

René Descartes: The Mind-Body Problem

Chapter:
(p.69) 6 René Descartes: The Mind-Body Problem
Source:
Minds Behind the Brain
Author(s):

Stanley Finger (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181821.003.0006

René Descartes was a 17th-century explorer who developed a system to explain how the nervous system may work. He was not a man of medicine, but a philosopher who turned to geometry, physics, and mechanical models for his ideas. Descartes strove to understand not only the body, but the physical world in all its glory. Driven by reason, he strongly believed that he could unlock even the most hidden secrets of Nature by thinking in terms of mechanics and motion, and by applying rock-solid logic. Descartes asked how brain activities can account for human behavior ranging from scratching an insect bite to memorizing a book. His labors resulted in an all-encompassing theory of brain physiology—one that goes far beyond the observable. But to emphasize the speculative nature of his theory of how the mind interacts with the body or soul would be to lose sight of the even more important fact that Descartes focused new attention on the brain and forced people to think about how it may control both automatic and voluntary acts.

Keywords:   brain, physiology, mind, body, soul, nervous system, mechanics, human behavior

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