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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 78, Issue 3, Summer 2004

Justin Skirry
Pages 399-423

Does Descartes’s Real Distinction Argument Prove Too Much?

Arnauld raised the concern that Descartes’s real distinction argument proved too much, because it seemed to lead us back to the Platonic view according to which the mind uses the body as its vehicle. Descartes responds by pointing out that he argued against this account of mind-body union in the Sixth Meditation. Descartes believes he did not prove too much, because he offers an argument against this view whose premises and conclusion are consistent with the real distinction argument. In this paper, the union argument is reconstructed and evaluated in order to see if, through his rejection of the Platonic view, Descartes adequately addresses Arnauld’s concern. In the end, Descartes adequately addresses this concern only if God’s veracity provides a secure foundation for a crucial inference. Finally, these considerations show a way for those committed to the real distinction of mind and body to avoid the problem of their interaction.