“The Human Mind is a Pure Substance”
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Making a unique appearance in Descartes’ texts and giving rise to a range of contested interpretations is the phrase substantia pura as it is applied to mens humana in contrast to corpus humanum in the Synopsis: “the human mind is not made up of any accidents in this way, but is a pure substance.”1 Descartes’ meaning seems plain enough — unlike the human body the mind is not constituted by its changing “accidents”, by its “different objects of understanding and different desires and sensations”. This notion of substance excludes individual bodies, but includes “body in general” as well as individual minds.
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