Philosophy Department

Prof. John Nale Lecture/Spring Lecture Series 2013

April 8, 2013
11:45 AM to 1:00 PM

Prof. John Nale

 Descartes on Love, Blood and the Mind-Body Problem


We are all familiar with Descartes' mind-body problem as well as his pineal gland 'solution'. Here, I argue for a reinterpretation of the problem that focuses on comments from Les passions de l’âme, where Descartes claims that at conception the soul falls in love with the blood located in the heart.

Following his predecessors such as Francisco Suarez and physician Jean Fernel, Descartes believes that the mind joins with the body on the basis of certain dispositions or accommodations. Physicians such as Fernel and William Harvey believed that the body contained a divine element within it, be it spirit or the blood itself, which worked as a hinge joining the divinely created soul and the sexually reproduced body. 

Descartes believes that this disposition is the blood and heat located in the heart. However, Descartes’ account of the mind body union at conception runs aground when he asserts that this disposition is strictly mundane, featuring no divine element whatsoever, with the same structure as other kinds of inorganic heat.

I conclude that Descartes’ mind-body problem is in fact a problem of self love: why does the divinely created soul love this particular body? If time permits, I will discuss the importance of this interpretation in our understanding of the emergence of the idea of race in the late 1700's.


April 8, Monday

11:45 am – 1:00 pm, Luther Bonney 402

Portland Campus


Event is free and open to the public.  For more information please call 780-4258 or email:

Request for Special Needs Accommodations:  The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request.  Please indicate if you need special services, assistance or accommodations to freely participate in this program by contacting Brenda McGovern @ (207) 780-4258 or program) or teletext  (207) 780-5586.