Mind Shadows      On Having No Head (With Apologies to Douglas Harding)

Cogito ergo sum, said the great Descartes. He had gone about doubting everything and finally concluded that there was one thing he could not doubt–that he was doubting. To doubt is to think, which led him to his premise, I think therefore I am.

That was one problem solved and the beginning of another. This mysterious something, this thinker, is in here, so to speak, but how does the "in here" bridge the gap with the "out there"? How does subject communicate with object? How does mind get the feet to work, or money to change hands? Descartes was himself vexed by the problem and speculated that the bridge lay in the Pineal gland, but it has been found to have other functions.

He gave philosophy the mind-body, subject-object problem, and his death provides a fitting metaphor of his life. His body rests in a former Benedictine monastery in Saint-Germain-des-Près, in Paris. Its head is missing.

I like to think that some philosopher, crazed by the problem, opened the vault and in the dark of night had his posthumous revenge. With an ax he said: There, it is solved for all time.


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