René Descartes (1596–1650) is a French scientist/philosopher who proposed a strict split or schism between mental processes and physical abilities.

Descartes hypothesized that the mind and body are separate, but interact with each other. He believed that much human behavior can be explained in mechanical terms, that the mind and the body are separate but interacting entities and that the mind contains innate ideas. With Descartes began comparative-physiological Psychology, stimulus-response Psychology, Phenomenology, and a debate over whether innate ideas exist. Descartes also focused attention on the nature of the relationship between the mind and the body. René Descartes is famous for his exclamation, "I think therefore I am" - Ergo summa cogito. He strengthened the Greek idea about the separation of the mind from the body.


René Descartes, a prominent figure in the history of psychology, is widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy. His work has had a significant impact on psychology, particularly in the areas of rationalism and the mind-body dualism theory. Descartes believed that the mind and body are separate entities, with the mind being immaterial and the body being material. This notion laid the foundation for the mind-body problem that continues to be a central focus in psychology. Descartes also emphasized the importance of skepticism and deductive reasoning in understanding human thought and behavior, influencing the development of experimental psychology in the centuries that followed. His contributions to the field have paved the way for further exploration into the nature of consciousness and the self.

Application Areas

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Philosophy of mind
  • Neuroscience
  • Consciousness studies
  • Behavioral psychology

Treatment and Risks

  • Descartes' theories and ideas can help in understanding the complexity of mental disorders and developing effective treatment approaches.
  • One risk is the oversimplification of the mind-body relationship, which may lead to reductionist approaches in psychology.


  • Exploring the mind-body connection in patients with psychosomatic disorders
  • Studying the impact of mindfulness practices on cognitive functioning
  • Investigating the neural correlates of consciousness using Descartes' dualism theory as a framework

Similar Concepts and Synonyms

  • Mind-body dualism
  • Rationalism
  • Cartesian dualism
  • The Cartesian self
  • Descartian psychology


Descartes' groundbreaking work in philosophy and psychology, particularly in the areas of rationalism and mind-body dualism, has had a lasting impact on the field. His emphasis on skepticism and deductive reasoning laid the foundation for modern psychology and continues to influence research in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and consciousness studies. Descartes' ideas have helped shape our understanding of the mind and body relationship, providing valuable insights into human thought and behavior.