The Passions of the Soul
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The passions of the soul, Rene Descartes, 1650 AD
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Philosopher and mathematician
The passions of the soule in three books, 1650 London, for A.C.(pp.xxx 173) PP. 25-9
First published in French, Paris and Amsterdam 1649
PINEAL GLAND: SEAT OF THE SOUL
That there is a little kernell in the brain wherein the soul exercises her functions more peculiarly than in the other parts
It is also necessary to know, that although the soul be joyned to all the body, yet there is some part in that body wherein shee excercises her functions more peculiarly than all the rest, and it is commonly believed that this part is the brain, or, it may bee, the heart : the brain, because thither tend the organs of the senses; and the heart, because therein the Passions are felt; but having searched this businesse carefully, me thinks I have plainly found out, that that part of the body wherein the soul immediately exercises her functions is not a jot of the heart; nor yet all the brain, but only the most interiour part of it, which is a certain very small kernell, situated in the middle of the substance of it, and so hung on the top of the conduit by which the spirits of its anteriour cavities have communication with those of the posteriour, whose least motions in it cause the course of the spirits very much to change, and reciprocally, the least alterations befalling the course of the spirits, cause the motions of the kernell very much to alter.
How this kernell is known to be the principall seat of the soul
The reason which persuades me that the soul can have no other place in the whole body but this kernell where she immediately exercises her functions is that I see: all the other parts of our brain are paired, as also we have two eyes, two hands, two ears: lastly, all the organs of our exteriour senses are double : and forasmuch as we have but one onely, and single thought of one very thing at one and the same time, it must necessarily be that there is some place where the two images that come from the two eyes, or the two other impressions that come from any single object through the double organs of the other senses, have some where to meet in one, before they come to the soul, that they may not represent two objects in stead of one; and it may bee easily conceived, that these images, or other impressions joyn together in this kernell by intercourse of the spirits that sill the cavities of the brain; but there is no other place in the body where they can be so united, unless it be granted that they are in this kernel.
How the Soul and the Body act one against another
Let us then conceive that the Soul holds her principal seat in that little kernel in the midst of the brain, from whence she diffuseth her beams into all the rest of the body by intercourse of the spirits, nerves, yea and the very blood, which participating the Impressions of the spirits, may convey them through the arteries into all the members; and remembring what was formerly said concerning this machine our body, to wit, that the little strings of our nerves are so distributed into all parts of it that upon occasion of severall motions excited therein by sensible objects, they variously open the pores of the braine, which causeth the animall spirits contained in the cavities thereof, to enter divers wayes into the muscles, by whose means they can move the members all the severall wayes they are apt to move, and also that all the other causes which can differently move the spirits, are enough to convey them into severall muscles : let us here adde, that the little kernell which is the chief seat of the soul hangs so between the cavities which contain these spirits, that it may be moved by them as many severall fashions as there are sensible diversities in objects; but withall, that it may be moved severall wayes by the soul too, which is of such a nature, that she receives as many various impressions (that is, hath as many severall apprehensions) as there come severall motions into this kernell. As also on the other side, the machine of the body is so composed, that this kernel being only divers wayes moved by the soul, or by any other cause whatsoever, it drives the Spirits that environ it towards the pores of the brain, which convey them by the nerves into the muscles, by which means it causeth them to move the members.
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