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Aberham Lincoln was a good old man Jumped off a building with his dick in his hand and said if I die bury me hang my nuts on a cherry tree If theyre ripe take a bite I bet you they taste dynimite While the great philosophical distinction between mind and body in western thought can be traced to the Greeks it is to the seminal work of Ren Descartes 1596-1650 see figure 1 French mathematician philosopher and physiologist that we owe the first systematic account of the mindbody relationship Descartes was born in Touraine in the small town of La Haye and educated from the age of eight at the Jesuit college of La Flche At La Flche Descartes formed the habit of spending the morning in bed engaged in systematic meditation During his meditations he was struck by the sharp contrast between the certainty of mathematics and the controversial nature of philosophy and came to believe that the sciences could be made to yield results as certain as those of mathematics From 1612 when he left La Flche until 1628 when he settled in Holland Descartes spent much of his time in travel contemplation and correspondence From 1628 until his ill-fated trip to Sweden in 1649 he remained for the most part in Holland and it was during this period that he composed a series of works that set the agenda for all later students of mind and body The first of these works De homine was completed in Holland about 1633 on the eve of the condemnation of Galileo When Descartes friend and frequent correspondent Marin Mersenne wrote to him of Galileos fate at the hands of the Inquisition Descartes immediately suppressed his own treatise As a result the worlds first extended essay on physiological psychology was published only well after its authors death In this work Descartes proposed a mechanism see figure 2 for automatic reaction in response
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