Download e-book for iPad: Cartesian Reflections: Essays on Descartes's Philosophy by John Cottingham

By John Cottingham

ISBN-10: 0199226970

ISBN-13: 9780199226979

John Cottingham explores critical parts of Descartes's wealthy and wide-ranging philosophical procedure, together with his money owed of inspiration and language, of freedom and motion, of our courting to the animal area, and of human morality and the behavior of lifestyles. He additionally examines ways that his philosophy has been misunderstood. The Cartesian mind-body dualism that's so usually attacked is just part of Descartes's account of what it truly is to be a pondering, sentient, human creature, and how he makes the department among the psychological and the actual is significantly extra sophisticated, and philosophically extra beautiful, than is usually assumed. even supposing Descartes is frequently thought of to be one of many heralds of our smooth secular worldview, the 'new' philosophy which he introduced keeps many hyperlinks with the information of his predecessors, now not least within the all-pervasive function it assigns to God (something that's missed or downplayed through many sleek readers); and the nature of the Cartesian outlook is multifaceted, occasionally looking ahead to Enlightenment principles of human autonomy and self reliant medical inquiry, but in addition occasionally harmonizing with extra conventional notions of human nature as created to discover fulfilment in concord with its writer.

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But the contracausalist interpretation of Descartes by his close successors is in fact an early example of the phenomenon to which I have so often drawn attention in this opening chapter—the tendency for Descartes’s ideas to be subject to systematic distortion by his critics. Except in the special case of God, whose infinite power he frequently insists is beyond our comprehension, Descartes is actually very far from insisting on such absolute contra-causal liberty as constituting the essence of freedom.

Whatever justification can be concocted for this curiously stretched interpretation of ‘mental’, such an approach is miles away from Descartes. For Descartes, the mind is a thinking thing, and I argue in the chapter under discussion that there is good reason to suppose that by this Descartes means precisely what he says, namely something that engages in various kinds of intellectual and judgemental activity—doubting, understanding, affirming, denying, and so on. It is true that, almost as an afterthought, Descartes does in the Second Meditation tack on to this list ‘imagining and having sensory perceptions’, but this should not be read as implying any anticipation of the modern notion of ‘consciousness’, with its supposed philosophical intractability.

7) as a striking anticipation of Malebranche’s occasionalism. Actually, it may be construed in two ways: if God is thought of as causally intervening to make a sensation of redness ‘arise’ in your mind whenever a certain pattern occurs in your brain, it does indeed prefigure Malebranche; if on the other hand one thinks of God creating a soul with an innate and permanent structural disposition to come up with the right qualitative sensation when the body and brain are in a certain state, it is perhaps more of a pre-echo of Leibniz’s pre-established harmony.

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Cartesian Reflections: Essays on Descartes's Philosophy by John Cottingham


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