Descartes and the tree of knowledge

Synthese 92 (1):101 - 116 (1992)
Descartes' image of the tree of knowledge from the preface to the French edition of the Principles of Philosophy is usually taken to represent Descartes' break with the past and with the fragmentation of knowledge of the schools. But if Descartes' tree of knowledge is analyzed in its proper context, another interpretation emerges. A series of contrasts with other classifications of knowledge from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries raises some puzzles: claims of originality and radical break from the past do not seem warranted. Further contrasts with Descartes' unpublished writings and with school doctrines lead to the ironic conclusion that, in the famous passage, Descartes is attempting to appeal to conventional wisdom and trying to avoid sounding novel.
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    Erica Torrens (2013). Visualizing the Order of Nature. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (1):110-113.
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