Intermingling and confusion

Abstract An understanding of Descartes? concept of ?confusion? is important both for making sense of his epistemological enterprise and for grasping his doctrine of the union of mind and body. An analysis of Descartes? notion of confusion is offered which is grounded in the (more or less controversial) theses that confused thoughts are thoughts, that confusion is confusion by a thinker of one thought with another, and that confusion both can and should be avoided or ?undone?. This analysis takes its rise from his contrast between ?confused? and ?distinct? : it exhibits confusion as a failure to distinguish between meanings of systematically ambiguous expressions. This failure is sometimes due to ?bad intellectual habits? which in his view ought to be broken, sometimes to ?nature? (where the confusion is in general beneficial to our welfare). Paradigmatically these are expressions which refer ambiguously to substances (i.e. mind and body) which are ?really distinct?. Moreover, his ?disambiguations? indicate a central but neglected aspect of his aim in philosophizing: he can be seen as engaged in a moral project of ?philosophical therapy?
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