The trapped infinity: Cartesian volition as conceptual nightmare

Philosophical Psychology 3 (1):101-121 (1990)
Abstract
Abstract Descartes's theory of volition as expressed in his Passions of the Soul is analyzed and outlined. The focus is not on Descartes's proposed answers to questions about the nature and processes of volition, but on his way of formulating questions about the nature of volition. It is argued that the assumptions underlying Descartes's questions have become ?intellectual strait?jackets? for all who are interested in volition: neuroscientists, philosophers and psychologists. It is shown that Descartes's basic assumption?that volition causes change in the brain/mind, not in the world around us?has set in train a series of ?themata? that have dominated studies of the will, severely curtailing our understanding. It is then shown that these Cartesian themata are so limiting and confusing that a number of internally contradictory ideas have actually become mainstays of most theories of volition; in particular, the concepts of unconscious sensations and of involuntary volitions
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