Descartes and the puzzle of sensory representation (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (4):526-527 (2010)
Descartes and the Puzzle of Sensory Representation is an intensely polemical attack on many recent expositions of sensory representation in Descartes, and a defense of De Rosa’s own Descriptive-Causal Account of Sensory Representation. For Descartes, she says, there are two kinds of ideas, sensible and intelligible, both of which have presentational and referential content. The presentational content of sensible ideas consists of touches, tastes, sounds, odors, and colored visual images that are obscure and confused, in that there is nothing like these sensible ideas in the material world. The presentational content of intelligible ideas, on the other hand, is clear and distinct, in that it consists of geometric representations of material bodies that do exist in the world outside the mind. Thus, whenever one has a clear and distinct intelligible perception of a material body that exists outside the mind, one also has at the same time an obscure and confused sensible image of that body as hard, sweet, squeaky, odiferous, and colored. Nothing like these sensible images actually exists in bodies. De Rosa says that the role of sensible imagery is to individuate and differentiate material bodies from one another, which would be difficult to do for
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DOI 10.1353/hph.2010.0003
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Raffaella De Rosa (2009). Cartesian Sensations. Philosophy Compass 4 (5):780-792.
Alison Simmons (2003). Descartes on the Cognitive Structure of Sensory Experience. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (3):549–579.
Ann Wilbur MacKenzie (1990). Descartes on Sensory Representation. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 20 (Supplement):109-147.

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