Descartes' Quartum Quid

Philosophy Research Archives 13:379-409 (1987)
My goal is to illustrate Descartes’ reliance on two quite different and competing interpretations of objective reality by explaining how each is used in defending his causal axioms. The initial criticism comes from Caterus (and is later taken up by Gassendi) who charges that Descartes makes it appear as if the thought in its objective aspect (the intentional entity) is really distinct from the thought qua modification of the mind (i.e., the thought in its formal aspect). This implies that the object-of-the-thought is actually distinct from the thought-of-the-object in which case, (a) Descartes cannot account for the purported relation between the two, and (b) the intentional entity must exemplify properties which belong neither “immaterially” to mental substance nor concretely to physical substance. Descartes rejects Caterus’ assessment of his position: he has not introduced a fourth kind of real entity into the causal order distinct from the mind, its modifications, and the physical object thought of. However, in responding to Caterus, Descartes implicitly appeals to a Suarezian theory of intentionality in which reference to the ostensibly separate reality of the objective entity is reducible to the formal concept: the thought-of-the-object is not really distinct from the object-of-thought. Clearly, Descartes cannot explicitly use the Suarezian theory because it relies on a system of causal explanation (the doctrine of the species “flitting through the air”) which Descartes rejects on scientific grounds. I shall argue that Descartes is committed to a notion of the “form” of the mind, viz., a modification of mind, which should allow for a non-relational modeling of the thought qua modification of the mind and its intentional object, but that he cannot consistently attribute to mental acts enough structure to support his theory
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  History of Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0164-0771
DOI 10.5840/pra1987/19881314
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,479
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Lionel Shapiro (2012). Objective Being and “Ofness” in Descartes. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2):378-418.
Walter Ott (2006). Descartes and Berkeley on Mind: The Fourth Distinction. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (3):437 – 450.
Katalin Farkas (2005). The Unity of Descartes's Thought. History of Philosophy Quarterly 22 (1):17 - 30.
Avery Fouts (2004). Descartes's First Meditation. International Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2):223-238.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

21 ( #223,087 of 1,925,793 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #140,566 of 1,925,793 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.