Self, reason, and freedom: a new light on Descartes' metaphysics

New York: Routledge (2013)
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I offer a new understanding of Descartes’ metaphysics, arguing that his primary question is ‘what is real and true?’ – not as we have been accustomed to believe, ‘how can I be certain?’ – an inquiry that requires both reason’s authority and freedom’s autonomy. I argue that without freedom and its internal relation to reason, Descartes’ undertaking would not get off the ground; yet that relation has gone unnoticed by successive studies of his philosophy. I demonstrate that it is only when we grasp the centrality of freedom to his Meditations that we can understand what motivates key parts of his metaphysics. I present Descartes’ distinctive metaphysics of freedom and resolve what has been seen as an intractable inconsistency between his account of freedom in the Meditations, and the account of freedom he presents in the Principles I 37 and the notorious letter to Mesland (1645). I defend his compelling conception of the true unity of the self, a thinking active being, and its place in the world.



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Andrea Christofidou
University of London

Citations of this work

Cartesian Clarity.Elliot Samuel Paul - 2020 - Philosophers' Imprint 20 (19):1-28.
Freedom and the Cogito.Omri Boehm - 2014 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 22 (4):704-724.
Against the new Cartesian Circle.Everett Fulmer & C. P. Ragland - 2017 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 47 (1):66-74.
Descartes on Human Freedom.Marie Jayasekera - 2014 - Philosophy Compass 9 (8):527-539.
Reading Descartes. Consciousness, Body, and Reasoning.Andrea Strazzoni & Marco Sgarbi (eds.) - 2023 - Florence: Firenze University Press.

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References found in this work

Force (God) in Descartes' physics.Gary C. Hatfield - 1979 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 10 (2):113-140.
Routledge philosophy guidebook to Descartes and the meditations.Gary C. Hatfield - 2002 - New York: Routledge. Edited by René Descartes.

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