Descartes on the Theory of Life and Methodology in the Life Sciences

In Peter Distelzweig & Evan Ragland (eds.), Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy. Springer. pp. 141-72 (2016)
Karen Detlefsen
University of Pennsylvania
As a practicing life scientist, Descartes must have a theory of what it means to be a living being. In this paper, I provide an account of what his theoretical conception of living bodies must be. I then show that this conception might well run afoul of his rejection of final causal explanations in natural philosophy. Nonetheless, I show how Descartes might have made use of such explanations as merely hypothetical, even though he explicitly blocks this move. I conclude by suggesting that there is no reason for him to have blocked the use of hypothetical final causes in this way.
Keywords Descartes, Rene  life sciences  theory of life  teleology  natures  methodology  hypothesis
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