Sensible qualities and material bodies in Descartes and Boyle

In Lawrence Nolan (ed.), Primary and Secondary Qualities: The Historical and Ongoing Debate. Oxford University Press (2011)
Descartes and Boyle were the most influential proponents of strict mechanist accounts of the physical world, accounts which carried with them a distinction between primary and secondary (or sensible) qualities. For both, the distinction is a piece of natural philosophy. Nevertheless the distinction is quite differently articulated, and, especially, differently grounded in the two thinkers. For Descartes, reasoned reflection reveals to us that bodies must consist in mere extension and its modifications, and that sensible qualities as we conceive of them based on sense perception can pertain only to the mind. Just how we are supposed to arrive at this realization is, this essay will argue, a deep puzzle that brings us to the basic assumptions of Descartes' metaphysics. For Boyle, by contrast, while reflection can reveal the unique explanatory status of mechanism, and, thus, the primary/secondary quality distinction, only experience can confirm its truth. Our central focus will be on Descartes, and on the question: How does he intend to remove the sensible qualities from the physical world, how does he strip them from bodies? I will try to show that Descartes has an argument that he takes to show a priori that sensible qualities cannot be attributed to the material world (as foundational qualities, or, as we conceive of them based on sense experience). The argument fails, however, leaving him with at best a partly empirical case for removing the sensible qualities, based on the purported explanatory success of his physics.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 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 Lisa Downing, Sensible qualities and material bodies in Descartes and Boyle
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

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

225 ( #14,841 of 1,925,566 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

58 ( #5,300 of 1,925,566 )

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.