Journal of Philosophical Research 23:307-329 (1998)
AbstractDid Descartes make a revolutionary contribution to philosophy? Given the widespread application to him of the title ‘father of modem philosophy,’ the standard affirmative proves surprisingly difficult to justify. ln this paper I locate Descartes’s epoch-making philosophical shift. Descartes contributed a very strong idea of realism, an idea modelled in his cogito-argument. To grasp the contribution aright, it is however necessary to de-emphasise what is usually identified as his key contribution---an epistemological one. AIso, the theoretical connection between Descartes’s core philosophical activity and the scientific revolution of his time has to be appreciated. ln the course of the discussion I explain, in a more philosophical vein, how the influence of Kant clouds the abiIity of post-Kantians to see what Descartes did. A route to an understanding of Descartes’s realism is an inconsistency in Kant’s modal views. The antirealism of Kant’s view---his transcendental idealism---yields up some of its mystery once the dialectical interplay with Cartesian realism is elicited.
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