Conway’s Ontological Objection to Cartesian Dualism

Philosophers' Imprint 17:1-19 (2017)
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Abstract

Anne Conway disagrees with substance dualism, the thesis that minds and bodies differ in nature or essence. Instead, she holds that “the distinction between spirit and body is only modal and incremental, not essential and substantial”. Yet several of her arguments against dualism have little force against the Cartesian, since they rely on premises no Cartesian would accept. In this paper, I show that Conway does have at least one powerful objection to substance dualism, drawn from premises that Descartes seems bound to accept. She argues that two substances differ in nature only if they differ in their “original and peculiar” cause ; yet all created substances have the same original and peculiar cause; so, all created substances have the same nature. As I argue, the Cartesian is under a surprising amount of pressure to accept Conway’s argument, since its key premise is motivated by a conception of substance similar to one endorsed by Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy.

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John R. T. Grey
Michigan State University

Citations of this work

What Kind of Monist is Anne Finch Conway?Jessica Gordon-Roth - 2018 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (3):280-297.
Anne Conway's Metaphysics of Change.Sebastian Bender - 2022 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 39 (1):21-44.
Anne Conway's Ontology of Creation: A Pluralist Interpretation.John Grey - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-16.
Suffering for Justice in Anne Conway and Maria W. Stewart.Timothy Yenter - forthcoming - Southern Journal of Philosophy.

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