Descartes' physiology and its relation to his psychology

In John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes. Cambridge University Press. pp. 335--370 (1992)
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Descartes understood the subject matter of physics (or natural philosophy) to encompass the whole of nature, including living things. It therefore comprised not only nonvital phenomena, including those we would now denominate as physical, chemical, minerological, magnetic, and atmospheric; it also extended to the world of plants and animals, including the human animal (with the exception of those aspects of the human mind that Descartes assigned to solely to thinking substance: pure intellect and will). Descartes wrote extensively on physiology and on the physiology and psychology of the senses. This chapter examines the notions of *physiology* and *psychology* in medical and natural philosophical works of Descartes' day; follows his efforts to bring physiology into his mechanistic idiom; considers the relation between physiology of the animal machine and psychological functions that yield functionally appropriate behavior; goes into his physiology and psychology of vision; and elaborates the tension in Descartes' works between his metaphysically supported micro-corpuscularism and his discussion of the animal machine as an organic unity comprising various functionally and teleologically characterized systems. The chapter draws on Descartes' works in both metaphysics and natural philosophy, including his Treatise on Man (originally published as L'Homme, 1664).



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Gary Hatfield
University of Pennsylvania

Citations of this work

Animals.Gary Hatfield - 2008 - In Janet Broughton & John Carriero (eds.), Companion to Descartes. Blackwell. pp. 404–425.
The Passions of the soul and Descartes’s machine psychology.Gary Hatfield - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 38 (1):1-35.
Descartes’s Theory of Mind.Desmond M. Clarke - 2003 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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.R. G. Swinburne - 1989 - Cambridge University Press.
Cogito, ergo sum: Inference or performance?Jaakko Hintikka - 1962 - Philosophical Review 71 (1):3-32.
The Senses and the Fleshless Eye: The Meditations as Cognitive Exercises.Gary Hatfield - 1986 - In Amelie Rorty (ed.), Essays on Descartes' Meditations. University of California Press. pp. 45–76.

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