The ontological status of cartesian natures

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (2):169–194 (1997)
In the Fifth Meditation, Descartes makes a remarkable claim about the ontological status of geometrical figures. He asserts that an object such as a triangle has a 'true and immutable nature' that does not depend on the mind, yet has being even if there are no triangles existing in the world. This statement has led many commentators to assume that Descartes is a Platonist regarding essences and in the philosophy of mathematics. One problem with this seemingly natural reading is that it contradicts the conceptualist account of universals that one finds in the Principles of Philosophy and elsewhere. In this paper, I offer a novel interpretation of the notion of a true and immutable nature which reconciles the Fifth Meditation with the conceptualism of Descartes' other work. Specifically, I argue that Descartes takes natures to be innate ideas considered in terms of their so-called 'objective being'.
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DOI 10.1111/1468-0114.00034
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Tad M. Schmaltz (2003). Cartesian Causation: Body–Body Interaction, Motion, and Eternal Truths. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 34 (4):737-762.

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