Michael Della Rocca
Yale University
Joseph Almog’s elegant and concise monograph, What am I?, simultaneously advances a new interpretation of Descartes’ dualism and offers a powerful articulation of the bearing of essentialist metaphysics on the mind-body problem. Some may object to Almog’s endeavor to see Descartes so much in light of recent, Kripkean developments in metaphysics. Some may object to this, but not me. The study of the history of philosophy is tough, and we cannot afford to neglect any potential source of insight. Some may object to Almog’s tying his original development, and criticism, of Kripkean metaphysics to the—let’s face it—often obscure views of someone writing more than three centuries ago. Some might say: why not forget the history and just take on the real issues directly? Some might say this, but not me. Like the study of the history of philosophy, philosophy itself is tough and we cannot afford to neglect any potential way of making progress, even if that way comes from one of our remote philosophical ancestors. Indeed, I would say that the distinction between doing philosophy and studying its history is not all that sharp, if it exists at all. This is one of the important lessons of which Almog’s book reminds us. Some may object to Almog’s relatively sparse attention to the details of Descartes’ texts and his non-existent attention—at least explicitly—to any secondary literature on Descartes. Some may object to this, but, again, not me. While there are some distinctions that Almog attributes to Descartes that he might have endeavored to tie more closely to Descartes’ texts, Almog’s relatively free-wheeling approach has the benefit of allowing him to articulate, and us to see, the positions he develops more starkly and clearly.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy of Mind
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ISBN(s) 0031-8205
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