Descartes as an Ethical Perfectionist

Journal of Modern Philosophy 2 (1):3 (2020)
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My main concern in this paper is to develop and defend an account of why we ought to devote our lives to virtue—of the ground or reason for why we ought to do so—according to René Descartes. On my account, the answer is that we thereby, and indeed only thereby, do everything in our power to promote our own degree of intrinsic perfection or goodness. Descartes’s moral philosophy, as I understand it, thus constitutes a form of ethical perfectionism. While I am not the first to interpret Descartes as an ethical perfectionist, there is as of yet no detailed account in the literature of what his particular form of ethical perfectionism would then entail. This is something that I hope to remedy here.



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Frans Svensson
University of Gothenburg

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References found in this work

Never Let the Passions Be Your Guide: Descartes and the Role of the Passions.Shoshana Brassfield - 2012 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (3):459-477.
Learning to love: From egoism to generosity in Descartes.Patrick R. Frierson - 2002 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40 (3):313-338.
Descartes on the Highest Good.Frans Svensson - 2019 - American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 93 (4):701-721.
Descartes' 'provisional morality'.Joseph Cimakasky & Ronald Polansky - 2012 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93 (3):353-372.
Descartes’s Virtue Theory.Andrew Youpa - 2013 - Essays in Philosophy 14 (2):179-193.

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