This book is a systematic study of Descartes' theory of causation and its relation to the medieval and early modern scholastic philosophy that provides its proper historical context. The argument presented here is that even though Descartes offered a dualistic ontology that differs radically from what we find in scholasticism, his views on causation were profoundly influenced by scholastic thought on this issue. This influence is evident not only in his affirmation in the Meditations of the abstract scholastic axioms that (...) a cause must contain the reality of its effects and that conservation does not differ in reality from creation, but also in the details of the accounts of body-body interaction in his physics, of mind-body interaction in his psychology, and of the causation that he took to be involved in free human action. In contrast to those who have read Descartes as endorsing the "occasionalist" conclusion that God is the only real cause, a central thesis of this study is that he accepted what in the context of scholastic debates regarding causation is the antipode of occasionalism, namely, the view that creatures rather than God are the causal source of natural change. What emerges from the defense of this interpretation of Descartes is a new understanding of his contribution to modern thought on causation. (shrink)
There is a general sense that the philosophy of Descartes was a dominant force in early modern thought. Since the work in the nineteenth century of French historians of Cartesian philosophy, however, there has been no fully contextualized comparative examination of the various receptions of Descartes in different portions of early modern Europe. This study addresses the need for a more current understanding of these receptions by considering the different constructions of Descartes's thought that emerged in the Calvinist United Provinces (...) and Catholic France, the two main centers for early modern Cartesianism, during the period dating from the last decades of his life to the century or so following his death in 1650. It turns out that we must speak not of a single early modern Cartesianism rigidly defined in terms of Descartes's own authorial intentions, but rather of a loose collection of early modern Cartesianisms that involve a range of different positions on various sets of issues. Though more or less rooted in Descartes's somewhat open-ended views, these Cartesianisms evolved in different ways over time in response to different intellectual and social pressures. Chapters of this study are devoted to: the early modern Catholic and Calvinist condemnations of Descartes and the incompatible Cartesian responses to these; conflicting attitudes among early modern Cartesians toward ancient thought and modernity; competing early modern attempts to combine Descartes's views with those of Augustine; the different occasionalist accounts of causation within early modern Cartesianism; and the impact of various forms of early modern Cartesianism on both Dutch medicine and French physics. (shrink)
This book offers a provocative interpretation of the theory of the soul in the writings of the French Cartesian, Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715). Though recent work on Malebranche's philosophy of mind has tended to emphasize his account of ideas, Schmaltz focuses rather on his rejection of Descartes' doctrine that the mind is better known than the body. In particular, he considers and defends Malebranche's argument that this rejection has a Cartesian basis. Schmaltz reveals that this argument not only provides a fresh (...) perspective on Cartesianism but also is relevant to current debates in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
This is a book-length study of two of Descartes's most innovative successors, Robert Desgabets and Pierre-Sylvain Regis, and of their highly original contributions to Cartesianism. The focus of the book is an analysis of radical doctrines in the work of these thinkers that derive from arguments in Descartes: on the creation of eternal truths, on the intentionality of ideas, and on the soul-body union. As well as relating their work to that of fellow Cartesians such as Malebranche and Arnauld, the (...) book also establishes the important though neglected role played by Desgabets and Regis in the theologically and politically charged reception of Descartes in early modern France. This is a major contribution to the history of Cartesianism that will be of special interest to historians of early modern philosophy and historians of ideas. (shrink)
This chapter is a re-consideration of the powerful set of objections to the Cartesian theory of mind that Princess Elisabeth offered in her 1643–49 correspondence with Descartes. Much of the scholarly discussion of this correspondence has focused on Elisabeth’s initial criticisms of Descartes’ views of mind–body interaction and union, and has presented these criticisms as assuming the general principle that objects with heterogeneous natures cannot interact. However, this account of the criticisms fails to capture not only their basic import, but (...) also their connections to Elisabeth’s remarks later in the correspondence regarding both the ability of rational deliberation to lead us to happiness, and the freedom of our will from determining conditions. The attempt here is to offer a new account of Elisabeth’s objections to Cartesian interaction that serves to relate them to her critical evaluation of Descartes’ views of happiness and freedom. Such an account leads us to see Elisabeth as challenging Descartes throughout to take seriously the extent to which our mind is not merely a rational thinking thing, but also something that is profoundly conditioned by the passions that it receives from the body. (shrink)
The Oxford Handbook of Descartes and Cartesianism comprises fifty specially written chapters on Rene Descartes and Cartesianism, the dominant paradigm for philosophy and science in the seventeenth century, written by an international group of leading scholars of early modern philosophy. The first part focuses on the various aspects of Descartes's biography and philosophy, with chapters on his epistemology, method, metaphysics, physics, mathematics, moral philosophy, political thought, medical thought, and aesthetics. The chapters of the second part are devoted to the defense, (...) development and modification of Descartes's ideas by later generations of Cartesian philosophers in France, the Netherlands, Italy, and elsewhere. The third and final part considers the opposition to Cartesian philosophy by other philosophers, as well as by civil, ecclesiastic, and academic authorities. This handbook provides an extensive overview of Cartesianism - its doctrines, its legacies and its fortunes - in the period based on the latest research. (shrink)
This paper compares the development of the notion of continuous quantity in the work of Francisco Suárez and René Descartes. The discussion begins with a consideration of Suárez’s rejection of the view – common to ‘realists’ such as Thomas Aquinas and ‘nominalists’ such as William of Ockham – that quantity is inseparable from the extension of material integral parts. Crucial here is Suárez’s view that quantified extension exhibits a kind of impenetrability that distinguishes it from other kinds of extension. This (...) view sheds considerable light on initially obscure remarks on impenetrability in Descartes’ late correspondence with Henry More. Though Descartes differs from Suárez and other major scholastic figures in his understanding of the relation of quantity to material substance, he nonetheless requires in the end some version of the Suárezian distinction between quantified and unquantified extension. (shrink)
in a january 1642 letter, rené descartes advises his correspondent—his then-follower, the Utrecht medical professor Henricus Regius—to consistently endorse the view that the human mind is related to its body by means of a "substantial union": Whenever the occasion arises, as much privately as publicly, you ought to profess that you believe a human to be a true ens per se and not per accidens and the mind to be really and substantially united to the body not through position or (...) disposition [situm aut dispositionem], as you say in your last written text, but through a true mode of union [verum modum unionis], as everyone... (shrink)
This article considers complications for the principle in Descartes that effects are similar to their causes that are connected to his own denial that terms apply "univocally" to God and the creatures He produces. Descartes suggested that there remains an "analogical" relation in virtue of which our mind can be said to be similar to God's. However, this suggestion is undermined by the implication of his doctrine of the creation of the eternal truths that God's will differs entirely from our (...) own. The disappearance of analogy is even more evident in Spinoza and Regis. Both linked Descartes's doctrine to the principle that an effect differs from its cause with respect to what it receives from that cause, and both argued from that principle to the conclusion that we differ from God in both essence and existence. (shrink)
Spinoza's Mediate Infinite Mode TAD M. SCHMALTZ IN PART I of the Ethics, Spinoza argued that a modification is infinite just in case it either "follows from the absolute nature of any attribute of God" or "follows from some attribute of God, as it is modified by such a modification" that is infinite. 1 The main purpose of this argument is to bolster the claim later in this text that a finite modification can follow from a divine attribute only insofar (...) as that attribute is modified by another finite modification. 2 Thus it is understandable that in the section that contains the argument Spinoza did not actually affirm the existence of the two kinds of infinite modifications he mentioned, which following standard practice I call "immediate infinite modes" and "mediate infinite modes," respectively.3 Yet in this section he did 'E IP21,D-22,D, G II 65-66/Curley 429-3 o. In the text and notes of this paper I use the following abbreviations pertaining to Spinoza's writings: E: Ethics ; Ep.: Letters ; RDPP: Descartes' Principles of Philosophy ; CM: Appendix containing Metaphysical Thoughts ; KV: Short Treatise ; TdlE: Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect ; G: C. Gebhardt, ed., Spinoza Opera, 4 vols. , cited by volume and page; Curley: E. Curley, trans, and ed., The Collected Works of.. (shrink)
I consider a somewhat obscure but important feature of Descartes’s physics that concerns the notion of the “force of rest.” Contrary to a prominent occasionalist interpretation of Descartes’s physics, I argue that Descartes himself attributes real forces to resting bodies. I also take his account of rest to conflict with the view that God conserves the world by “re-creating” it anew at each moment. I turn next to the role of rest in Malebranche. Malebranche takes Descartes to endorse his own (...) occasionalist version of physics. However, he nonetheless rejects Descartes’s account of rest by appealing to the fact that whereas God’s production of motion requires a power beyond the mere power to create, his production of rest requires only the latter power. It turns out that this argument in Malebranche is incompatible with the sort of “re-creationist” account of divine conservation that he is widely thought to have inherited from Descartes. (shrink)
This volume is a collection of new essays by specialists that trace the concept of efficient causation from its discovery in Ancient Greece, through its development in late antiquity, the medieval period, and modern philosophy, to its use in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of science.
There is considerable debate among scholars over whether Descartes allowed for genuine body–body interaction. I begin by considering Michael Della Rocca’s recent claim that Descartes accepted such interaction, and that his doctrine of the creation of the eternal truths indicates how this interaction could be acceptable to him. Though I agree that Descartes was inclined to accept real bodily causes of motion, I differ from Della Rocca in emphasizing that his ontology ultimately does not allow for them. This is not (...) the end of the story, however, since two of Descartes’s successors offered incompatible ways of developing his conflicted account of motion. I contrast the occasionalist view of Nicolas Malebranche that changes in motion derive directly from divine volitions with the non-occasionalist claim of Pierre-Sylvain Regis that such changes derive from a nature distinct from God. In light of Della Rocca’s interpretation, it is noteworthy that the issue of eternal truths is relevant to both alternative accounts. Indeed, Regis took the doctrine that such truths are created to provide crucial support for his alternative to an occasionalist account of body–body interaction. What does not help Della Rocca, however, is that Regis’s view of motion requires a fundamental revision of Descartes’s ontology. Author Keywords: Descartes; Malebranche; Regis; Causation; Motion; Eternal Truths. (shrink)
In this chapter I consider the relation of history of philosophy to the history of science. I argue that though these two disciplines are naturally linked, they also have special commitments that distinguish each from the other. I begin with the history of the history of science, a discipline that was once allied with philosophy of science but that has increasingly evolved toward social history. Then I consider the debate over whether the history of philosophy is essential for, or rather (...) largely irrelevant to, contemporary “analytic” philosophy. My conclusion is that the relation of history of philosophy to philosophy is best conceived in terms of the relation of history of science to history. Finally, I consider a particular case study of the relation of history of science to history of philosophy that concerns contextualist scholarship on early modern philosophy and science. (shrink)
While there has been a resurgence in Malebranche scholarship in the anglophone world over the last twenty years, most of it has focused on Malebranche’s theory of ideas, and little attention has been paid to his philosophy of mind. Schmaltz’s book thus comes as a welcome addition to the Malebranche literature; that he has given us such a well-researched and carefully argued study is even more welcome. The focus of this work is Malebranche’s split with Descartes on the question of (...) our knowledge of the nature of the mind; the book concentrates specifically on Malebranche’s rejection of the claim that we know the nature of the mind better than we know the nature of body. Schmaltz maintains that Malebranche’s arguments for his position are, for the most part, successful against the Cartesians who opposed him, though he claims—and this is perhaps the central claim of the book—that “Malebranche took his negative thesis concerning our knowledge of the soul to involve not so much a rejection of Cartesianism as an internal correction of it”. While acknowledging that Augustine was “the primary inspiration for [Malebranche’s] view of the ideas that are the objects of perception”, Schmaltz’s interpretation of Malebranche’s theory of the soul “presents it as fundamentally Cartesian”. According to Schmaltz, not only is Malebranche closer to Descartes in this regard than is generally thought, he is closer to him than are many other Cartesians. Part 1 of the book examines Malebranche’s position that while we have certain knowledge of the soul’s existence, we have only confused knowledge of its nature. Part 2 focuses on Arnauld’s objection that if in fact we had no clear idea of the soul, we could not, despite Malebranche’s claims to the contrary, know anything of its immortality, spirituality, or freedom. (shrink)
This is a dictionary of Descartes and Cartesian philosophy, primarily covering philosophy in the 17th century, with a chronology and biography of Descartes's life and times and a bibliography of primary and secondary works related to Descartes and to Cartesians.
In this article I explore Leibniz's claim in the Theodicy that on the essential points Malebranche's theodicy "reduces to" his own view. This judgment may seem to be warranted given that both thinkers emphasize that evils are justified by the fact that they follow from the simple and uniform laws that govern that world which is worthy of divine creation. However, I argue that Leibniz's theodicy differs in several crucial respects from Malebranche's. I begin with a qualified endorsement of Charles (...) Larmore's recent claim that remarks in Malebranche's correspondence with Leibniz indicate that their theodicies rely on incompatible conceptions of the moral rationality of divine action. I also attempt to go beyond Larmore's discussion in highlighting further differences concerning the sort of freedom involved in the divine act of creation. My conclusion is that these differing conceptions of divine morality and divine freedom reveal that in contrast to the case of Leibniz, Malebranche's theodicy not only does not require that God create anything at all, but also is compatible with the result that the world he decides to create is not uniquely the best possible. (shrink)
In his discussions of the Eucharist, Descartes gives prominent place to the notion of the “surfaces” of bodies. Given this context, it may seem that his account of surfaces is of limited interest. However, I hope to show that such an account is in fact linked to a philosophically significant medieval debate over whether certain mathematical “indivisibles”, including surfaces, really exist in nature. Moreover, the particular emphasis in Descartes on the fact that surfaces are modes rather than parts of bodies (...) bespeaks the influence of the later scholastic Francisco Suárez. However, in his own contribution to the medieval debate, Suárez refrained from identifying surfaces with modes, holding instead that they are special “constituents” of bodies that differ from the parts of which these bodies are composed. Two main conclusions derive from the comparison of the views of Suárez and Descartes on surfaces. The first is that Descartes’s “modal realist” account is in fact superior to the “moderate realist” account that Suárez offers, for reasons internal to Suárez’s own system. The second is that Suárez’s reasons for refraining from adopting modal realism in this case serve to highlight a serious deficiency in Descartes’s version of this view. In this way, a consideration of the relevant Suárezian background allows us to better appreciate both the strengths and the weaknesses of Descartes’s stance on the metaphysics of surfaces. (shrink)
The A to Z of Descartes and Cartesian Philosophy includes a chronology, an introduction, a bibliography, and cross-reference dictionary entries Descartes's writings, concepts, and findings, as well as entries on those who supported him, those who criticized him, those who corrected him, and those who together formed one of the major movements in philosophy, Cartesianism.
ABSTRACT In this article, I consider Descartes’ enigmatic claim that we must assert that the material world is indefinite rather than infinite. The focus here is on the discussion of this claim in Descartes’ late correspondence with More. One puzzle that emerges from this correspondence is that Descartes insists to More that we are not in a position to deny the indefinite universe has limits, while at the same time indicating that we conceive a contradiction in the notion that the (...) universe has a limit. I reject one attempt to resolve this apparent conflict which appeals to Descartes’ admission to More that divine omnipotence requires that God can create a vacuum in nature, and focus instead on his response to More’s claim that this omnipotence requires the possibility of a completion of the division of matter that results in atoms. Finally, I distinguish Descartes’ indefinite from two other kinds of infinity with which it might well be confused. The first is an essentially incomplete ‘potential infinity’ that Descartes discusses in the Third Meditation, and the second is the sort of quantitative infinity that Leibniz – contrary to Descartes – denies can constitute a completed whole. (shrink)
This collection includes material from the international conference, “Spinoza-Malebranche,” held in 2015, first at the Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne and subsequently at the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon. The justification for the volume, as indicated in Chantel Jaquet’s preface, is that the relations between Spinoza and Malebranche have not recently drawn the sort of attention from scholars that the relations of each to Descartes have received. Of course, there is the question of why the former relations are worthy of investigation, (...) a question that is perhaps not as pressing in the case of the relations that Spinoza and Malebranche each bear to Descartes. I return to this “why” question... (shrink)
This is a collection of essays from an international group of scholars that explore the ways in which the ancient problem of universals was transformed in modern philosophy. Essays consider the various forms of "Platonism," "conceptualism" and "nominalism" in the writings of a broad range of modern thinkers.
Receptions of Descartes is a collection of work by an international group of authors that focuses on the various ways in which Descartes was interpreted, defended and criticized in early modern Europe. The book is divided into five sections, the first four of which focus on Descartes' reception in specific French, Dutch, Italian and English contexts and the last of which concerns the reception of Descartes among female philosophers.
Martial Gueroult (1891–1976) Belonged to a remarkable generation of French scholars of early modern philosophy, in general, and of Descartes’s thought, in particular. This cohort includes such notable figures as Étienne Gilson (1884–1978), Jean Laporte (1a886–1948), Henri Gouhier (1898–1994), Ferdinand Alquié (1908–85), and Geneviève Rodis-Lewis (1918–2004). However, Gueroult was the only one of this group to publish a commentary devoted exclusively to Descartes’s Meditations, namely, his Descartes selon l’ordre des raisons;1 indeed, no other comparable French commentary has appeared since the (...) time of its initial publication.2 In addition, among the very important works on Descartes that Gueroult’s French .. (shrink)
In a 1669 letter to his mentor Thomasius, Leibniz writes that "hardly any of the Cartesians have added anything to the discoveries of their master" insofar as they "have published only paraphrases of their leader."1 The book that is the focus of my remarks here—Roger Ariew's Descartes and the First Cartesians —shows that Leibniz was most certainly incorrect. In particular, Ariew draws attention to the fact that there was a concerted effort to present a new sort of Cartesianism that conforms (...) to the structure of the early modern French scholastic curriculum. Though this effort was inspired by Descartes's own attempt to present his views in this manner, the later "Cartesian scholasticism"... (shrink)
This article considers Descartes's famous claim that mind and body are distinct substances from the unusual perspective of Nicolas Malebranche. In particular, it focuses on Malebranche's argument that since Cartesians feel compelled to support such a claim by appealing to their clear idea of body, they must lack access to a clear idea of soul. The main conclusion is that while such an argument does not apply directly to Descartes's discussion in the "Meditations" of mind- body distinctness, this discussion nonetheless (...) renders Descartes vulnerable to Malebranche's central charge that the nature of body is for Cartesians better known than the nature of the soul. (shrink)