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Flashcards in descartes - main scholarly articles Deck (33)
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Gilson on relationship between soul and body

- L’âme est une substance incomplete
o Mais, ‘il y a entre l’âme et le corps un rapport naturel et comme une proportion qui les destine à constituer une unité substantielle’ (10)


Gilson on the soul as the form of the body

- ‘l’âme est la forme du corps, et, parce qu’elle est la forme du corps, toute opération intellectuelle qui est vraiment une operation de l’homme suppose l’intervention du corps’ (12)


Gilson on the originality of descartes

- ‘la distinction posée par saint Augustine se faisait tout entière au profit de l’âme et se bornait à exclure de l’âme tout ce qui appartient au corps. L’originalité de Descartes fut de repenser cette distinction en fonction de la physique mécaniste, de revendiquer les droits du corps comme saint Augustin avait revendiqué ceux de l’âme, et de donner comme corollaire à la démonstration de la spiritualité de l’âme celle de la matérialité du corps’ (267)


Gilson on the ontological argument

- ‘le prédicat existence est nécessairement inclus dans le sujet Dieu’ (42)


Gilson on the difference between Augustine and descartes

- l’argument de Descartes a une tout autre portée que celui de saint Augustin, car saint Augustine s’en sert pour retrouver l’image de la Trinité en l’homme, au lieu que Descartes s’en sert pour prouver la distinction réelle de l’âme et du corps’ (193)

- D’s work is reminiscent of A’s. but, his mathematical emphasis is where he diverges. Diverges from purely metaphysical mindset
o ‘puisqu’il décide en mathématicien de partir de la pensée, il ne peut plus, en métaphysicien, partir d’une autre pensée que la sienne’ (200)


gilson on similarities between Descartes and augustine

o to refute doubt – concern for D and A
o senses deceive
o like D, argues that certainty must be found outside the senses
o like D, A looks at the certainty of the thoughts in order to deduce the spiritual soul
o for both A and D, concern = knowing God and the soul

- although the end of D’s thought is anti-Augustine, the means and features of his thought are the same
o both look at idea of God as innate
o il a ‘opposé à l’animisme de Saint Thomas le mentalisme de saint Augustin’ (291)


Gilson, aquinas and descartes

- faith comes from God, reason from nature
- ‘il devient évident que la conception cartésienne des rapports de la foi et de la raison peut se développer parallèlement à celle de saint Thomas d’Aquin ; dans les deux doctrines, l’acte de foi est essentiellement volontaire, la raison apportant néanmoins les motifs de crédibilité qui le légitiment et développant la théologie qui en dérive si l’on veut prendre la peine de l’en faire sortir’ (289)
- does not agree with everything A but ‘il refuse de d’abord de critiquer son illustre prédécesseur’ (207)
- ‘la réponse de Descartes consiste donc à substituer à la preuve thomiste une preuve qui n’est pas de saint Thomas et que d’ailleurs Saint Thomas n’eût pas acceptée’ (208)


Gillespie, problem of purity

- ‘Such intellectual things are pure because they are not corrupted by the images that derive from sensation and appear in the imagination. This purity, however, leads to a certain problem: purely intellectual things are severed from the actuality they are supposed to inform and explain. This problem arises for Descartes because his notion of intuition is modelled on the neo-Platonic, Augustinian notion of divine illumination’ (37)


gillespie on doubting and the cogito

o doubting is a ‘form of thinking in general and of will in particular’ (42)
o with cogito, ‘Descartes’ fundamental principle is not the conclusion of a syllogism or an intuition but a judgment and thus an act of the will’ (45)
o in meditations the cogito is ‘the affirmation of a necessary connection’ (46)


gillespie on certainty of god

o ‘it also became clear to him that the mere possibility that such a God exists – and not his actual existence – was sufficient to undermine the certainty of intuition and science’ (39)


menn, descartes and amustien on metaphysical knowledge

‘Descartes, like Augustine, believes that metaphysical knowledge, being purely intellectual, is independent of the testimony of the senses, and even somehow opposed to what the senses habitually conceive’ (5


menn, D contact with augustinian theologians

o ‘We know that Descartes, in the years around 1630, had been in contact with Augustinian theologians belonging to the French congregation of the Oratory, and with the founder of that congregation, Cardinal Pierre de Berulle.’ (7)


menn, effect of reformation on turn away from Aristotle

o Catholic reformers wanted to broaden and deepen Xian commitment
o ‘It is natural that many of the Catholic reformers should wish to dispense with Aristotle. The alliance with Aristotle had detracted from the central concerns of Christian thought, and damaged the credibility of the church; thus a large part of the Catholic Reformation (like Erasmus before) sought to bypass the scholastics, and to draw their theology directly from the Fathers of the church. Above all, they turned to Augustine.’ (22)


menn, conflict with sceptics

- ‘These passages make very clear the nature of Descartes' conflict with the sceptical humanism of his time. He is not especially concerned to establish our knowledge of the basic truths of philosophy against the few sceptics or atheists who might deny them; he is concerned rather to show, against humanist suspicions, the fecundity of his knowledge for the derivation of practical consequences’ (39-40)


menn, conflict between scepticism and wanting to retain philosophy

o ‘Reforming theologians wish to free the faith from its embarrassing alliance with Aristotelian philosophy, but wish to retain some philosophy to prove the existence of God and the immortality of the soul; Descartes offers them a new approach to philosophy, which begins with the doctrines of God and the soul, and detaches them from the Aristotelian context in which they had become embedded.’ (52)


menn, caution of D to mersenne

- ‘In an earlier letter to Mersenne, written in November of 1640, Descartes describes his plan to "write in order a whole Course of my Philosophy in the form of theses" (AT 111,233), including an explicit statement of his differences from the usual philosophy of the schools. Here too Descartes asks Mersenne not to alarm the Aristotelians, and especially not before the Meditations could be published.’ (59)


menn - theoretical effect of Descartes knowledge of god

o ‘once Descartes has established a knowledge of God, he will have a new theoretical basis, independent of sensation, for deriving a criterion of clarity that he can use to build up the sciences.’ (234)


menn - link between metaphysics and physics

- ‘Descartes conceives God as the "source of truth" (AT VII,22), and this is what makes it possible to argue from God as cause to the laws of nature as his effects. The crucial link between Descartes' metaphysics and his physics is the creation of the eternal truths.’ (337)


menn, god as source of knowledge vs. aug

- ‘Descartes, like Plotinus and Augustine, conceives God as the source of knowledge to the soul; like Plotinus and Augustine, he uses this conception to lead us up to God; but unlike Plotinus and Augustine, he is equally interested in leading us back down.’ (337)


menn, a priori

- ‘Descartes can argue a priori from the nature of the mover to the laws which govern the motions. Descartes is thus reversing the a posteriori procedure of the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition. Aristotle had argued in Metaphysics XII, from the eternally constant motion of the heavenly bodies, that they must be moved by some eternally constant mover, a mover which would not be itself subject to any variation or transition from potentiality into actuality (since otherwise its effect would be a variable motion), but must be, by its essence, entirely in actuality.’ (383)


secada, Descartes and essentialism

o for D, we cannot evaluate existence of anything without knowing its essence

o ‘the essentialist affirms what the existentialist denies, that knowledge of existence entails knowledge of essence; and he denies what te existentialist affirms, that knowledge of essence entails knowledge of existence’ (8)

- D had a sense of natural necessity and possible – knowledge of essence means the object must have the possibility of existence (link to Aristotelian ideas)


secada, cartesian essentialism

o ‘the true attribution of any accident or mode to a substance entails its essential definition’ (14)
o all substances are either bodily or mental
o essence = thought or consciousness
o modes = doubt, understanding etc.
o doubt = form of understanding


secada, argument of book re. essentialism

o Argument of book = essentialism cannot be right and therefore D cannot be successful. However, still suggests that essentialism was D’s aim
o First meditation = sceptical arguments
o Second
♣ Establishes nature and existence
♣ Isolates intellectual perception he deems crucial to knowledge
♣ I am, I exist
♣ Need to have a firmer understanding of what ‘I’ means
o Third – able to confront sceptical argument and put forward own ontology
o Fifth – establishes essence of matter with ref. to geometry
o Sixth – knowledge of geometry etc. ‘assures him of the possibility of the existence of extended substance or body’
♣ Using this he argues that there exists a material substance, uses ref. to argument for God.
♣ Need to understand essence of matter in M5 to accept M6


secada, is god first in the order of human knowledge: Descartes vs. aquinas

♣ for D = he is, need knowledge of certain God to be certain of anything else
for A = need to look at creatures to gain knowledge of God


secada, effect of D abandoning A theory of forms

- in abandoning A’s theory of forms, D ‘effected a crucial ontological shift’
for D, intentionality has own realm


secada, platonic ideas in D

o M1 – experience is like a dream
♣ Introduces the idea that ‘the external existence of the immediate objects of perception needs to be demonstrated and that the starting point is obtained from the essences which are immediately perceived’ (42)
♣ ‘the methodical doubt of the First Meditation announces the essentialist proofs of existence of subsequent meditations’ (43)
uses scepticism in order to establish certainty


descartes vs. suarez

- ‘Descartes agrees with his Scholastic predecessor (Suárez) that the true God cannot be deceitful; but he maintains that there is no gap between assent and contemplation with respect to the most simple and evident truths of reason’ (44)
o unless we know a benevolent God, we cannot know anything
o ‘the idea of divine infinity will allow the mind to show the incoherence of the sceptic’s hypothesis’ (45)


meditations as an epistemological exercise

o Pov of pure subjectivity
o Must reject everything that is slightly uncertain
o Criterion = truth and advancement of knowledge
o He uses scepticism to ‘refute the Scholastic existentialists and establish his essentialism’ (48)
o Epistemology = at start of philosophical reflection, centre of metaphysics and ontology
o ‘When Descartes refers to the Mediations…as containing the highest wisdom to which human beings can aspire, he is writing from the perspective of a philosophy that does not conceive itself exclusively or even just centrally as a ‘pure’ epistemological exercise in sceptical refutation’ (49)


secada, fear re. publishing

o ‘Descartes was worried that prejudice would get in the way of reason; so he invested much effort to enlist the favourable opinion of clerics respected within the Catholic intellectual establishment and to avoid unnecessary confrontation with his Scholastic adversaries. In fact, the very choice of the meditational genre, which directly engages the reader, must be accounted in a significant measure by these considerations’ (52)
o knew it would be difficult to sway Aristotelians
o viewed his essentialism as supplanting Aristotelian existentialism


secada, summary of M3

o Argument 1
♣ All actual ideas have causes capable of accounting for their contents
♣ Only God can account for idea of God
♣ God exists
♣ Essentialist
o Argument 2
♣ Starts from existence of self
♣ Proceeds without reference to the causality of the objective contents of ideas
♣ Reasoning is flawed as ‘Descartes himself maintained that consideration of God’s nature is indispensable for this proof’ (151)
♣ Is this a version of Aquinas’ 2nd way?
♣ Restatement of the first?
♣ Basic summary of argument
• I exist
• Every substance has existence
• Nothing causes itself
• Causes are simultaneous with effects
• Causality is transitive
• There is no infinite regress of causs
• God is causa sui, and thus the first and primary cause of my existence
• God exists