What is thinking? What does it feel like? What is it good for? Andrea Gadberry looks for answers to these questions in the philosophy of René Descartes and finds them in the philosopher’s implicit poetics. Gadberry argues that Descartes’s thought was crucially enabled by poetry and shows how markers of poetic genres from love lyric and elegy to the puzzling forms of the riddle and the anagram betray an impassioned negotiation with the difficulties of thought and its limits. Where others have seen Cartesian philosophy as a triumph of reason, Gadberry reveals that the philosopher accused of having “slashed poetry’s throat” instead enlisted poetic form to contain thought’s frustrations.
Gadberry’s approach to seventeenth-century writings poses questions urgent for the twenty-first. Bringing literature and philosophy into rich dialogue, Gadberry centers close reading as a method uniquely equipped to manage skepticism, tolerate critical ambivalence, and detect feeling in philosophy. Helping us read classic moments of philosophical argumentation in a new light, this elegant study also expands outward to redefine thinking in light of its poetic formations.
Jean-Luc Marion is one of the most prominent young philosophers working today and one of the best contemporary Descartes scholars. Cartesian Questions, his fifth book on Descartes, is a collection of seven essays on Descartes' method and its relation to his metaphysics. Marion reads the philosopher's Discourse on Method in light of his Meditations, examining how Descartes' metaphysics changed from one book to the other and pursuing such questions as the status of the ontological argument before and after Descartes. The essays touch on the major themes of Marion's career, including the connection between metaphysics and method, the concept of God, and the constitution of the thinking subject. In their range, the essays are an excellent introduction to Marion's thought as well as a subtle and complex interpretation of Descartes. The collection is a crucial work not only for scholars of Descartes but also for anyone interested in the state of contemporary French philosophy.
"Besides the impact of their content, the clarity and reach of these essays force one to consider foundational questions concerning philosophy and its history."—Richard Watson, Journal of the History of Philosophy
Between the years 1643 and 1649, Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618–80) and René Descartes (1596–1650) exchanged fifty-eight letters—thirty-two from Descartes and twenty-six from Elisabeth. Their correspondence contains the only known extant philosophical writings by Elisabeth, revealing her mastery of metaphysics, analytic geometry, and moral philosophy, as well as her keen interest in natural philosophy. The letters are essential reading for anyone interested in Descartes’s philosophy, in particular his account of the human being as a union of mind and body, as well as his ethics. They also provide a unique insight into the character of their authors and the way ideas develop through intellectual collaboration.
Philosophers have long been familiar with Descartes’s side of the correspondence. Now Elisabeth’s letters—never before available in translation in their entirety—emerge this volume, adding much-needed context and depth both to Descartes’s ideas and the legacy of the princess. Lisa Shapiro’s annotated edition—which also includes Elisabeth’s correspondence with the Quakers William Penn and Robert Barclay—will be heralded by students of philosophy, feminist theorists, and historians of the early modern period.
Before publishing his landmark Meditations in 1641, Rene Descartes sent his manuscript to many leading thinkers to solicit their objections to his arguments. He included these objections, along with his own detailed replies, as part of the first edition. This unusual strategy gave Descartes a chance to address criticisms in advance and to demonstrate his willingness to consider diverse viewpoints—critical in an age when radical ideas could result in condemnation by church and state, or even death.
Descartes and his Contemporaries recreates the tumultuous intellectual community of seventeenth-century Europe and provides a detailed, modern analysis of the Meditations in its historical context. The book's chapters examine the arguments and positions of each of the objectors—Hobbes, Gassendi, Arnauld, Morin, Caterus, Bourdin, and others whose views were compiled by Mersenne. They illuminate Descartes' relationships to the scholastics and particularly the Jesuits, to Mersenne's circle with its debates about the natural sciences, to the Epicurean movements of his day, and to the Augustinian tradition. Providing a glimpse of the interactions among leading 17th-century intellectuals as they grappled with major philosophical issues, this book sheds light on how Descartes' thought developed and was articulated in opposition to the ideas of his contemporaries.
A careful analysis of the rhetorical thought of René Descartes and of a distinguished group of post-Cartesians. Covering a unique range of authors, including Bernard Lamy and Nicolas Malebranche, Carr attacks the idea, which has become commonplace in contemporary criticism, that the Cartesian system is incompatible with rhetoric.
Carr analyzes the writings of Balzac, the Port-Royalists Arnauld and Nicole, Malebranche, and Lamy, exploring the evolution of Descartes’ thought into their different theories of rhetoric. He constructs his arguments, probing each author’s writings on rhetoric, persuasion, and attention, to demonstrate the basis for rhetorical thought present in Descartes’ theory of persuasion when it is combined with his psychophysiology of attention.
In this first book-length treatment of Descartes' important and influential natural philosophy, Daniel Garber is principally concerned with Descartes' accounts of matter and motion—the joint between Descartes' philosophical and scientific interests. These accounts constitute the point at which the metaphysical doctrines on God, the soul, and body, developed in writings like the Meditations, give rise to physical conclusions regarding atoms, vacua, and the laws that matter in motion must obey.
Garber achieves a philosophically rigorous reading of Descartes that is sensitive to the historical and intellectual context in which he wrote. What emerges is a novel view of this familiar figure, at once unexpected and truer to the historical Descartes.
The book begins with a discussion of Descartes' intellectual development and the larger project that frames his natural philosophy, the complete reform of all the sciences. After this introduction Garber thoroughly examines various aspects of Descartes' physics: the notion of body and its identification with extension; Descartes' rejection of the substantial forms of the scholastics; his relation to the atomistic tradition of atoms and the void; the concept of motion and the laws of motion, including Descartes' conservation principle, his laws of the persistence of motion, and his collision law; and the grounding of his laws in God.
Descartes's Concept of Mind
Lilli. ALANEN Harvard University Press, 2003 Library of Congress B1878.M55A43 2003 | Dewey Decimal 128.2092
Descartes's concept of the mind, as distinct from the body with which it forms a union, set the agenda for much of Western philosophy's subsequent reflection on human nature and thought. This is the first book to give an analysis of Descartes's pivotal concept that deals with all the functions of the mind, cognitive as well as volitional, theoretical as well as practical and moral. Focusing on Descartes's view of the mind as intimately united to and intermingled with the body, and exploring its implications for his philosophy of mind and moral psychology, Lilli Alanen argues that the epistemological and methodological consequences of this view have been largely misconstrued in the modern debate.
Informed by both the French tradition of Descartes scholarship and recent Anglo-American research, Alanen's book combines historical-contextual analysis with a philosophical problem-oriented approach. It seeks to relate Descartes's views on mind and intentionality both to contemporary debates and to the problems Descartes confronted in their historical context. By drawing out the historical antecedents and the intellectual evolution of Descartes's thinking about the mind, the book shows how his emphasis on the embodiment of the mind has implications far more complex and interesting than the usual dualist account suggests.
Descartes's Concept of Mind is a book of high quality. The main point of the project is to detail Descartes's theory of the embodiment of the human mind. This is a neglected side of his thought, and Alanen treats it in an illuminating way. The exposition is clear and remarkably well informed. And she persuasively shows that Descartes had a complicated and interesting view of this matter. --John Carriero, Professor of Philosophy, UCLA
"Dying to Know is the work of a distinguished scholar, at the peak of his powers, who is intimately familiar with his materials, and whose knowledge of Victorian fiction and scientific thought is remarkable. This elegant and evocative look at the move toward objectivity first pioneered by Descartes sheds new light on some old and still perplexing problems in modern science." Bernard Lightman, York University, Canada
In Dying to Know, eminent critic George Levine makes a landmark contribution to the history and theory of scientific knowledge. This long-awaited book explores the paradoxes of our modern ideal of objectivity, in particular its emphasis on the impersonality and disinterestedness of truth. How, asks Levine, did this idea of selfless knowledge come to be established and moralized in the nineteenth century?
Levine shows that for nineteenth-century scientists, novelists, poets, and philosophers, access to the truth depended on conditions of such profound self-abnegation that pursuit of it might be taken as tantamount to the pursuit of death. The Victorians, he argues, were dying to know in the sense that they could imagine achieving pure knowledge only in a condition where the body ceases to make its claims: to achieve enlightenment, virtue, and salvation, one must die.
Dying to Know is ultimately a study of this moral ideal of epistemology. But it is also something much more: a spirited defense of the difficult pursuit of objectivity, the ethical significance of sacrifice, and the importance of finding a shareable form of knowledge.
Amid the unrest, dislocation, and uncertainty of seventeenth-century Europe, readers seeking consolation and assurance turned to philosophical and scientific books that offered ways of conquering fears and training the mind—guidance for living a good life.
The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution presents a triptych showing how three key early modern scientists, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, and Gottfried Leibniz, envisioned their new work as useful for cultivating virtue and for pursuing a good life. Their scientific and philosophical innovations stemmed in part from their understanding of mathematics and science as cognitive and spiritual exercises that could create a truer mental and spiritual nobility. In portraying the rich contexts surrounding Descartes’ geometry, Pascal’s arithmetical triangle, and Leibniz’s calculus, Matthew L. Jones argues that this drive for moral therapeutics guided important developments of early modern philosophy and the Scientific Revolution.
It is considerably easier to say that modern philosophy began with Descartes than it is to define the modernity and philosophy to which Descartes gave rise. In Lines of Thought, Claudia Brodsky Lacour describes the double origin of modern philosophy in Descartes’s Discours de la méthode and Géométrie, works whose interrelation, she argues, reveals the specific nature of the modern in his thought. Her study examines the roles of discourse and writing in Cartesian method and intuition, and the significance of graphic architectonic form in the genealogy of modern philosophy. While Cartesianism has long served as a synonym for rationalism, the contents of Descartes’s method and cogito have remained infamously resistant to rational analysis. Similarly, although modern phenomenological analyses descend from Descartes’s notion of intuition, the “things” Cartesian intuitions represent bear no resemblance to phenomena. By returning to what Descartes calls the construction of his “foundation” in the Discours, Brodsky Lacour identifies the conceptual problems at the root of Descartes’s literary and aesthetic theory as well as epistemology. If, for Descartes, linear extension and “I” are the only “things” we can know exist, the Cartesian subject of thought, she shows, derives first from the intersection of discourse and drawing, representation and matter. The crux of that intersection, Brodsky Lacour concludes, is and must be the cogito, Descartes’s theoretical extension of thinking into material being. Describable in accordance with the Géométrie as a freely constructed line of thought, the cogito, she argues, extends historically to link philosophy with theories of discursive representation and graphic delineation after Descartes. In conclusion, Brodsky Lacour analyzes such a link in the writings of Claude Perrault, the architectural theorist whose reflections on beauty helped shape the seventeenth-century dispute between “the ancients and the moderns.” Part of a growing body of literary and interdisciplinary considerations of philosophical texts, Lines of Thought will appeal to theorists and historians of literature, architecture, art, and philosophy, and those concerned with the origin and identity of the modern.
Nihilism Before Nietzsche
Michael Allen Gillespie University of Chicago Press, 1994 Library of Congress B828.3.G55 1995 | Dewey Decimal 149.8
In the twentieth century, we often think of Nietzsche, nihilism, and the death of God as inextricably connected. But, in this pathbreaking work, Michael Gillespie argues that Nietzsche, in fact, misunderstood nihilism, and that his misunderstanding has misled nearly all succeeding thought about the subject.
Reconstructing nihilism's intellectual and spiritual origins before it was given its determinitive definition by Nietzsche, Gillespie focuses on the crucial turning points in the development of nihilism, from Ockham and the nominalist revolution to Descartes, Fichte, the German Romantics, the Russian nihilists and Nietzsche himself. His analysis shows that nihilism is not the result of the death of God, as Nietzsche believed; but the consequence of a new idea of God as a God of will who overturns all eternal standards of truth and justice. To understand nihilism, one has to understand how this notion of God came to inform a new notion of man and nature, one that puts will in place of reason, and freedom in place of necessity and order.
Does Descartes belong to metaphysics? What do we mean when we say "metaphysics"? These questions form the point of departure for Jean-Luc Marion's groundbreaking study of Cartesian thought. Analyses of Descartes' notion of the ego and his idea of God show that if Descartes represents the fullest example of metaphysics, he no less transgresses its limits. Writing as philosopher and historian of philosophy, Marion uses Heidegger's concept of metaphysics to interpret the Cartesian corpus—an interpretation strangely omitted from Heidegger's own history of philosophy. This interpretation complicates and deepens the Heideggerian concept of metaphysics, a concept that has dominated twentieth-century philosophy. Examinations of Descartes' predecessors (Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, and Suarez) and his successors (Leibniz, Spinoza, and Hegel) clarify the meaning of the Cartesian revolution in philosophy.
Expertly translated by Jeffrey Kosky, this work will appeal to historians of philosophy, students of religion, and anyone interested in the genealogy of contemporary thought and its contradictions.
On Descartes’ Passive Thought is the culmination of a life-long reflection on the philosophy of Descartes by one of the most important living French philosophers. In it, Jean-Luc Marion examines anew some of the questions left unresolved in his previous books about Descartes, with a particular focus on Descartes’s theory of morals and the passions.
Descartes has long been associated with mind-body dualism, but Marion argues here that this is a historical misattribution, popularized by Malebranche and popular ever since both within the academy and with the general public. Actually, Marion shows, Descartes held a holistic conception of body and mind. He called it the meum corpus, a passive mode of thinking, which implies far more than just pure mind—rather, it signifies a mind directly connected to the body: the human being that I am. Understood in this new light, the Descartes Marion uncovers through close readings of works such as Passions of the Soul resists prominent criticisms leveled at him by twentieth-century figures like Husserl and Heidegger, and even anticipates the non-dualistic, phenomenological concepts of human being discussed today. This is a momentous book that no serious historian of philosophy will be able to ignore.
René Descartes is best known as the man who coined the phrase “I think, therefore I am.” But though he is remembered most as a thinker, Descartes, the man, was no disembodied mind, theorizing at great remove from the worldly affairs and concerns of his time. Far from it. As a young nobleman, Descartes was a soldier and courtier who took part in some of the greatest events of his generation—a man who would not seem out of place in the pages of The Three Musketeers.
In The Young Descartes, Harold J. Cook tells the story of a man who did not set out to become an author or philosopher—Descartes began publishing only after the age of forty. Rather, for years he traveled throughout Europe in diplomacy and at war. He was present at the opening events of the Thirty Years' War in Central Europe and Northern Italy, and was also later involved in struggles within France. Enduring exile, scandals, and courtly intrigue, on his journeys Descartes associated with many of the most innovative free thinkers and poets of his day, as well as great noblemen, noblewomen, and charismatic religious reformers. In his personal life, he expressed love for men as well as women and was accused of libertinism by his adversaries.
These early years on the move, in touch with powerful people and great events, and his experiences with military engineering and philosophical materialism all shaped the thinker and philosopher Descartes became in exile, where he would begin to write and publish, with purpose. But though it is these writings that made ultimately made him famous, The Young Descartes shows that this story of his early life and the tumultuous times that molded him is sure to spark a reappraisal of his philosophy and legacy.