Descartes Reinvented

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Descartes Reinvented In this study, Tom Sorell seeks to rehabilitate views that are often instantly dismissed in analytic philosophy. His book serves as a rein- terpretation of Cartesianism and responds directly to the dislike of Descartes in contemporary philosophy. To identify what is defensi- ble in Cartesianism, Sorell starts with a picture of unreconstructed Cartesianism, which is characterized as realistic, antisceptical but re- spectful of scepticism, rationalist, centered on the first person, dual- ist, and dubious of the comprehensiveness of natural science and its supposed independence of metaphysics. Bridging the gap between history of philosophy and analytic philosophy, Sorell also shows for the first time how some contemporary analytic philosophy is deeply Cartesian, despite its outward hostility to Cartesianism. Tom Sorell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex. He is the author of six books, including Descartes (1987), Scientism (1991), and Moral Theory and Anomaly (2000). © Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org Cambridge University Press 0521851149 - Descartes Reinvented Tom Sorell Frontmatter More information

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  • Descartes Reinvented

    In this study, Tom Sorell seeks to rehabilitate views that are ofteninstantly dismissed in analytic philosophy. His book serves as a rein-terpretation of Cartesianism and responds directly to the dislike ofDescartes in contemporary philosophy. To identify what is defensi-ble in Cartesianism, Sorell starts with a picture of unreconstructedCartesianism, which is characterized as realistic, antisceptical but re-spectful of scepticism, rationalist, centered on the rst person, dual-ist, and dubious of the comprehensiveness of natural science and itssupposed independence of metaphysics. Bridging the gap betweenhistory of philosophy and analytic philosophy, Sorell also shows forthe rst time how some contemporary analytic philosophy is deeplyCartesian, despite its outward hostility to Cartesianism.

    Tom Sorell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex. He isthe author of six books, including Descartes (1987), Scientism (1991),and Moral Theory and Anomaly (2000).

    Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org

    Cambridge University Press0521851149 - Descartes ReinventedTom SorellFrontmatterMore information

  • Descartes Reinvented

    TOM SORELLUniversity of Essex

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  • For Vicent Raga

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  • Contents

    Introduction page ixUnreconstructed Cartesianism Versus Innocent Cartesianism xInnocent Cartesianism and Pre-Philosophical Ways of Thinking xviiBetween History of Philosophy and Analytic Philosophy xxAcknowledgements xxi

    1 Radical Doubt, the Rational Self, and Inner Space 1A Doubt that Overreaches Itself? 2Unreconstructed Cartesianism: The Target of the Doubt 3The Species-less Self and God 8The Solipsistic Self as the Residue of the Doubt: Three Claims

    of Incoherence 14Innocent Cartesianism in the Theory of Self-Reference 21Self-Implicatingness and First-Person Authority 29

    2 Knowledge, the Self, and Internalism 32The Autonomy of Knowing and the Prejudices of Childhood 33Externalism and Reectiveness 37Meta-Epistemology versus Normative Epistemology 44Internalism and the Ethics of Belief 48Internalism and Externalism 52

    3 The Belief in Foundations 57Unreconstructed Cartesianism and the Justication

    of the New Science 59Ideal Method and Actual Practice 65Two Kinds of Success-of-Science Argument 70

    vii

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  • viii Contents

    Descartess Foundations and Innocent Cartesian Foundations 74Another Innocent Cartesianism about Foundations? 77

    4 Conscious Experience and the Mind 85Descartess Soul and Unreconstructed Cartesianism

    about the Mind 86Towards Innocent Cartesianism 93Naturalism and Existential Naturalism 97Reactions to Irreducibility Claims 104

    5 Reason, Emotion, and Action 113Damasios Error 114Cartesian Practical Reason 126Innocent Cartesianism about Practical Reason 132

    6 Anthropology, Misogyny, and Anthropocentrism 140Cartesian Misogyny? 141Cartesian Speciesism 149Lesser Parts of Worthwhile Wholes and Rationalist Intervention 160Rationalism Again 164

    Conclusion 167

    Index 173

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  • Introduction

    In much of Anglo-American philosophy, Cartesian is a dirty word.It is applied to a wide range of unpopular views in epistemology andthe philosophy of mind, views that are loosely associated with those inthe Meditations. I shall argue that many of these unpopular views aredefensible in some form, and that they help to counteract the currentexcesses of naturalism on the one hand, and antirationalism on theother. Contrary to naturalism, not everything that can usefully be saidabout knowledge or the mind comes from investigating computers,the brain, or the causal interactions between the sense organs andmatter, and bad things happen when philosophy is reduced to a formof popular science. Philosophy ought of course to be informed byscience, but some of its problems about mind and knowledge do notgo away when scientic advances aremade. Innocent Cartesianism hasa role in making this clear. It can sometimes consist of asserting theendurance of the old problems in the face of breezy declarations ofan entirely new agenda.

    Naturalism is a tendency within Anglo-American philosophyitself; the other tendency that innocent Cartesianism counteracts antirationalism is inuential outside philosophy, at any rate Anglo-American philosophy. This tendency, too, is marked by the use ofCartesian as a term of abuse. What it is applied to this time is notthe supposed illusion of a system of truths independent of naturalscience but a certain myth-ridden philosophical anthropology. Theantirationalists dislike the idea that human beings divide up cleanly

    ix

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  • x Introduction

    into minds and bodies. They dislike the Cartesian favouritism of mindover body, the Cartesian favouritism of intellectual capacities over sen-sitive and emotional ones, and, as they think, the implied favouritismof male over female. In the same way, they dislike the favouritism ofrational human beings over animals and the rest of nature. And theydislike the divorce of human nature from the political. These dislikesare not always well founded when inspired by Descartess own writ-ings, and they do not always hang together. For example, a theorythat emphasises the possibilities of rational self-control in human be-ings, as Descartess own theory does, is not anti-ecological and is notnecessarily unsympathetic to animals. On the contrary, the possibili-ties of human self-control may be the only hope for environmentalistsor protectors of animal welfare. Again, although we do not get fromDescartes a picture of the contribution of politics to human improve-ment, such a picture is not ruled out, and the outlines of a Cartesianpolitics are neither impossible to indicate nor unattractive when theyare spelled out. As for the relation between intellectual and sensitiveor emotional capacities, the critics probably exaggerate the tensionsbetween them. A Cartesian approach is rationalistic, but it does notimply that we do or should live by reason alone. On the other hand,it insists that where reason is applicable, it can come to conclusions,both practical and theoretical, that are objectively correct.

    unreconstructed cartesianism versusinnocent cartesianism

    To identify what is defensible in Cartesianism, one needs to start with apicture of unreconstructed Cartesianism Cartesianism as it is repre-sented inDescartes himself. This picture contains six related elements.Unreconstructed Cartesianism is (i) Realistic; (ii) antisceptical but re-spectful of scepticism; (iii) rationalist; (iv) centred on the rst person;and (v) dualistic; nally, (vi) it doubts the comprehensiveness of nat-ural science and its supposed independence of metaphysics.

    (i) UnreconstructedCartesianism is Realistic in the sense of assert-ing the mind-independence of evidence and truth for a largerange of subject matters. For example, perceptible things arenot necessarily as the senses make them appear, and sensory

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  • Unreconstructed Versus Innocent Cartesianism xi

    evidence does not establish their existence. The movements ofbodies resembling humans do not establish that those bodiesare alive or that they are directed by minds. Present-tensed ev-idence is neither necessary nor sufcient for the occurrenceof events in the past, and so on. Being Realistic in this sense,unreconstructed Cartesianism admits the possibility of scepti-cism. If evidence does not constitute truth, then the possessionof evidence does not constitute knowledge of truth, and it mayeven be doubted whether beliefs based on the evidence areusually true. It is in the sense of allowing for the possibility ofscepticism that I say unreconstructed Cartesianism is respect-ful of scepticism. Indeed, in Descartes, the respectfulness goesbeyond allowing for the possibility of doubt: The Meditationsis supposed to do nothing less than induce doubt about wholeclasses of proposition.

    (ii) Although unreconstructed Cartesianism is respectful of scepti-cism, it is antisceptical: It claims to refute scepticism by identi-fying a basis for the indubitability of fundamental beliefs. Thebasis in Descartess version of Cartesianism is the fact that thehumanmind has been designed by a benign creator whowouldnot allow it to use its reason well and arrive at falsehoods. Thecapacities that humanbeings have for nding indubitable truthare rational capacities rather than sensory ones. Although thesenses have their uses for helping us to survive, and thoughthey are sources of reliable information about some of thethings that are good or bad for us, this information is oftendivorced from a hold on the natures of things, which is wherereason comes in. Respect for scepticism is often respect for thepoint that human beings use sensory information when theyshouldnt: They use it to make judgements about the explana-tions of things in nature, when the most it can acquaint us withare explananda.

    (iii) Cartesian rationalism is the view that we ought ideally to formscientic beliefs and reach practical decisions on the basis ofgood reasons alone. Good reasonsmay include beliefs arrivedat by following certain error-avoiding steps of thought, stepsthat usually involve thinking twice about something the sensesincline us to believe. We should not be carried along by sensory

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  • xii Introduction

    appearance, and we should not be lulled into belief by conven-tional wisdom or habit either. Rationalism along these linescan be associated with foundationalism, the idea that there area small number of self-evident truths in the light of which allor most other truths are evident, or from which other truthscan be derived by self-evident reasoning. Cartesian rational-ism extends to ethics and the conduct of life, where it assertsthat detachment from the appetites is sometimes necessary fordistinguishing genuine from merely apparent goods, and foridentifying an order of priority among the genuine goods.

    (iv) Unreconstructed Cartesianism puts many of the fundamentalquestions of philosophy in the rst person. What can I be cer-tain of? Am I alone? What capacities really belong to me?The answers to some of these questions are sometimes essen-tially rst-personal as well. For example, in Descartess ownCartesianism the answer to What can I be certain of? consistsinitially of two principles. The rst of these I am thinking;therefore I exist does not remain certain if Rene Descartesis thinking is put in place of I am thinking, for the existenceof the man Descartes and his thinking is dubitable under thesceptical hypotheses of theMeditations, while I exist is not. Notonly are some metaphysical and epistemological questions andanswers essentially rst-personal for Descartes; the nature ofthe mind in unreconstructed Cartesianism is connected withthe accessibility to the rst person of most or all of the mindsthoughts.

    (v) It is from the perspective of the I that Descartes decides provi-sionally that he is complete as an intellect and a will minus thecapacities of imagination and sensation, and complete minusa body. The emphasis on the rst-person perspective, then,facilitates Descartess argument for substantial dualism forhis belief in the conceptual distinctness of the mental and thephysical and in the reality of entirely distinct satisers of thoseconcepts. It also aggravates the problems of being clear aboutthe way interaction between mind and body works.

    (vi) Finally, unreconstructed Cartesianism insists on the need for ametaphysics distinct from and more fundamental than naturalscience, ametaphysics with its own subjectmatter of immaterial

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  • Unreconstructed Versus Innocent Cartesianism xiii

    things. Immaterial things includes abstract objects such as thenature of the triangle, as well as minds and the concepts re-quired to reach conclusions in the distinct natural sciences.Metaphysics is supposed to be necessary as a preliminary tophysics, because practitioners of physics need metaphysics ifthey are to be certain once and for all that they are capable ofreaching stable general conclusions about matter at all. Firstphilosophy provides the assurance that other sorts of philos-ophy or science are possible for human beings, and it is itsstandard of certainty that is supposed to be met in some of thesciences.

    The organising thesis of unreconstructed Cartesianism is that thereis an order in nature that human beings are able to capture in sci-ence, and that the makings of this science are accessible to the con-sciousness of every rational self. This thesis, itself expressed in termsof the self, makes the emphasis on the rst person in the rest of un-reconstructed Cartesianism unsurprising. Similarly for the emphasison starting points or foundations for science. Similarly for realism,because the order of nature is what it is independently of us. Theorganising thesis of unreconstructed Cartesianism can also be under-stood as the assertion of an antisceptical position, and its explanationof how science is possible is that reason is objectively reliable.

    Innocent Cartesianism is the reinterpretation, and sometimes the out-right revision, of unreconstructed Cartesianism so as to meet some ofthe scruples of twentieth- and twenty-rst-century philosophy. In otherwords, innocent Cartesianism sometimes results from admitting thatelements of unreconstructed Cartesianism are false or not worth de-fending. Elements of unreconstructed Cartesianism can be rejected,however, without a repudiation of all of unreconstructedCartesianism.On the contrary, the results of revision or reinterpretation in what fol-lows do not take one so far from unreconstructed Cartesianism as tomake the original unrecognisable. At the same time, the results ofrevision or reinterpretation bring one surprisingly close to some spec-imens of recent analytic philosophy. Surprisingly close, given the factthat producers of these specimenswould sometimes disavowor expresssurprise at any Cartesian tendencies in their own work. Examples of

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  • xiv Introduction

    innocent Cartesianism are already present in analytic epistemologyand the philosophy of mind, and many of them seem to me to bephilosophically sound. Though they sometimes appear to reinventDescartes, they are seldom intended to do so. Some of the reinventionseems to be unwitting. As for the few analytic philosophers who referapprovingly to Descartes in one connection or another, they tend tolack a sense of a general Cartesian position that might be viable. Attimes I will call attention to what I take to be innocent Cartesianismin the recent literature, and at times I will add to it, indicating waysin which this literature is not thoroughgoing enough. Elsewhere(Chapters 1, 5, and 6), I claim that elements of unreconstructedCartesianism themselves are reasonably innocent, understood in waysI suggest. At the end, I try to present an overview of an innocentCartesianism in matters of theoretical and practical reason in general.

    Innocent Cartesianism preserves the realism and respect for scep-ticism of unreconstructed Cartesianism. In particular, the coherenceof sweeping Cartesian sceptical hypotheses is reasserted. On the otherhand, the idea that scepticism is entirely refutable is questioned. Inno-centCartesianismalso insists on the ineliminably rst-person characterof some epistemological questions, and some questions in the philoso-phy of mind. Purely externalist analyses of knowledge miss somethingimportant about the nature of epistemology, according to innocentCartesianism, and purely subpersonal and third-personal accounts ofmental states are incomplete as well. In particular, eliminativist mate-rialist accounts and functionalist accounts leave out the subjectivity ofthe mental. To the extent that materialist treatments in particular areincomplete, some version of dualism is true, or acceptable pendingthe development of a neutral monism. No doubt the temporarily ac-ceptable form of dualism will not be a dualism of mental and physicalsubstances, as in Descartes, but some form of the idea that the con-cepts of the mental and physical mark a real difference is going to bepart of what is maintained.

    Innocent Cartesianism preserves rationalism, but without gearingthat rationalism toGods existence andnature, andwithout generatinga scepticism-proof argument that natural science is possible. The foun-dationalism of innocent Cartesianism is not a theoretically necessaryresponse to scepticism about science but, in part, a kind of antidoteto a social constructionist account of scientic truth. According to

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  • Unreconstructed Versus Innocent Cartesianism xv

    innocent Cartesianism, it is no accident that at any rate natural sci-ence is successful, and the explanation of the success consists partlyin the t between theoretical concepts and an independent world,partly in the existence of concepts playing a role similar to that whichDescartes assigned to the mechanical simples in physical explana-tion. The belief in the possibility of t between fundamental conceptsand an independent world is foundational in innocent Cartesianism,but a metaphysical proof that ideas of the simple material naturesare sufcient for a complete and successful science is done away with.

    Instead of a proof that natural science can be successful, innocentCartesianism indicates an explanation of why natural science is suc-cessful. This explanation is partly to do with the human ability toget beyond a sense-based understanding of phenomena and to arrivespecically at mathematical concepts that the behaviour of physicalobjects ts. A related ability to get beyond an appetite-based under-standing of what is valuable and harmful explains our ability to perfectourselves using practical reason. This is the ability that is central to anunreconstructed Cartesian ethics, and it is here that unreconstructedCartesianism contributes directly to innocent Cartesianism.

    The organising thesis of innocent Cartesianism is that natural sci-ence, while capable of objective truth within its domain, is not a theoryof everything. There are more forms of systematic and objectively cor-rect self-understanding and reasoning than are provided by naturalscience. Brain science does not tell us everything about the mind;Darwinism does not tell us everything about the place of human be-ings in nature and what motivates them. There are further authori-tative forms of understanding, including those belonging to ethics,philosophy, and mathematics. The point of insisting on the autonomyof these forms of understanding is not to meet the supposed need foran Archimedean point from which science can be shown to be a viableenterprise, as in unreconstructed Cartesianism. It is rather to insiston the intelligibility and value of questions and answers to problemsabout knowledge, mind, and what human beings ought to do that can-not be pressed into a scientic mould except by force. Nevertheless, tosay that natural science is not a theory of everything is not to say thatnatural science tells us nothing, still less that its pretensions to truthand objectivity are empty or that they mask a brute power-hunger. Inthe face of claims like those, innocent Cartesianism takes the side

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  • xvi Introduction

    of science, truth, and objectivity just as much as unreconstructedCartesianism does.

    Innocent Cartesianism is extracted from unreconstructed Carte-sianism chapter by chapter in what follows. At the beginning of thebook, I argue for the intelligibility and coherence of radical scepti-cism and deny that the radical scepticism of Meditation One entailssolipsism. Instead of a self that is entirely self-subsistent, methodolog-ical scepticism presupposes a self that is able to get outside sense-experience and able even to question the objectivity of concepts forimmaterial things, including mathematical objects and the idea ofGod. The idea that the sceptical hypotheses of unreconstructed Carte-sianism entail solipsism and are therefore inconsistent with meaning-ful utterance and with cogent self-reference is rejected. In Chapter 2,I turn to the Cartesian insistence that certain questions about knowl-edge and belief are irreducibly rst-person questions, requiring an-swers from the perspective of consciousness. This, too, is endorsedin the course of a partial defence of what is now called internalismin analytic epistemology. Chapter 3 is a defence of forms of founda-tionalism required to make intelligible the success of natural science.Foundationalism in these forms counts against facile relativism andthe belief that explanatory concepts in the natural sciences are socialconstructions with no objectivity not conferred on them by a scienticcommunity.

    Chapters 4, 5, and 6 consider the Cartesian philosophy of mindand a Cartesian philosophical anthropology. In Chapter 4, argumentsfor the irreducibility of consciousness are reviewed and defended, butthe commonly advanced claim that these arguments can be recon-ciled with naturalism is questioned. An innocent Cartesianism is sig-nicantly but controversially anti-naturalistic about the mind, just as itis uncontroversially antinaturalistic about puremathematics and logic.The irreducibility of consciousness is consistent with a theory of themind that does not rule out, but does not assume either, some sort ofaccount of how the brain can be a personal subject of consciousness.On the other hand, an innocent Cartesianism is not consistent withsome subpersonal approaches to the mindbrain relation. Chapter 5considers the connections between Cartesian rationalism and Carte-sian dualism, especially where these lead to controversial theses aboutthe emotions. Chapter 5 also defends the view of practical reason

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  • Pre-Philosophical Ways of Thinking xvii

    implicit in Descartess rationalism. Chapter 6 discusses the allegedlyunacceptable consequences of Descartess dualism and rationalism forhis anthropology. Feminists complain that despite a supercial egal-itarianism, Descartes is committed to saying that what is best abouthumans can be realised only by males. He is also supposed to be guiltyof a masculinization of nature and a distorted theory of the relation ofthe human to the rest of the animal and natural world. I argue that un-reconstructed Cartesianism is much more innocent in this area thanit is given credit for. Innocent Cartesianism does not always requiresignicant departures from its source.

    innocent cartesianism and pre-philosophicalways of thinking

    Although Cartesianism as it is discussed in this book is a tendency inacademic philosophy, the case for the innocence of some Cartesiantheses cannot entirely be separated from the fact that some ideas thatstarted out in Descartess writings are highly absorbed in intellectuallife in the West, highly absorbed even by critics of Descartes. We mightthink of some of what has been absorbed as a watered-down Cartesianrationalism. Rationalism in this form says that, ideally, we should holdbeliefs and perform actions only on the basis of reasons we can con-sciously recognise as good. It implies that, ideally, we should not formbeliefs or perform actions precipitately, unthinkingly, or as a matter ofreex, leaving conscious reasons out of play altogether. It also impliesthat if reasons for a belief do not seem compelling when brought tomind, the belief should be abandoned. Mild Cartesian rationalism the kind that I am suggesting is second nature to us is supportedby something we might call Cartesian autonomy: Ideally, we oughtto think for ourselves and act in our own right, and doing so meansusing well what freedom we have to accept or not accept propositionsand carry out or not carry out our intentions. (I discuss some of thesematters in Chapters 2 [acceptance of propositions] and 5 [carryingout our intentions].) The connection between Cartesian rationalismand Cartesian autonomy may be expressed by saying that when we failto act or believe for good reasons, we fail to believe or act in our ownright. It is by way of the reasons we have for beliefs and actions whenwe believe and act rationally that we make them ours.

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  • xviii Introduction

    Now my claim about these precepts is not just that they are Carte-sian but also that they are, or have a lot in commonwith, things we ndtruistic. By we I mean not only philosophers, but educated people inthe West at the beginning of the twenty-rst century. Formulations notvery different from the ones I have just given would look like common-places in the wider intellectual world. Thus, it seems truistic to say thatwe ought to think for ourselves; that we shouldnt believe everythingis as it appears; that we shouldnt accept assertions uncritically; thatwe shouldnt act in the ways we do just because it is the fashion or justbecause we are required to do so by those in authority. In order to becommonplaces these have to be recognised as commonplaces withoutmuch argument or stage setting. I take it they are recognisable as com-monplaces. How Cartesian any nonphilosopher is being in acceptingthem, especially when they are stripped of any pointed references toconsciousness, is another question and, I concede, a tricky one. Forpresent purposes, however, I hope it will be enough to indicate whyDescartess application of the precepts goes with, rather than against,an early-twenty-rst-century grain.

    Descartes applies the precepts to arguments from authority thatis, arguments for the truth of propositions based on the identity andcelebrity of the people propounding the propositions. The rst pre-cept of Descartess so-called logic implies that propositions are not tobe accepted as true on the basis of authority; and there is a relatedmessage in Descartess refusal to count as philosophy or science mereknowledge of what a gure from the philosophical past has said, with-out being able oneself to say why it is true. The rejection of intellectualdeference is second nature even to those who repudiate Descartessinuence; so, too, I think is the aspiration to ground claims on evi-dence for their truth.

    I do not deny that many claims which are not commonplaces areto be found in Descartess writings. I do not deny that one of thefavoured instances of thinking for oneself in Descartes is conductingoneself through the metaphysical meditations, and that this seems tomany to be involved with solipsism, which is not a widespread intellec-tual tendency. To concede these things is not, however, to imperil theclaim that in matters of intellectual autonomy there is much commonground between Descartes and ourselves, the intellectual culture be-yond philosophy included. Someone who encounters the instruction

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  • Pre-Philosophical Ways of Thinking xix

    Discuss critically on an examination paper may nd it hard to com-ply, but that is not because the instruction belongs to an alien wayof life. Those who are criticised for unthinkingly regurgitating theirteachers views, or their parents views, or the views of their social classmay not in fact be regurgitating those views, or may not be doing sounthinkingly; but the point of criticising those who are doing so issurely not obscure. The widespread acceptance of the prohibition onplagiarism ts in here. So does the tendency to praise what is thoughtto be original or new. All of these tendencies are as fundamental tothe Cartesian outlook as claims concerning the methodology of belief,doubt, consciousness, and God.

    It may look less easy to nd common ground with Cartesian ratio-nalism in relation to action than in relation to belief. For Cartesianrationalism seems to require agents to be highly reective rather thanspontaneous, and when Descartes asks for actions to be backed byreasons, he often means reasons as opposed to passions or emotionsor sensations. Because it is plausible to say that many actions canbe worse for being consciously thought out, and because Descartessometimes urged the suppression of emotions even in cases where tofeel the emotions would attest to ones humanity or loyalty or some-thing else with undoubted value, one can dissent perfectly reasonablyfrom Descartess requirements for agents. That does not mean, how-ever, that no common ground exists between Cartesian rationalismand a modern sensibility about action. When Descartes urges the sup-pression of emotional behaviour, he does so partly because he con-nects the emotional with compulsive behaviour (see Chapter 5) andpartly because he thinks that emotions can represent as good thingsthat harm, or at any rate dont improve, the mind and the body. Wecan share Descartess dislike of compulsive behaviour without sup-posing that all passionate behaviour is compulsive. What is more, wecan agree that bodily and mental health are important goods, thatemotions can sometimes point us away from these goods, and thatwhen they do, the emotions may need to be overridden. We canalso agree with the deeply Cartesian thoughts that detaching our-selves from the emotions for the purpose of controlling them is pos-sible and sometimes useful, and that health is a matter of pursuingboth goods of mind and goods of body, sometimes by strategies ofself-control.

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  • xx Introduction

    between history of philosophy andanalytic philosophy

    This book does not belong to the genre history of philosophy. It does notset out to teach casual critics ofCartesianism inmainstreamphilosophythat Descartes did not say what they think he did. It does not try todescribe the intellectual climate in which what Descartes really didsay would have made sense to say. Instead, it tries to nd commonground between what Descartes did say and have reasons for saying,and things that are worth arguing for in philosophy as we now haveit. So it lies somewhere between studies of Descartess writings andtheir context and current work in philosophy of mind, metaphysicsand epistemology. I hope the book will also serve as a bridge betweenthese two bodies of work.

    The vilied Descartes of twentieth- and twenty-rst-century philos-ophy is not the same as the canonical Descartes the Descartes whohas to be read by students of philosophy if they are to understand thesubject in its current form; the vilied Descartes is not the same, ei-ther, as the historical Descartes the Descartes of the best-informedDescartes specialists. But there is somedifculty in sayingwhich the realDescartes is, as if the others were pure imposters. No doubt the his-torical Descartes comes closest to being the real Descartes; still, theother gures sometimes have legitimate philosophical roles, as doesthe idea of Cartesianism when extended beyond the ideas of Descarteshimself or his avowed followers. To see this is to recognise some of thelimitations of history of philosophy. To the extent that history of phi-losophy is a historical enterprise, it inclines the practitioner to enterinto the preoccupations of Descartes as a seventeenth-century Euro-pean scientist/metaphysician. To the extent that history of philosophyis a philosophical enterprise, it inclines the practitioner to remouldCartesian ideas so as to give them a clear location in live philosoph-ical debates. The second inclination is more likely to produce cari-cature than the rst; but the rst can and often does have the draw-back of being philosophically boring. As someone with an interest ina twenty-rst-century philosophical agenda as well as the early modernperiod, I do not regard the problem of boringness as insignicant,and so I think that, within limits, caricature is tolerable for the sake ofrelevance.

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  • Acknowledgements xxi

    Even where the claims of his modern detractors are poorlygrounded in Descartess text, or where they seem to be warrantedonly by a perverse reading, they belong to a kind of folk memory ofDescartes in twentieth- and twenty-rst-century philosophy that is im-portant to understand in its own right and that usually has somethingimportant in common with what the historical Descartes said. Callingattention to this common ground is likely to be far more effective inprompting a serious reevaluation of Cartesianism than trying to per-suade modern critics of Descartes that they are so wrong about himthat they must have some other philosopher in mind. Were Descarteshimself to come back from the dead and nd the views associated withhis name so unrecognisable that he would be moved to protest, Je nesuis pas cartesien! , that would have no more force, necessarily, than afamous remark attributed by Engels to Karl Marx: All I know is that Iam not a Marxist. Marxism transcends Marxs writings; it extends towhat is said and done by his appropriators, and sometimes to whatthey are interpreted as saying and doing by hostile critics who are surethat Marxism is dead. Maos cultural revolution and Stalins use of thegulags thus count for many people as prime examples of appliedMarxism, even though Marx himself might have been horried bythem. In the same way, Cartesianism is bigger than Descartes, with alife of its own in a philosophical folk memory outside the history ofphilosophy, a folk memory largely created and sustained by those whoare hostile to Cartesianism and who think it is a spent force. It wouldnot take away the bad associations that Cartesianism has for thesepeople if it turned out, for example, that Descartes himself did notsubscribe to exactly the simplied position called Cartesian dualism.That position, with or without a clear presence in Descartess writings,still has a role in mapping out a largely rejected philosophy of mind,just as applied Marxism in the form of the gulags, whether or not it isfair to name it after Marx, stakes out a historically important kind offailed twentieth-century politics.

    acknowledgements

    I started thinking about the themes of this book in 1993, and thenunexpectedly got involved in other projects. I went back to work onCartesianism in 1998. Since then I have had some opportunities to

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  • xxii Introduction

    present ideas about it to different audiences. A staff-student researchseminar at Essex University in 1999 was very useful to me; and sowas a research seminar at the University of Hertfordshire in March2001 and a meeting of the East Anglia Philosophy Triangle a shorttime after that. Gary Jenkins kindly read and commented on drafts ofthe book. Colleagues and acquaintances who have looked at parts ofearlier versions includeDavid Smith andGabor Boros. Another readerwas Vicent Raga, a very good friend and philosophical interlocutor ofmine for more than twenty years, to whom the book is dedicated. Thereferees who commented on the typescript anonymously helped toimprove the book a great deal. RefereeB in particularmade excellentsuggestions, going through the typescript with a ne-toothed comb.No one has spent as much time reading what I write and discussingit with me as Heather Draper. I am very grateful to her. I have alsobeneted from discussions with many friends about how to (and hownot to) split the difference between mainstream analytic philosophyand history of philosophy. The people I have learned from in thisconnection includeMichael Ayers, DanGarber, and JohnCottingham,though this is not to say they agree with me. I am also indebted to thewritings of Thomas Nagel, Sydney Shoemaker, and Harry Frankfurt.Parts of Chapters 2 and 3 have previously appeared in Descartes, theDivineWill and the Ideal of Psychological Stability,History of PhilosophyQuarterly17 (2000)pp.36179 and in CartesianMethodand theSelf ,Philosophical Investigations 24 (2001) pp. 5574.

    TSLondon, 2004

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  • Descartes Reinvented

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