A Companion to Descartes / Edition 1

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A collection of more than 30 specially commissioned essays, this volume surveys the work of the 17th-century philosopher-scientist commonly regarded as the founder of modern philosophy, while integrating unique essays detailing the context and impact of his work.

  • Covers the full range of historical and philosophical perspectives on the work of Descartes
  • Discusses his seminal contributions to our understanding of skepticism, mind-body dualism, self-knowledge, innate ideas, substance, causality, God, and the nature of animals
  • Explores the philosophical significance of his contributions to mathematics and science
  • Concludes with a section on the impact of Descartes's work on subsequent philosophers
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Good companions fulfil two more duties - they provide better ways of understanding the familiar and they also defamiliarise it by encouraging new slants and alerting us to relatively ignored issues: this companion does both.... A most attractive and wide-ranging addition to its field." (Reference Reviews, Issue 6 2008)

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Janet Broughton is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Descartes’s Method of Doubt (2002).

John Carriero is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has published widely in early modern philosophy.

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Table of Contents

Notes on Contributor.

List of Abbreviations.



1. Life and Works (Stephen Gaukroger).

2. Aristotelian Natural Philosophy: Body, Cause, Nature (Dennis Des Chene).

3. Descartes and Augustine (Catherine Wilson).

4. Descartes and the Legacy of Ancient Skepticism (Casey Perin).


5. Descartes and Galileo: Copernicanism and the Metaphysical Foundations of Physics (Michael Friedman).

6. Explanation as Confirmation in Descartes’s Natural Philosophy (Ernan McMullin).

7. Descartes and Mathematics (Paolo Mancosu).

8. Descartes’s Optics: Light, the Eye, and Visual Perception (Margaret J. Osler).


9. Descartes’s Method (Murray Miles).

10. Descartes’s Use of Doubt (David Owens).

11. Self-Knowledge (Janet Broughton).

12. Descartes on True and False Ideas (Deborah J. Brown).

13. Clear and Distinct Perception (Sarah Patterson).

14. Causation Without Intelligibility and Causation Without God in Descartes (Michael Della Rocca).

15. Descartes on Substance (Vere Chappell).

16. Descartes and the Metaphysics of Extension (C.G. Normore).

17. The Role of God in Descartes’s Philosophy (John Cottingham).

18. The Cartesian Circle and the Foundations of Knowledge (John Carriero).

19. Cartesian Innateness (Alan Nelson).

20. Descartes on the Will in Judgment (Lex Newman).

21. Omnipotence, Modality, and Conceivability (Lilli Alanen).

22. Descartes’s Dualism (Marleen Rozemond).

23. The Union and Interaction of Mind and Body (Paul Hoffman).

24. Animals (Gary Hatfield).

25. How to Engineer a Human Being: Passions and Functional Explanation in Descartes (Amy M. Schmitter).

26. Descartes’s Ethics (Lisa Shapiro).


27. Descartes’s Legacy in the Seventeenth Century: Problems and Polemic (Thomas M. Lennon).

28. Contemporary Reactions to Descartes’s Philosophy of Mind (Quassim Cassam).

29. Descartes and the Phenomenological Tradition (Wayne M. Martin).

30. Our Debt to Descartes (Barry Stroud).


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