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In this book Tom Sorell shows that Descartes was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of a new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his metaphysics to support his programme in the sciences.

Sorell shows that Descartes was above all a practitioner of the new mathematical approach to physics and developed his philosophies to support his scientific discoveries.

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Editorial Reviews

Much previous literature on Descartes treats his dualistic metaphysics as if it were disconnected<-->in a manner analogous to his problematic mind-body split<-->from his natural philosophy. As part of a series complementing the International Research Library of Philosophy, this volume reflects the trend in recent Descartes studies to affirm the increasing convergence of the history of science and the history of philosophy. While most of the 27 selections collected from 1983-96 readily resonate with standard English language Cartesian commentaries, several translated essays from French and Italian contributors befit Descartes' pivotal role in Western intellectual history. The nine-branched organizing schema includes essays pondering: method; metaphysics and Cartesian metaphysics; meditation and doubt; 'cogito ergo sum'; ideas, truth, and judgement; God; mind and body; matter and motion; and ethics and anthropology. Lacks a subject index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781840140682
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 11/1/1999
  • Series: Past Masters Series
  • Pages: 548
  • Product dimensions: 9.61 (w) x 6.65 (h) x 1.77 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author: Tom Sorell is Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University. His books include Knowledge and Descartes, both published by the Open University Press.

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Table of Contents

Series Preface
Pt. I Method
1 Mathematical Demonstration and Deduction in Descartes's Early Methodological and Scientific Writings 3
2 Descartes: Methodological Ideal and Actual Procedure 25
3 Descartes, the Aristotelians, and the Revolution that Did Not Happen in 1637 39
Pt. II Metaphysics and Cartesian Metaphysics
4 On Descartes' Constitution of Metaphysics 57
5 The Crisis of the Cogito 71
Pt. III Meditation and Doubt
6 Descartes's Meditations as Cognitive Exercises 83
7 What is Cartesian Doubt? 101
8 Scientific and Practical Certainty in Descartes 131
Pt. IV The Cogito
9 Cogito Ergo Sum 151
10 Cogito Ergo Quis Est? 159
Pt. V Ideas, Truth, Judgement
11 How Can What I Perceive Be True? 179
12 Descartes on the Material Falsity of ideas 189
13 Judgment and Understanding in Descartes's philosophy 215
14 Descartes's Theory of Judgment 227
Pt. VI God
15 The Problem of the Third Meditation 239
16 Descartes on the Creation of the Eternal Truths 263
17 How God Causes Motion: Descartes, Divine sustenance and Occasionalism 293
Pt. VII Mind and Body
18 Descartes and the Action of Body on Mind 309
19 Descartes on the Origin of Sensation 323
20 Understanding Interaction: What Descartes should have Told Elisabeth 355
21 Descartes on Mind-Body Interaction and the Conservation of Motion 373
Pt. VIII Matter and Motion
22 Perfect Solidity: Natural Laws and the Problem of matter in Descartes' Universe 403
23 Against Emptiness: Descartes's Physics Metaphysics of Plenitude 421
24 Descartes and the Nature of Body 437
Pt. IX Ethics and Anthropology
25 The Insufficiency of Descartes' Provisional Morality 455
26 Cartesian Ethics: Reason and the Passions 475
27 Life, Science, and Wisdom According to Descartes 499
Name Index 521
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  • Posted January 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Ghost of Descartes is still with us

    Descartes is one of the most influential Western philosophers, and this book is a useful first introduction to his life and ideas. The strength of the book is in positioning Descartes' writing primarily within the political and ideological currents of his time, and showing how exactly he's been forced to edit and finesse his writings in order to please the censorship and his critics. This helps explain why some of his works were not as straightforwardly written as one might have liked. The other reason has probably to do with the sheer ambition of Descartes' chief enterprise, to discover one sure method of arriving at explanations and solutions of the most pressing scientific and philosophical problems of the time. The enormity of this scope meant that some of these methods would necessarily be to vague to be of any practical use in mathematics or physics, and within a generation after Descartes' death Newtonian gravitation completely prevailed. However, in the realm of philosophy, Descarts' thought managed to be of interest until the present day.

    This book is very well written, and if you are interested in finding out more about Descartes, it would be a worthwhile first read.

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