By John G. Cottingham
To confront the philosophical method of Rene Descartes is to think about a magnificently laid out map of human cognitive endeavour. In following Descartes arguments, the reader is drawn into the most basic and not easy concerns in all of philosophy. during this dictionary, John Cottingham provides an alphabetied consultant to this such a lot stimulating and widely-studied of philosophers. He examines the most important strategies and ideas in Cartesian suggestion and locations them within the context either one of the seventeenth-century highbrow weather and of next interpretation. The entries diversity over a large choice of components together with cosmology, physics, theology, psychology and ethics. The booklet is designed to attract the newcomer to Descartes, no matter if scholar or basic reader, whereas additionally delivering exact serious remark and distinctive textual references for the extra complex reader. additionally incorporated are a normal advent describing Descartes' lifestyles and works, and bibliographic consultant to the Cartesian texts and the mass of interpretative literature on Descartes.
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Extra resources for A Descartes Dictionary
Despite these sources of conflict in Descartes' thinking, he certainly followed religious orthodoxy in so far as he regarded God as the cause of the existence of the universe - the reason why it was there at all. As far as the physical universe was concerned, this meant that God created res extensa - the all-pervasive extended substance of which the visible world is composed ( cf Principles, Part I, arts 5 1 -4) . Descartes further attributed to God's creative power the fact that the universe is in motion; for although, in the official C artesian classification of matter, motion appears as a mere mode of res extensa, the purely geometrical notion of extension in three dimensions evidently does not of itself yield a dynamic universe of moving particles.
A qualitative notion such as redness (or any other colour) has no place in this explanatory schema, except in so far as state ments about its presence in an object can be reduced to statements about that obj ect's size, shape and motion (to this account Descartes adds the further fact that when an obj ect of this kind interacts with our sense organs, 36 COMMENTS ON A CERTAIN BROADSHEET we will have a colour-sensation of a characteristic kind). There is thus a sense in which 'redness', understood as a real quality, should not properly be attributed to a physical object at all: 'when we say that we perceive colours in objects, this is really just the same as saying that we perceive something in the objects whose nature we do not know, but which produces in us a certain very clear and vivid sensation which we call the sensation of colour .
So I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind' (AT VII 25: CSM II 1 7) . The qualifying clause at the end of the sentence j ust quoted is important. The certainty of my existence is not like the certainty of some timeless necessary truth of logic or mathematics; there is nothing necessary about my existence (quite apart from ordinary contingencies, the omnipotent demon scenario entails that I could be annihilated at any time) .