The Second Meditation and Objections to Cartesian Dualism

Michael Ayers

in Early Modern Philosophy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780195177602
Published online July 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835553 | DOI:
 The Second Meditation and Objections to Cartesian Dualism

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In 1978, two books were published that became standard commentaries on Descartes's Meditations. One was Bernard Williams's Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry, the other Margaret Wilson's Descartes. This chapter starts from an issue of interpretation to which both books give some prominence, and which concerns the structure of Descartes' argument for his distinction between mind and body. It suggests that what are presented and can appear as two stages of Descartes's argument in the Second and Sixth Meditations are distinct arguments, although both build on the skeptical argument of the First Meditation and Descartes sees them as related by a certain informal movement of thought. The conclusion of the first plays no formal role in the second, and it is argued that despite some features of the Second Meditation persuasively discussed by Wilson, Descartes does not conflate them. It is shown how these different, but connected, arguments relate to a significant difference among certain classic reactions to Cartesian dualism — a difference that continues to resonate in present-day philosophy. The chapter ends by offering some considerations in favor of the most radical line of criticism considered.

Keywords: Descartes; Bernard Williams; Margaret Wilson; mind; body; First Meditation; Second Meditation

Chapter.  12948 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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