Chapter

Descartes’s Physiology

Emily R. Grosholz

in Cartesian Method and the Problem of Reduction

Published in print January 1991 | ISBN: 9780198242505
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191680502 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242505.003.0007
Descartes’s                         Physiology

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This chapter treats Descartes's physiology based on the Treatise of Man, claiming that his physiology must be read as a materialist epistemology. It turns to Descartes's attempt to reconstruct the even higher-level complex unities, living organisms, in terms of his physics. As in geometry, so here Descartes's most interesting inventions often occur when he violates the structure of his own method. It shows various difficulties which are entailed by such a reductionist model for the acquisition of animal knowledge, as well as the promise and problems of the relationship between physics and biology projected by Descartes.

Keywords: physics; biology; Treatise of Man; physiology; materialist epistemology; animal knowledge

Chapter.  5492 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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