Our Debt to Descartes

Barry Stroud

in Philosophers Past and Present

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608591
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729621 | DOI:
Our Debt to Descartes

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A full account of Descartes' philosophical legacy would touch on almost everything that has happened in philosophy since his time. But no treatment, however selective, could ignore Descartes' posing the general epistemological problem of our knowledge of the external world. Deeply implicated within that problem is a dualistic conception of the mind in relation to the rest of the world. In one form or another dualism remains at the centre of current controversy in the philosophy of mind. Descartes' defence of his dualism started from the distinctive character of the thought ‘Cogito’. This chapter draws attention to some applications of that Cartesian idea not explicitly envisaged by Descartes. Some of its implications are at work in the philosophy of Kant, and others in more recent philosophical accounts of direct reference, especially of indexical terms. Both ways of exploiting the special character of ‘Cogito’-like thoughts appear to offer the prospect of thoroughly anti-Cartesian pictures of the mind and its relation to the world. But even such an outcome, arrived at in those ways, would be part of our still-growing debt to Descartes.

Keywords: Cartesianism; Kant; Cogito; mind; Descartes; external world; dualism

Chapter.  7676 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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