I argue that Descartes explains physiology in terms of whole systems, and not in terms of the size, shape and motion of tiny corpuscles (corpuscular mechanics). It is a standard, entrenched view that Descartes’ proper means of explanation in the natural world is through strict reduction to corpuscular mechanics. This view is bolstered by a handful of corpuscular–mechanical explanations in Descartes’ physics, which have been taken to be representative of his treatment of all natural phenomena. However, Descartes’ explanations of the ‘principal parts’ of physiology do not follow the...
Keywords: Descartes; mechanism; reductionism; systematicity
Journal Article. 9492 words.
Full text: subscription required