Journal Article

Descartes, Corpuscles and Reductionism: Mechanism and Systems in Descartes' Physiology

Barnaby R. Hutchins

in The Philosophical Quarterly

Published on behalf of Scots Philosophical Association and the University of St. Andrews

Volume 65, issue 261, pages 669-689
Published in print October 2015 | ISSN: 0031-8094
Published online May 2015 | e-ISSN: 1467-9213 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pq/pqv042
Descartes, Corpuscles and Reductionism: Mechanism and Systems in Descartes' Physiology

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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. 

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