By John G. Cottingham
To confront the philosophical approach of Rene Descartes is to consider a magnificently laid out map of human cognitive endeavour. In following Descartes arguments, the reader is drawn into probably the most primary and not easy matters in all of philosophy. during this dictionary, John Cottingham provides an alphabetied advisor to this such a lot stimulating and widely-studied of philosophers. He examines the most important suggestions and ideas in Cartesian inspiration and areas them within the context either one of the seventeenth-century highbrow weather and of next interpretation. The entries diversity over a large choice of parts together with cosmology, physics, theology, psychology and ethics. The booklet is designed to attract the newcomer to Descartes, no matter if pupil or basic reader, whereas additionally offering precise severe remark and unique textual references for the extra complex reader. additionally incorporated are a normal creation describing Descartes' existence and works, and bibliographic consultant to the Cartesian texts and the mass of interpretative literature on Descartes.
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Extra info for A Descartes Dictionary
The paradigm instances of clear and distinct perception in Descartes' philosophy concern the mind's awareness of the SIMPLE NATURES. Our knowledge both of our own nature as thinking things, and of the nature of extension (in so far as it can be analysed in purely mathematical terms) is based on such clear and distinct perceptions (see AT VII 70- 1 : CSM II 489) . Clarity and distinctness are thus characteristically found in the percep tions of the intellect, rather than in sensory awareness. Despite Descartes' occasional suggestion that a sensation (such as a feeling or pain) can at least be clear (if not distinct) , his standard position is that sensation is an inherently obscure and confused form of awareness (see SENSATION ) .
In the scholastic CERTAINTY 29 terminology which Descartes makes use of here, to possess something 'formally' means to possess it in the literal and strict sense, in accordance with its definition, while to possess something 'eminently' is to possess it in some higher or grander form, in virtue of its enj oyment of a superior degree of perfection. Thus, as Descartes says somewhat enigmatically in the Second Replies: 'Something is said to exist eminent(y in an object when, although it does not exactly correspond to our perception of it, its greatness is such that it can fill the role of that which does so correspond' (AT VII 1 6 1 : CSM I I 1 1 4) .
The celebrated phrase, perhaps the most famous in the whole history of philosophy, occurs first in its French form - je pense done je suis - in Part IV of the Discourse ( 1 637) : 'I noticed, in the course of trying to think that everything was false, that it was necessary that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truth, I am thinking, therefore I exist, was so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I decided that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking' (AT VI 32: CSM I 1 27 ) .