Cover of Res Philosophica
>> Go to Current Issue

Res Philosophica

Volume 92, Issue 1, January 2015
The 11th Robert J. Henle Conference

Table of Contents

Already a subscriber? - Login here
Not yet a subscriber? - Subscribe here

Displaying: 1-6 of 6 documents

1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Daniel Garber Descartes among the Novatores
abstract | view |  rights & permissions | cited by
In the Discours de la méthode, Descartes presents himself as a heroic figure, standing up against the current Aristotelian orthodoxy in philosophy, and offering something new, a mechanist physics and the metaphysics to go along with it. But Descartes was by no means the only challenger to Aristotelian natural philosophy: by Descartes’s day, there were many. Descartes was read as one of this group, generally called the novatores (innovators) in Latin, and often severely criticized for their advocacy of the new. Descartes himself wanted to separate his philosophy from that of the novatores, who were thought to seek novelty rather than truth. But it was not so easy to distance himself. Many contemporary commentators, like Charles Sorel, put Descartes squarely in their camp, but at exactly the moment when novelty and innovation in natural philosophy was changing from being worthy of scorn to being praiseworthy.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Tad M. Schmaltz The Metaphysics of Rest in Descartes and Malebranche
abstract | view |  rights & permissions | cited by
I consider a somewhat obscure but important feature of Descartes’s physics that concerns the notion of the “force of rest.” Contrary to a prominent occasionalist interpretation of Descartes’s physics, I argue that Descartes himself attributes real forces to resting bodies. I also take his account of rest to conflict with the view that God conserves the world by “re-creating” it anew at each moment. I turn next to the role of rest in Malebranche. Malebranche takes Descartes to endorse his own occasionalist version of physics. However, he nonetheless rejects Descartes’s account of rest by appealing to the fact that whereas God’s production of motion requires a power beyond the mere power to create, his production of rest requires only the latter power. It turns out that this argument in Malebranche is incompatible with the sort of “re-creationist” account of divine conservation that he is widely thought to have inherited from Descartes.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Lisa Shapiro Memory in the Meditations
abstract | view |  rights & permissions | cited by
This paper considers just how memory works throughout the Meditations to adduce Descartes’s conception of memory. Examining the meditator’s memory at work raises some questions about the nature of Cartesian memory and its epistemic role. What is the distinction between remembering and repeating a thought? If remembering is not simply repeating a thought, then what is involved in properly remembering? Can we remember properly while adding or shifting content, say, in virtue of articulating relations between ideas? If so, what is the relation between remembering and reasoning, since both would then involve relations of ideas? These questions become salient in considering the meditator’s creative recollections in the Third and especially the Sixth Meditations. After briefly considering what Descartes does say about memory, I consider two other strategies for addressing those questions: an analogy with innate ideas, and attending to the role that other thinkers play in one’s own recollections.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Lex Newman Attention, Voluntarism, and Liberty in Descartes's Account of Judgment
abstract | view |  rights & permissions | cited by
This essay addresses two main aspects of Descartes’s views on the mind’s voluntary control over judgment. First, I argue that in his view, the mind’s control over judgment is indirect: rather than believing things directly at will, the mind’s voluntary control is exercised by directing its attention to reasons—the reasons then doing the work of determining either assent, dissent, or suspension. Second, I argue that the foregoing indirect voluntarism account undermines an influential line of argument purporting to show that Descartes holds a compatibilist account of the mind’s liberty in its judgment formation. On the broader interpretation that emerges, Descartes assigns a more significant role to attention in proper judgment formation than has generally been acknowledged.
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Deborah Brown Animal Automatism and Machine Intelligence
abstract | view |  rights & permissions | cited by
Descartes’s uncompromising rejection of the possibility of animal intelligence was among his most controversial theses. That rejection is based on (1) his commitment to the doctrine of animal automatism and (2) two tests that he takes to be sufficient indicators of thought (the action and language tests). Of these two tests, only the language test is truly definitive, and Descartes is firmly of the view that no animal could demonstrate the capacity to use signs to convey meaning in “all the circumstances of life.” The topic is fascinating for forcing us to ponder what exactly reason is for Descartes and the role it plays in everyday life. This article explores the tensions in Descartes’s arguments produced by an over reliance on the analogy between animals and clocks, including the question of what to make of Descartes’s recognition of the need to posit representational and information-processing subsystems in the brain.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 1
Gary Hatfield Natural Geometry in Descartes and Kepler
abstract | view |  rights & permissions | cited by
According to Kepler and Descartes, the geometry of the triangle formed by the two eyes when focused on a single point affords perception of the distance to that point. Kepler characterized the processes involved as associative learning. Descartes described the processes as a “natural geometry.” Many interpreters have Descartes holding that perceivers calculate the distance to the focal point using angle-side-angle, calculations that are reduced to unnoticed mental habits in adult vision. This article offers a purely psychophysiological interpretation of Descartes’s natural geometry. In his account of perceived limb position from the Treatise on Man, he envisioned a central brain state that controls ocular convergence (and accommodation) and thereby co-varies with the distance from observer to object. A psychophysiological law relates the visual perception of distance to this brain state. Descartes also invokes more traditional theories of distance and size perception based on unnoticed judgments, yielding a hybrid account.