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New Essays on the Rationalists$
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Rocco J. Gennaro and Charles Huenemann

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195165418

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195165411.001.0001

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Space and Subtle Matter in Descartes's Metaphysics

Space and Subtle Matter in Descartes's Metaphysics

(p.3) 1 Space and Subtle Matter in Descartes's Metaphysics
New Essays on the Rationalists

Jonathan Bennett

Oxford University Press

Descartes rightly attacked the idea of space as extended nothing, but in inferring that space is an extended something, a substance, he overlooked the possibility that it is instead a system of relations (as Leibniz held). Even if it is a substance, it does not follow – as Descartes implied that it does – that “space” and “matter” are synonymous. It might instead be (1) that space is a substantial container, portions of which can be colocated with bodies or (2) that space is a substantial separator, portions of which flow into all locations where there are no bodies.

Keywords:   body, Jonathan Bennett, Descartes, extension, space, substance, subtle matter, vacuum

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