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Early Modern PhilosophyMind, Matter, and Metaphysics$
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Christia Mercer and Eileen O'Neill

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195177602

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195177606.001.0001

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The Second Meditation and Objections to Cartesian Dualism

The Second Meditation and Objections to Cartesian Dualism

(p.24) The Second Meditation and Objections to Cartesian Dualism
Early Modern Philosophy

Michael Ayers

Oxford University Press

In 1978, two books were published that became standard commentaries on Descartes's Meditations. One was Bernard Williams's Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry, the other Margaret Wilson's Descartes. This chapter starts from an issue of interpretation to which both books give some prominence, and which concerns the structure of Descartes' argument for his distinction between mind and body. It suggests that what are presented and can appear as two stages of Descartes's argument in the Second and Sixth Meditations are distinct arguments, although both build on the skeptical argument of the First Meditation and Descartes sees them as related by a certain informal movement of thought. The conclusion of the first plays no formal role in the second, and it is argued that despite some features of the Second Meditation persuasively discussed by Wilson, Descartes does not conflate them. It is shown how these different, but connected, arguments relate to a significant difference among certain classic reactions to Cartesian dualism — a difference that continues to resonate in present-day philosophy. The chapter ends by offering some considerations in favor of the most radical line of criticism considered.

Keywords:   Descartes, Bernard Williams, Margaret Wilson, mind, body, First Meditation, Second Meditation

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