Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Descartes and CartesianismEssays in Honour of Desmond Clarke$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Stephen Gaukroger and Catherine Wilson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779643

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198779643.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 October 2020

Did Descartes Teach a ‘Philosophy of Science’ or Implement ‘Strategies of Natural Philosophical Explanation’?

Did Descartes Teach a ‘Philosophy of Science’ or Implement ‘Strategies of Natural Philosophical Explanation’?

(p.3) 1 Did Descartes Teach a ‘Philosophy of Science’ or Implement ‘Strategies of Natural Philosophical Explanation’?
Descartes and Cartesianism

John Schuster

Oxford University Press

Desmond Clarke’s 1977 paper, ‘Descartes’ Use of Demonstration and Deduction’, elucidated the conjoint roles of empirical evidence and metaphysical constraint in Descartes’ construction of scientific explanations. This was a major step forward in understanding Cartesian science, but it focused on examples of single explanations in isolation, rather than exploring how such one-off instances of explanation relate to each other across ranges of differing explananda. I argue that Descartes’ systematic natural philosophizing aimed precisely at producing detailed explanations of ranges of new and old facts, and the ‘systematization’ of the resulting suite of explanations into interrelated sets. Accordingly, this chapter proposes a ‘post-Clarkean’ model of how explanation worked across Descartes’ natural-philosophical system. The model also brings to light certain inherent limitations and tensions involved in such system building; that is, it explains why Descartes’ system of natural philosophy could never realize the rhetorical claims about systematic unity made its favour.

Keywords:   Descartes, René, natural philosophy, Cartesian science, Cartesian system, Cartesian optics

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .