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Descartes and CartesianismEssays in Honour of Desmond Clarke$
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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

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Descartes and the Impossibility of a Philosophy of Action

Descartes and the Impossibility of a Philosophy of Action

(p.149) 9 Descartes and the Impossibility of a Philosophy of Action
Descartes and Cartesianism

Alexander Douglas

Oxford University Press

Students of Descartes are typically taught that he faced something called the ‘mind–body interaction problem’: the problem of explaining how, given mind–body dualism, the mind can cause actions in the body and the body can cause sensory impressions in the mind. I argue that Descartes had no need to find an explanation of human action consistent with his dualism. As Descartes’ early follower Johannes de Raey argued, one necessarily stops doing philosophy the moment one begins to think about human action. Dualism is part of a philosophical theory from which the concept of human action is necessarily excluded. I favourably contrast De Raey’s interpretation of Cartesianism with that of other Cartesians, whose views Desmond Clarke has helped us to understand.

Keywords:   René Descartes, Johannes de Raey, Cartesianism, action, mind/body dualism

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