Descartes: An Analytic and Historical Introduction (2nd edition)

ISBN : 9780195380323

Georges Dicker
368 Pages
155 x 236 mm
Pub date
Apr 2013
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A solid grasp of the main themes and arguments of the seventeenth-century philosopher Rene Descartes is essential for understanding modern thought, and a necessary entree to the work of the Empiricists and Immanuel Kant. It is also crucial to the study of contemporary epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. This new edition of Georges Dicker's commentary on Descartes's masterpiece, Meditations on First Philosophy, features a new chapter on the Fourth Meditation and improved treatments of the famous cogito ergo sum and the notorious problem of the Cartesian Circle, among numerous other improvements and updates. Clear and accessible, it serves as an introduction to Descartes's ideas for undergraduates and as a sophisticated companion to his Meditations for advanced readers. The volume provides a thorough discussion of several basic issues of epistemology and metaphysics elicited from the main themes and arguments of the Meditations. It also delves into the work's historical background and critical reception. Dicker offers his own assessments of the Cartesian Doubt, the cogito, the causal and ontological proofs of God's existence, Cartesian freedom and theodicy, Cartesian Dualism, and Descartes's views about the existence and nature of the material world. The commentary also incorporates a wealth of recent Descartes scholarship, and inculcates - but does not presuppose - knowledge of the methods of contemporary analytic philosophy.


Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Note on the References and Abbreviations
1. Meditation I and the Method of Doubt
1. Descartes's Goal
2. The Cartesian Doubt
3. Is the Cartesian Doubt Self-Refuting?
3.1 The Deceptiveness of the Senses
3.2 The Dream Argument
3.3 The Deceiver Argument
2. Meditation II: the Cogito and the Self51
1. Descartes's "I am thinking, therefore I exist."
2. The Certainty of One's Own Thoughts
3. A Problem for the Cogito
4. The Substance Theory
5. A Reconstruction of the Cogito based on the substance theory
6. Critical Discussion of the Reconstructed Cogito
6.1 The Substance Theory and the Argument from Change
6.2 The Corollary
6.3 The Assumption That Thoughts Are Properties
6.4 The Inference to "I Exist"
7. A defense of the unreconstructed cogito
8. Does the unreconstructed cogito require an additional premise?
9. Descartes's Conception of the Self
10. Cartesian Dualism
3. Meditation III: The Criterion of Truth and the Existence of God
1. Descartes's Criterion of Truth
2. The Project of Meditation III
3. From the Idea of God to God
3.1 The Nature of Ideas
3.2 Objective Reality and Formal Reality
3.3 The Core Argument
3.4 The Central Argument of Meditation III: the Subargument, the Core Argument, and the Sequel
4. Criticisms of Descartes's Central Argument in Meditation III
4.1 The Subargument
4.1.1 The precontainment principle
4.1.2 Degrees of reality
4.1.3 Justifying the causal maxim
4.2 The Problem of the Cartesian Circle
4.2.1 The restriction of the doubt to past clear and distinct perceptions defense
4.2.2 The general rule defense
4.2.3 The radical doubt of reason and the creation of the eternal truths
4.2.4 The validation of reason
4.3 A Final Criticism of the Core Argument
4. Meditation IV: Error, Freedom, and Evil
1. The issues of the Fourth Meditation
2. Error and the will
3. Two possible objections
3.1 Assenting and deciding to believe
3.2 Irresistibility and freedom
4. The coherence of Cartesian Freedom
5. Descartes's troubling letter to Mesland
6. Error and evil
6.1 The problem of evil
6.2 Cartesian theodicy
6.3 Some critical Reflections
5. Meditation V: The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God
1. Descartes's Ontological Argument
2. Critique of the Ontological Argument
2.1 Gaunilo's Objection
2.2 Kant's Objection
2.3 Further Consideration of Kant's Objection
2.4 Caterus's Objection
3. Some Implications for Descartes's System
6: Meditation VI: Dualism and the Material World
1. The scope of Meditation VI
2. Descartes's Proof of "The Real Distinction" between Mind and Body
3. Descartes's Proof of the Material World
4. Descartes on the Nature of the Material World
4.1 Primary and Secondary Qualities
4.2 Matter, Space, and Solidity
4.3 Bodies as Substances versus Bodies as Modes of Substance
5. Dualism and the Problem of Interaction
6. An Assessment of Cartesian Dualism

About the author: 

Georges Dicker is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. He is the author of Dewey's Theory of Knowing, Perceptual Knowledge: An Analytical and Historical Study, Descartes: An Analytical and Historical Introduction (First edition), Hume's Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Introduction, Kant's Theory of Knowledge: An Analytical Introduction, Berkeley's Idealism: A Critical Examination, and of numerous journal articles.

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