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Descartes’s Dreams

Imagination in the "Meditations</I>


Ann Scholl

Ann Scholl revises the traditional understanding of the role of imagination and sensory perception in Descartes’s Meditations. Traditionally, Cartesian scholars have focused primarily on sensory perception as the more significant of the two «special» modes of thought. In this work, Ann Scholl describes how a better understanding of Descartes’s skepticism and his arguments for dualism are reached when imagination instead is understood as the more primary of the two special modes of thought. The result is a fresh reading and interpretation of Descartes’s most influential work.


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II. Psychophysiology of Imagination 27


Chapter II Psychophysiology of Imagination Descartes’s theory of the process of imagination is, in many respects, like his theory of the process of second-grade sensory perception. How Descartes con- ceives of imaginary states as intentional states having extramental corporeal substances as their objects is demonstrated in this chapter. The phenomenal con- tent of imaginary states, Descartes suggests, is about and is caused by these ex- tramental corporeal substances. As with my interpretation of his theory of the psychophysiology of second-grade sensory perception, I claim that Descartes explains the physiology of imagination in crude, mechanistic terms. Also shown is that he conceives of the object of imagination as an extramental, fully corpo- real cerebral substance that is sufficiently malleable to represent actual or fic- tional corporeal substances. Finally, I will argue that, unlike his categorization of second-grade sensory states, Descartes claims that, in addition to being about the objects of imagination, phenomenal states of imagination are also about the corporeal substances represented by the objects of imagination. The Objects of Imagination What immediately follows is an interpretation of Descartes’s claims regard- ing the objects of imagination. Specifically argued is that Descartes views the objects of imagination as extramental, fully corporeal cerebral semblances. While defending this interpretation, explanations of how his conception of imaginary objects differs from that of his Scholastic teachers is also offered. I also provide an account of Descartes’s more general explanation of how these objects form.1 Descartes provides at least two arguments for his claim that imaginary ob-...

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