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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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V. Speculation That a Body Exists 105


Chapter V Speculation That a Body Exists Descartes’s narrator suggests that (4) and (5) imply that (6) The power of imagination depends upon some substance other than my mind Understanding why the narrator derives (6) from (4) and (5), as I will show, involves applying Descartes’s views regarding substances to this argument. In particular, Descartes’s views regarding composite substances reveal that the narrator concludes, in (6), that his having the power of imagination implies that he is a composite substance. Cottingham uses this argument as evidence for his interpreting Descartes as a trialist rather than a dualist.1 Citing Descartes’s letters to Elizabeth,2 Cotting- ham claims that Descartes proposes three primitive categories or notions of thing: extension, thought and the union of body and soul. This is despite Des- cartes’s “official” position of only two categories: extension and thought. Des- cartes’s “union” of body and soul has attributes of own, e.g., sensation and imagination, had by neither the soul itself or the body itself, says Cottingham: If sensory experiences and imagination cannot properly be treated either simply as modes of extension or simply as modes of thought, then a separate category seems called for. To pursue the mule analogy a bit further: this hybrid animal may be the re- sult of a union of two or more primitive species; but for all that it has genuine distinct properties of its own which cannot satisfactorily be classified either as equine proper- ties or as asinine properties.3 According to Cottingham, Descartes’s narrator...

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