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Cartesian Truth$
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Thomas C. Vinci

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780195113297

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195113292.001.0001

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The Perceptual Representation of Ordinary Objects

The Perceptual Representation of Ordinary Objects

Chapter:
(p.139) Five The Perceptual Representation of Ordinary Objects
Source:
Cartesian Truth
Author(s):

Thomas C. Vinci (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0195113292.003.0006

How can a Cartesian idea represent ordinary physical objects? One possibility is that Descartes holds a theory of natural signs according to which ideas, including sensations (ideas of secondary qualities), represent states of the external world that are correlated with them. I deny that Descartes has a theory of natural signs in this sense, arguing, instead, that our perception of ordinary physical objects is achieved not through ideas, properly speaking, but through a special act of the mind (discussed in The Passions of the Soul I as ”referred sensations”) which projects (”refers”) its sensations onto objects in the external world, objects truly represented by ideas of primary qualities alone. This ”projection” comprises referral judgments that account for the characteristic phenomenology of experience of the physical world but in a way that misleads us (provides ”material for error”) to think that our ideas bear a resemblance to the underlying metaphysical reality of the physical world. Other issues discussed include Descartes's taxonomy of ideas (classification).

Keywords:   Descartes, material for error, natural signs, objects, Passions of the Soul, phenomenology, referral judgments, referred sensations, representation, resemblance, secondary qualities, taxonomy of ideas

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