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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 Theory of Natural Knowledge

The Theory of Natural Knowledge

(p.156) Six The Theory of Natural Knowledge
Cartesian Truth

Thomas C. Vinci (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Cartesian epistemology comprises three main divisions: (1) an a priori theory, discussed in Chs. 1–3, (2) a psychological theory of error explanations in judgment induced by features of our sense experience discussed in Chs. 4, 5 and 7, and (3) a theory of natural reasons (natural knowledge), discussed here. The theory of natural reasons, based on Descartes's notion of natural inclinations (natural propensities), is expressed here in terms of a series of warrant principles of which there are two main kinds: those that warrant action (reasons of goodness) and those that warrant claims for what is true (reasons of truth). This chapter traces Descartes's epistemically ambivalent attitude to cognitive dispositions from the early treatment in the Rules for the Direction of the Mind through to the final treatment in The Passions of the Soul. The chapter focuses special attention on the appearance of one kind of natural reason, reasons of truth, in the proof of the external world in Meditation VI and the striking absence of same in the proof of the external world in the Principles of Philosophy II. The chapter also considers whether natural reasons apply to particular aspects of corporeal things, concluding with a discussion of the Cartesian Circle.

Keywords:   Cartesian Circle, Cartesian epistemology, cognitive dispositions, Descartes, external world, Meditations, natural inclination, natural knowledge, natural reasons, Passions of the Soul, Principles of Philosophy, Rules for the Direction of the Mind

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