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Descartes and CartesianismEssays in Honour of Desmond Clarke$
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Stephen Gaukroger and Catherine Wilson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198779643

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198779643.001.0001

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Descartes’ Mind

Descartes’ Mind

Chapter:
(p.57) 4 Descartes’ Mind
Source:
Descartes and Cartesianism
Author(s):

Galen Strawson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198779643.003.0004

This chapter argues that Descartes identifies the human mind with a stream of thinking or conscious experience. A Cartesian ego is not an immaterial soul-substance that has some kind of substantial being ontologically distinct from its conscious goings-on. It is wholly constituted of conscious goings-on. Consciousness is its very substance, its whole substantial nature—just as extension is (according to Descartes) the whole substantial nature of matter. If this is right, it immediately explains why Descartes claims that consciousness is an essential property of mind, a property it can never lack (this is not an unwarranted extra stipulation on his part—as Locke supposes). The conception of mind as conscious process does, however, face certain difficulties. It is, for example, not clear how conscious goings-on can constitute the categorical ground of the powers of the mind. The chapter considers these difficulties, and proposes that Leibniz might be able to help.

Keywords:   René Descartes, mind, consciousness, Leibniz, conscious goings-on

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