Descartes on Forms and Mechanisms
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)
Descartes’s Changing Mind
Peter Machamer and J. E. McGuire
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009)
This chapter is a critical review of two recently published works on Descartes: Helen Hattab’s Descartes on Forms and Mechanisms and Peter Machamer and J.E. McGuire’s Descartes’s Changing Mind. Both works reflect the recent trend in Descartes scholarship to focus on Descartes’s writings on natural philosophy and to emphasize developments in these writings over time. The discussion of Hattab considers her central claim that whereas in his earlier writings Descartes offered an argument against the material substantial forms of the scholastics that is grounded in his mechanics, during the 1640s he settled instead on a metaphysical argument against such forms that reflects the influence of the Dutch atomist Gorlaeus. The discussion of Machacher and McGuire considers their central claim that Descartes’s account both of causation in the physical world and of the epistemic status of our claims about this world underwent a radical shift around the time of the Meditations.
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