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Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Volume VIII$
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Daniel Garber and Donald Rutherford

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198829294

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198829294.001.0001

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Descartes on the Ethical Reliability of the Passions: A Morean Reading

Descartes on the Ethical Reliability of the Passions: A Morean Reading

Chapter:
(p.39) 2 Descartes on the Ethical Reliability of the Passions: A Morean Reading
Source:
Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Volume VIII
Author(s):

Matthew J. Kisner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198829294.003.0002

This chapter considers Descartes’s view on whether the passions are ethically reliable in the sense of informing us of the value of things with respect to the ethical ends of virtue and happiness. The answer to this question is unclear, first, because the passions could not inform us in this way unless they were contentful mental states, which has been a contested issue. Secondly, even if the passions are contentful, it is not clear that Descartes regarded their contents as ethically reliable. Descartes often claimed that the passions are only reliable guides to animalistic aims and bodily survival. The chapter draws on Henry More’s reading of Descartes to show that Descartes did regard the passions as ethically reliable, with some qualifications. The chapter also shows that Descartes was a likely influence on More’s boniform faculty and, by extension, on the tradition of moral sentimentalism.

Keywords:   Descartes, Henry More, passions, emotions, ethics, virtue, Cambridge Platonism

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