Descartes on knowing and experiencing the self

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Philosophy, School of Social Sciences and Humanities

In this paper I argue that, for Descartes, knowing the mind is crucial for the possibility of transitioning from a passive state of being to a self-determined stance. The theoretical study of the mind here becomes important insofar in that it teaches us a specific use of the mind through which we can detect ourselves experientially. This form of knowledge not only gives us a correct understanding of what the mind is, but also helps us to clarify what it means to be a union of body and mind that can act while being acted upon. Importantly, knowing oneself in this experiential way is not only indispensible for the ability to perceive the truth (in the sciences or elsewhere), but also for the chance to develop a conduct of life marked by happiness and virtue.

Learning to use one's mind through an engagement with the sceptical arguments of the Meditations thus turns out to possess a genuinely moral dimension. This dimension completes the epistemological agenda of this work, by showing that, for Descartes, the reality of our lives as embodied passionate creatures has to be taken very seriously. For it is this reality that constitutes the frame of reference, from which we reach out and to which we always return, in our cognitive, scientific and moral engagements with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Lisätietoja

Lisätiedot:
Professori Arto Laitinen
arto.laitinen@uta.fi
puh. 050 318 7018