Descartes's Changing Mind

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Princeton University Press, Jul 6, 2009 - Philosophy - 272 pages

Descartes's works are often treated as a unified, unchanging whole. But in Descartes's Changing Mind, Peter Machamer and J. E. McGuire argue that the philosopher's views, particularly in natural philosophy, actually change radically between his early and later works--and that any interpretation of Descartes must take account of these changes. The first comprehensive study of the most significant of these shifts, this book also provides a new picture of the development of Cartesian science, epistemology, and metaphysics.

No changes in Descartes's thought are more significant than those that occur between the major works The World (1633) and Principles of Philosophy (1644). Often seen as two versions of the same natural philosophy, these works are in fact profoundly different, containing distinct conceptions of causality and epistemology. Machamer and McGuire trace the implications of these changes and others that follow from them, including Descartes's rejection of the method of abstraction as a means of acquiring knowledge, his insistence on the infinitude of God's power, and his claim that human knowledge is limited to that which enables us to grasp the workings of the world and develop scientific theories.


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CHAPTER ONE From Method to Epistemology and from Metaphysics to the Epistemic Stance
CHAPTER TWO God and Efficient Causation
The Response to His Critics
CHAPTER FOUR BodyBody Causation and the Cartesian World of Matter
CHAPTER FIVE Mind Intuition Innateness and Ideas
The Case of Sensation

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About the author (2009)

Peter Machamer is professor of history and philosophy of science and associate director of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. J. E. McGuire is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh, and a resident fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science.

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