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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 84, Issue 3, Summer 2010

David Scott
Pages 483-512

Resemblance as a Principle of Representation in Descartes’ Philosophy

I argue that Descartes takes true representation by means of concepts (or clear and distinct ideas) to involve resemblance between those concepts and their extra-mental objects. On the basis of analysis of a wide range of important Cartesian texts, I contend we must attribute to Descartes a doctrine of conceptual or intellectual resemblance, according to which ideas or concepts represent objects by resembling them. This doctrine of resemblance entails a further doctrine of property-sharing which, though inherently problematic for Cartesian ontology generally, is nonetheless supported by Descartes’ use of the scholastic distinction between formal and objective reality.

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