Volume 84, Issue 3, Summer 2010
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.