American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 89, Issue 2, Spring 2015

Lynda Gaudemard
Pages 293-308

Disposition and Latent Teleology in Descartes’s Philosophy

Most contemporary metaphysicians think that a teleological approach to mereological composition and the whole-part relation should be ignored because it is an obsolete view of the world. In this paper, I discuss Descartes’s conception of individuation and composition of material objects such as stones, machines, and human bodies. Despite the fact that Descartes officially rejected ends from his philosophy of matter, I argue, against some scholars, that to appeal to the notion of disposition was a way for him to maintain teleological reference within a mechanistic conception of nature. Through a study of Descartes’s texts, I also want to make clear why it might be difficult to entirely ignore teleological notions, when one wants to account for composition and unity of material objects.