American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 93, Issue 4, Fall 2019

Frans Svensson
Pages 701-721

Descartes on the Highest Good
Concepts and Conceptions

What is the highest good? In the ethics of René Descartes, we can distinguish between at least seven different answers to this question: (a) God; (b) the sum of all the different goods that “we either possess . . . or have the power to acquire” (CSMK, 324/AT 5, 82); (c) free will; (d) virtue; (e) love of God; (f) wisdom; and (g) supernatural beatitude. In this paper, I argue that each of these answers, in Descartes’s view, provides the correct particular conception, relative to a distinct sense or concept of the highest good. Just as there are seven different conceptions of the highest good, according to Descartes, there are thus also seven different senses or concepts of the highest good.