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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 14, Issue 2, July 2013
Cartesian Virtue and Freedom

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Displaying: 1-17 of 17 documents


editor’s introduction
1. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Shoshana Brassfield Cartesian Virtue and Freedom: Introduction
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essays
2. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Kimberly Blessing What’s Done, is Done: Descartes on Resoluteness and Regret
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In René Descartes’ correspondence with Elizabeth (mainly 1645-1647) as well as his Passions of the Soul (1649), Descartes says that regret is appropriate only when agents act irresolutely, regardless of whether or not their actions bring about good states-of-affairs. In this paper I set out to explain what Descartes views as a novel account of virtue: that being virtuous amounts to being resolute. I show how this account of virtue fits into Descartes’ larger world-view, and then examine his belief that a person should not regret resolute misdeeds.
3. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Shoshana Brassfield Descartes and the Danger of Irresolution
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Descartes's approach to practical judgments about what is beneficial or harmful, or what to pursue or avoid, is almost exactly the opposite of his approach to theoretical judgments about the true nature of things. Instead of the cautious skepticism for which Descartes is known, throughout his ethical writings he recommends developing the habit of making firm judgments and resolutely carrying them out, no matter how doubtful and uncertain they may be. Descartes, strikingly, takes irresolution to be the source of remorse and repentance, of vice, and of a weak soul. In order to explain its dangerousness, this essay offers an analysis of irresolution as a failure of the will to determine itself to follow a judgment in the face of ignorance or uncertainty. This analysis connects irresolution to weakness of will and explains why Descartes regards resolution as an essential component of virtue.
4. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Andrew Youpa Descartes’s Virtue Theory
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What is the function of Cartesian virtue within the motivational and cognitive economy of the soul? In this paper I show that Cartesian virtue is a higher-order motivational disposition. Central to the interpretation I defend is Descartes’s view that the will can govern an individual’s attention. An exercise of this capacity, I argue, is a higher-order operation. Because Cartesian virtue is a resolution to focus attention on what reason deems worthy of consideration, it should therefore be understood as a higher-order disposition. To lay the groundwork for this interpretation, I examine Descartes’s theory of motivation. An examination of the sources of Cartesian motivation yields two important points for my reading: (1) that the will is not completely unconstrained in its operations and (2) that there are three sources of motivation: intellectual clarity, the will, and the passions. I show that virtue strengthens the will’s natural disposition toward intellectual clarity, thereby enabling the will to withstand the occasionally harmful sway of the passions. By strengthening the will’s disposition toward clarity, virtue at the same time safeguards the will’s freedom, enables an individual to will what seems best, and, as a result, ensures the individual’s happiness. It carries this out, I contend, insofar as it is a higher-order motivational disposition, a disposition exercised by the person of generosity.
5. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Thomas Lennon Descartes and Pelagianism
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Both in his time, and still now, the name of Descartes has been linked with Pelagianism. Upon close investigation, however, the allegations of Pelagianism and the evidence for them offer very slim pickings. Whether Descartes was a Pelagian is a theological question; the argument here will be that a consideration of Descartes’s claims cited as Pelagian nonetheless promises a better philosophical understanding of his views on the will and other, related matters.After an introduction to Pelagianism (sec.1), the most prominent source nowadays for its connection with Descartes is seen to be Arnauld, the master critic of the period, who as a Jansenist was especially sensitive to any sign of Pelagianism (sec.2). Historically, however, the more important source was the Dutch theologian Revius, whose allegation of it against Descartes ignited a long and widespread controversy (sec.3). Just as Pelagianism might be seen as a “topos in which the Dutch anti-Cartesian literature was concentrated,”1 so a topos for the Pelagian controversy itself might be the biblical text alluded to by Descartes in the fourth Meditation, according to which man is created in the image and likeness of God, most so, according to Descartes, with respect to the will (sec.4). Another way to frame the issue, of particular philosophical interest, then, is the infinity of the Cartesian will, explored more recently by Grimaldi (sec.5). Another recent publication, by Scribano, sets out its origins in a way that shows how complex the Dutch debate really was both in terms of partisanship and philosophical relevance (sec.6). The issues raised by the connection of Descartes to Pelagianism tend to be orthogonal, breeding confusion; so, at the end below, a brief catalogue of the theological views relevant to Descartes’s claims will be given, based on the results of this investigation (sec.7).
6. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Brian Collins Adding Substance to the Debate: Descartes on Freedom of the Will
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It is widely accepted by commentators that Descartes believed in freedom of the will, but it is fiercely debated whether he accepted a libertarian or compatibilist notion of freedom. With this paper I argue that an examination of Descartes’ conception of ‘substance,’ specifically his distinction between divine substance and created substance, is a fruitful source for the debate regarding Descartes on freedom of the will. I argue that the commentators who read Descartes as a libertarian are forced to focus on passages that emphasize the similarity between God and humans. This is problematic because Descartes is clear that there is a nonunivocality between God and humans concerning ‘substance.’ This non-univocality between God and humans puts a strain on the libertarian’s focus. During the course of this argument I examine the passages frequently cited by commentators concerning Cartesian freedom and I make explicit the analogy between Descartes’ view on substance and freedom. The upshot is that Descartes’ considered account of substance is further evidence for the compatibilist reading.
7. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
C.P. Ragland Descartes on Degrees of Freedom: A Close Look at a Key Text
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In an influential article, Anthony Kenny charged that (a) the view of freedom in Descartes’ “1645 letter to Mesland” is incoherent, and (b) that this incoherence was present in Descartes’ thought from the beginning. Against (b), I argue that such incoherence would rather support Gilson’s suspicions that the 1645 letter is dishonest. Against (a), I offer a close reading of the letter, showing that Kenny’s objection seems plausible only if we misconstrue a key ambiguity in the text. I close by defending Descartes against some related worries of my own about the degrees of Cartesian freedom. I conclude that there is really no good reason to deny that Descartes’ view in the 1645 letter is both internally coherent and a genuine explication of the Meditations’ account of freedom.
book reviews
8. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Robert Bishop Review of After Physicalism, ed. Benedikt Göcke
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9. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Peter Denton Review of Communication and Creative Democracy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, ed. Omar Swartz
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10. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Robert Doede Review of Plato’s Camera: How the Physical Brain Captures a Landscape of Abstract Universals, by Paul M. Churchland
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11. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Jonathan Trigg Review of Varieties of Presence, by Alva Nöe
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12. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
William Simkulet Review of In Praise of Reason, by Michael P. Lynch
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13. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Benjamin W. Jarvis Review of Truth, by Alexis G. Burgess and John P. Burgess
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14. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Steven Ross Review of Justice for Hedgehogs, by Ronald Dworkin
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15. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Maximiliano E. Korstanje Review of The Lucifer Effect. Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Phillip Zimbardo
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16. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Maximiliano E. Korstanje Review of Methanastasis, by Eduardo Saguier & Joaquin Meabe
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17. Essays in Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 2
Zachary Thomas Settle Review of Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, by Francois Dossee
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