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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 51, Issue 1, March 2011

Gary Steiner
Pages 55-72
DOI: 10.5840/ipq20115115

The Epistemic Status of Medicine in Descartes

Through much of his career, Descartes seems confident that he will be able to place medicine on a solid metaphysical foundation and perhaps even succeed in prolonging human life indefinitely. And yet Descartes never develops medicine as a systematic discipline. His failure to do so is inextricably bound up with his increasing focus on the substantial union of mind and body and his increasing awareness of the ultimate irreducibility of the world of sensory phenomena to clear and distinct insight. To the end, Descartes’s thought exhibits an irreducible tension between mind-body dualism, with its denigration of embodied experience, and a vague anticipation of the limits of dualism and the need to develop a unified conception of embodied experience.