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Res Philosophica

Volume 91, Issue 1, January 2014

Modern Philosophy

Dan Kaufman
Pages 71-102

Cartesian Substances, Individual Bodies, and Corruptibility

According to the Monist Interpretation of Descartes, there is really only one corporeal substance—the entire extended plenum. Evidence for this interpretation seems to be provided by Descartes in the Synopsis of the Meditations, where he claims that all substances are incorruptible. Finite bodies, being corruptible, would then fail to be substances. On the other hand, ‘body, taken in the general sense,’ being incorruptible, would be a corporeal substance. In this paper, I defend a Pluralist Interpretation of Descartes, according to which there are many corporeal substances. In particular, I show that none of the claims in the Synopsis about incorruptibility and substance entail either that finite bodies are not substances, or that the only corporeal substance is the entire plenum.