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john cottingham

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


The name given to the philosophical movement inaugurated by Rene D escartes (after ‘Cartesius’, the Latin version of his name). The main features of Cartesianism are (1) the use of methodical doubt as a tool for testing beliefs and reaching certainty; (2) a metaphysical system which starts from the subject's indubitable awareness of his own existence; (3) a theory of ‘clear and distinct ideas’ based on the innate concepts and propositions implanted in the soul by God (these include the ideas of mathematics, which Descartes takes to be the fundamental building blocks of science); (4) the theory now known as ‘dualism’ – that there are two fundamentally incompatible kinds of substance in the universe, mind (or thinking substance) and matter (or extended substance). A corollary of this last theory is that human beings are radically heterogeneous beings, composed of an unextended, immaterial consciousness united to a piece of purely physical machinery – the body. Another key element in Cartesian dualism is the claim that the mind has perfect and transparent awareness of its own nature or essence. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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