AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

A Unificationist Reading of Descartes' Meditations

by Rebecca Cingi

Institution: University of Helsinki
Year: 2015
Keywords: Käytännöllinen filosofia
Record ID: 1134584
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/153759


The thesis proposes an interpretative reading of René Descartes’ work Meditations on First Philosophy. This reading is called the unificationist reading and it is contrasted with a tradition of reading The Meditations with an epistemological attitude. These opposing views are called the justificationist reading based on their emphasis on justifications of beliefs. The unificationist reading instead emphasizes a metaphysical approach to The Meditations and is based on Joseph Almog’s reading of Descartes. The reading aims to unify those parts of Descartes’ theory that would in the justificationist tradition lead to strict dualisms and distinctions inside the theory. Almog has presented his reading of Descartes in a series of lecture courses held in Helsinki in 2013. In addition to these courses, class notes, class meetings and correspondence, Edwin Curley’s and John Carriero’s substantial works on Descartes’ are used to present the unificationist view. Interpretation of The Mediations with the help of these works is the main method for contrasting the unificationist and the justificationist view. The benefits of abandoning the epistemological attitude and the justificationist view are shown in the cases of the unity of man and of God. The justificationist reading leads to a strict dualism of mind and body as separate entities whereas the adoption of the unificationist view enables Descartes’ idea of men to be units of one (substance). It is shown that Descartes in fact seems to support a unified concept of men and his metaphysical distinction of mind and body does not seem to apply in the case of men. Furthermore, Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God seem circular or vague when considered within the justificationist tradition. The so-called ontological argument is taken under consideration and shown how it can be interpreted differently within the unificationist reading. The unificationist reading gives God the greatest importance in Descartes’ theory whereas the justificationist tradition sometimes denies God having any or only little importance in The Meditations and this is shown to adduce several issues. It is shown how adopting the unificationist view Descartes’ philosophy appears its integral entirety. The unificationist view leads to a global theory of existence instead of a scattered collection of justified beliefs concerning existence.