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By Marjorie Glicksman Grene

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Extra resources for Descartes Among the Scholastics (Aquinas Lecture)

Example text

On the contrary, as I have been saying over and over, it is life, the unity of form and matter, that gives us the model to start from if we want to explain the wealth and plurality of nature. Mind must be explained as one remarkable, unique kind of soul, and not, as with Descartes, all of nature explained as a distorted mirroring of mind. Now surely Descartes must have been by far the cleverest pupil that the masters of La Flèche ever had the pleasure of instructing. How can he have misunderstood them so wildly?

Better, we hope, but still ourselves (cf. Hatfield, 1986). The question was, however, how could the two substances of the real distinction form one substance, or, strictly speaking, a substantial unity? The first part of my answer consisted in a Page 36 reaffirmation of the Gilson thesis: this was something Descartes retained from his scholastic education, as he did so much else. Indeed, mind-body unity in this life would have been fundamental to the construction of all three offshoots of his metaphysic, had he lived to develop them.

Page 31 To answer this question, we must try, if only very sketchily and much more monolithically than recent scholarship suggests (see Bibliographical Note) to reconstruct the course of development of Cartesian physics (and metaphysics), and then to elicit from this some oddities of Descartes's concept of substance. Formed, willy nilly, by his teachers' scholastic thought style, the young Descartes, in that famous winter night of 1619, experiences the dream, or the vision, that will govern his intellectual life from that moment on.

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