Descartes's Legacy: Mind and Meaning in Early Modern Philosophy

By David Hausman and Alan Hausman

© 1997

Debates current in the philosophy of mind regarding the gathering and processing of information, and the nature of perception and representation, also animated some of the most important figures in early modern philosophy, among them Descartes, Hume, and Berkeley. The authors of Descartes's Legacy: Minds and Meaning in Early Modern Philosophy use certain problems in contemporary information theory to elucidate the concerns of the early modern philosophers. This critical study attempts to uncover what was once called the logic of the theory of ideas, and to explore the questions it was meant to solve, given the limits of the ontological categories available.

The authors begin their discussion of Descartes by examining his response to established models of perception in light of his understanding of the contemporary new science. Since Descartes proposed that any likeness between representation and the thing represented was unreliable, what was his solution to how an internal representation, an idea, gives us information? The authors' central claim is that Descartes's answer to the problem of how the mind knows matter involves a theory of 'intentional ideas.' This provocative divergence from recent discussions of Descartes's philosophy of mind, which have revolved around whether he is a 'realist' or a 'representationalist,' leads the authors to consider the idealism of Hume and Berkeley in light of Descartes's notion of the intentional. Hume and Berkeley, they maintain, explored alternatives to Descartes's conception, which led them to abandon traditional notions of meaning and truth. Descartes's Legacy concludes by suggesting that Descartes's picture can be reconciled with twentieth-century materialism, and asking whether the philosophy of mind can live without a primitive notion of the intentional.

By shedding light on Descartes's crucial ontological innovation and on Hume's and Berkeley's reactions to it, the authors of Descartes's Legacy have repositioned early modern philosophy within a truly contemporary framework.

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  • Series: Toronto Studies in Philosophy
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 154 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.5in x 9.0in
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  • PUBLISHED DEC 1997

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Quick Overview

The Hausmans wed an intentional theory of ideas with a modern information theoretic approach in a critical tour of some of the most important issues in the philosophy of mind and some of the most outstanding figures in early modern philosophy.

Descartes's Legacy: Mind and Meaning in Early Modern Philosophy

By David Hausman and Alan Hausman

© 1997

Debates current in the philosophy of mind regarding the gathering and processing of information, and the nature of perception and representation, also animated some of the most important figures in early modern philosophy, among them Descartes, Hume, and Berkeley. The authors of Descartes's Legacy: Minds and Meaning in Early Modern Philosophy use certain problems in contemporary information theory to elucidate the concerns of the early modern philosophers. This critical study attempts to uncover what was once called the logic of the theory of ideas, and to explore the questions it was meant to solve, given the limits of the ontological categories available.

The authors begin their discussion of Descartes by examining his response to established models of perception in light of his understanding of the contemporary new science. Since Descartes proposed that any likeness between representation and the thing represented was unreliable, what was his solution to how an internal representation, an idea, gives us information? The authors' central claim is that Descartes's answer to the problem of how the mind knows matter involves a theory of 'intentional ideas.' This provocative divergence from recent discussions of Descartes's philosophy of mind, which have revolved around whether he is a 'realist' or a 'representationalist,' leads the authors to consider the idealism of Hume and Berkeley in light of Descartes's notion of the intentional. Hume and Berkeley, they maintain, explored alternatives to Descartes's conception, which led them to abandon traditional notions of meaning and truth. Descartes's Legacy concludes by suggesting that Descartes's picture can be reconciled with twentieth-century materialism, and asking whether the philosophy of mind can live without a primitive notion of the intentional.

By shedding light on Descartes's crucial ontological innovation and on Hume's and Berkeley's reactions to it, the authors of Descartes's Legacy have repositioned early modern philosophy within a truly contemporary framework.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Toronto Studies in Philosophy
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 154 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.5in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    Alan Hausman is Visiting Professor of Philosophy at City University of New York. He has published many articles relating to the subject of Descartes in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy and the History of Philosophy Quarterly among other journals.



    David Hausman is Professor of Philosophy and Associate Dean of Dedman College, Southern Methodist University. He has published many articles relating to the subject of Descartes in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy and the History of Philosophy Quarterly among other journals.

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