Sunday, May 12, 2013

Quote of the Day

I highly recommend Alison Simmons’ scholarly work on Descartes and his philosophy of mind, particularly perception and representation (she also has some great work on Leibniz).  Here is a nice passage on the place of consciousness in Descartes’ account of the nature of mind:
“Those of us who teach Descartes to undergraduates get an uncomfort­able feeling when we tell our students that all Cartesian thought is conscious. As I indicated at the start, the trouble comes not from post-Freudian sensibilities or from knowledge of the latest experimental work in cognitive and social psychology. It doesn’t come from stan­dard philosophical worries about memories and standing beliefs or even from a gut suspicion that this just has to be wrong. The worry comes from knowing full well that Descartes himself introduces all sorts of thoughts into the Cartesian mind that seem by his own lights not to be conscious. How could the champion of the conscious mark introduce so many apparently unconscious thoughts into the mind?” -Simmons, “Cartesian Consciousness Reconsidered,” Philosopher’s Imprint, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1-21 (January 2012), at 8.
Hint: perhaps Descartes provided a much more nuanced view of consciousness and the mind than textbook accounts attribute to him.  Perhaps in the rush to set forth the “Cartesian Mind” in order to brush it aside, many attribute to Descartes a conception of consciousness that he did not hold.

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