New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer

New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer

New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer

New Studies in the Philosophy of Descartes: Descartes as Pioneer

Excerpt

My Studies in the Cartesian Philosophy, published in 1902, was a prentice-work; and when a reprint was called for some years later, I was unwilling it should be reissued save after a more radical revision than I then had the leisure to make. As I now recognise, this forced delay has been a blessing in disguise. Any rewriting I could then have done would have been of a temporary, make-shift character, since I could not then have been aided, as I now am, by the many valuable publications, bearing on Descartes, which have appeared in the course of the past five decades.

In this notable revival of interest in Descartes there have been two outstanding dates: 1910, the year in which the completion of the Adam and Tannery edition of Descartes' works first made conveniently available the whole body of his surviving correspondence and writings, including those discovered in Holland a few years previously; and 1913, the year in whichGilson La Liberté chez Descartes et la théologie opened what it is no exaggeration to describe as being a new era in the understanding of Descartes, followed up, as it has been, by Gilson's further writings, and by the co-operative labours of other devoted scholars.

This renewal of Cartesian studies is, however, still under way. There is as yet no general agreement as to the fundamentals of Descartes' teaching. What has been achieved is a more adequate appreciation of how well aware he came to be of the difficulties to be overcome, and how tenaciously, honestly and candidly he wrestled with these difficulties; and how, as the years passed, he dissociated himself, ever more definitely, from several of the positions to which he had at first inclined -- from the occasionalism retained and developed by Malebranche and Geulincx, from the parallelism made more precise by Spinoza, and from the type of rationalism held to, and further elaborated, by Leibniz --

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