Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes’s Meditations

Journal of the History of Philosophy 48 (1):pp. 104-105 (2009)
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In his Between Two Worlds: A Reading of Descartes’s Meditations, John Carriero presents a sustained and sensitive interpretation of this seminal work of modern philosophy. The two worlds of the title are the worlds of Scholastic philosophy on the one side, and of the mechanical philosophy on the other, and it is Carriero’s argument that the Meditations are most helpfully understood against the background of Thomistic Scholasticism. In particular, Carriero shows that there is a deep difference between St. Thomas and Descartes, first, concerning philosophical theology and the nature and possibility of our cognition of the divine essence, and second, concerning the nature of human cognition. What Carriero is ultimately trying to argue against is a picture of Descartes according to which he is fundamentally engaged in an anti-skeptical project and at the same time responsible for a crass and superficial form of dualism.While the book is organized simply, with one chapter devoted to each of the Descartes’s six Meditations, it is philosophically very rich and will reward careful study. Indeed, it is rare for a book to be devoted to such a close reading of a single text at this high level. Certainly, there are many “Introductions” for undergraduates, but few works written for advanced graduate students and professional philosophers cover a text so closely and so subtly. Carriero’s book demonstrates the virtues of this kind of text-immanent



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Brandon Look
University of Kentucky

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