The Metaphysics of Descartes [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 20 (2):362-362 (1966)
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An ambitious work that attempts to rethink the Meditations with Descartes. Beginning with a thorough discussion of the meaning of method in the Meditations and its role in Descartes' philosophy as a whole, Beck has written a detailed and scholarly work that tries to be as sympathetic as one can perhaps be to the Cartesian enterprise. Beck defends Descartes against criticisms made primarily by his contemporaries rather than by more recent philosophers, although these latter are given some acknowledgement. The book can be read most profitably conjointly with the Meditations themselves, and like most commentaries, tends to become somewhat dense when read apart from its specific subject matter. Beck's most illuminating comments concern the significance of the order of the proofs for God and hence Descartes' own understanding of the ontological argument, and the perspective in which Descartes himself viewed the "mind-body" problem. Drawing heavily on Descartes' personal letters for the clarification of his philosophy, the book is undoubtedly an important contribution to an understanding of the contemporary relevance of Descartes when read on his own terms instead of from the point of view of a particular philosophic school.—L. W.



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