Descartes on What "Truly Belongs" to Us

The Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series (2):26-46 (2021)
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Abstract

In recent literature commentators have challenged the standard interpretation that the Cartesian Self is a res cogitans. Various modifications have been proposed: the will should be regarded as an essential feature of thought as well (not just the intellect), and even the body – in some sense – belongs to the Cartesian Self. While these modifications are important, commentators have neglected Descartes’ wholly different conception of the Self in the Passions of the Soul. In his definition of generosity, Descartes claims that the Cartesian Self is a res volans: the only thing that truly belongs to the generous person is her free will. I aim to unpack what Descartes means in the “truly belongs” locution (TBL), ultimately arguing for what I call the weak essentialist reading. Descartes’ grounds for claiming that free will truly belongs to the Cartesian Self is that free will constitutes the activity – not passivity – of the mind. And that is the most important property in the essence of a mental substance.

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Saja Parvizian
University of Illinois, Chicago (PhD)

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