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Title: Monstrosity and the limits of the intellect : Philosophy as Teratomachy in Descartes
Authors: Del Lucchese, F
Keywords: Monstrosities;Mechanistic philosophy;Descartes
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy
Citation: Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy – Revue de la philosophie française et de langue française, 2011, 19 pp. 107 - 134
Abstract: For Descartes, nature must be interpreted through the formulation of a limited number of simple laws used to describe the complex multiplicity of the real, focusing on the rule and normality rather than on the exception and monstrosity. Nevertheless, monstrosity has a vital theoretical function in Descartes' philosophy, and it resurfaces continually in his system. In the first part of this article, I analyze the main figures of monstrosity in Cartesian philosophy. By offering a new reading of the evil genius and the deceiver God in terms of absolute monstrosity, I intend to demonstrate the novel role played by the will in this philosophical ‘teratomachy’. In the second part of this article, examining the peculiar status Admiration occupies in the economy of the passions, I analyze a passage from the Cogitationes circa generatione animalium, the only text in which Descartes explicitly discusses physical monstrosities. I argue that these pages, in which Descartes subscribes to a rigidly mechanistic, epigenetic view of embryology, are in tension with other parts of his work, especially with the doctrine of final causes and the idea of continuous creation. The theme of monstrosity is thus revealed as a tool for assessing the internal coherence of Cartesian thought. My theory is that the entire philosophy of Descartes can be read as a veritable war against a certain idea of monstrosity.
ISSN: 2155-1162
Appears in Collections:Dept of Politics, History and Law Research Papers

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