Garber on Descartes

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Alex Burke
2/13/13
Modern Phil.
MW 2pm
Garber on Descartes: Rejection and Retention

In Daniel Garber’s article, “Descartes against his teachers: The Refutation of Hylomorphism”, the metaphysics of the early scholastics is presented to show the similarities and differences between what Descartes was taught through scholasticism and what he came to refute. Through analysis of the article I will present what Descartes considered to be the central ideas of scholastic metaphysics, as well as show what he chose reject from that doctrine, why he chose to reject it, and what he chose to retain, in the development of Cartesian metaphysics.

The central ideas of the scholastic metaphysics stemmed from Aristotle’s Hylomorphic doctrine, a dualistic body of principles. It was believed that all things were made up of Primary Matter and Substantial Form, together resulting in a complete substance. Primary matter was thought of as a necessary component of all things, something that everything held, but not without the accompaniment of a secondary constituent, Substantial Form. When added to Primary matter, Substantial form gave each object its characteristics, essence, and intrinsic behavior. Each object in the world was thought to have it’s own substantial form, and with that it’s own intention. Descartes also describes what he calls “real quality”, that which is a necessity “by virtue of having Substantial form” (96). This concept of “real qualities” is considered to be “mentalistic” in nature; take heaviness for example, scholastics believed it had “the intention to bear the body toward a particular place” (99), rather then just being “matter in motion” as Descartes believed it to be. Thus, the “real qualities” of substantial forms “explain the characteristic behavior of bodies of various sorts” (99).

Descartes rejections of the scholastic doctrine have been taken from his written passages, split up into what could be considered three separate...
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