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Spirits and Clocks: Machine and Organism in Descartes (Hardback)
  • Spirits and Clocks: Machine and Organism in Descartes (Hardback)
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Spirits and Clocks: Machine and Organism in Descartes (Hardback)

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£56.00
Hardback 208 Pages / Published: 07/12/2000
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Although the basis of modern biology is Cartesian, Descartes's theories of biology have been more often ridiculed than studied. Yet, Dennis Des Chene demonstrates, the themes, arguments, and vocabulary of his mechanistic biology pervade the writings of many seventeenth-century authors. In his illuminating account of Cartesian physiology in its historical context, Des Chene focuses on the philosopher's innovative reworking of that field, including the nature of life, the problem of generation, and the concepts of health and illness. Des Chene begins by surveying works that Descartes would likely have encountered, from late Aristotelian theories of the soul to medical literature and treatises on machines. The Cartesian theory of vital operations is examined with particular attention to the generation of animals. Des Chene also considers the role of the machine-model in furnishing a method in physiology, the ambiguities of the notion of machine, and of Descartes's problem of simulation. Finally, he looks at the various kinds of unity of the body, both in itself and in its union with the soul. Spirits and Clocks continues Des Chene's highly regarded exploration-begun in his previous book, Life's Form-of the scholastic and Cartesian sciences as well as the dialogue between these two worldviews.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801437649
Number of pages: 208
Weight: 510 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 18 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Confronted with the thousandth 'entirely new' interpretation of the Cartesian mind-body union, one sometimes wonders whether anything new can in fact be said about the great Descartes. Once again. . . Des Chene proves that a serious historian, with a keen awareness of historical context, actually can."-Cees Leijenhorst, Nijmegen University. Journal of the History of Philosophy, Vol. 40, No. 1, January, 2002
"Des Chene provides insight into. . . . the fashion for, and discussion of, machines in Descartes' time. Descartes himself, of course, was happy to provide some engineering designs for his friend Huygens, and he was enthusiastic about the automata one could observe in action in the gardens of Versailles. But to see his interests in their contemporary setting sheds vivid new light on his fascination with machinery. . . . In short, this is a superb book. . . . Des Chene has here again shown himself in the forefront of contemporary Cartesian scholars."-Marjorie Grene, Virginia Tech University. Philosophy in Review, Vol. XXI, 2001
"Spirits and Clocks fills an important gap in the study of the history of ideas. . . Des Chene has done much to locate the natural philosophies of Descartes and his scholastic contemporaries and predecessors in relationship to Aristotle's work, and he continues to make use of his extraordinary knowledge of these different periods of philosophy. . . . Overall, the book is an excellent piece of scholarship, with particular appeal to historians of ideas."-Amy Mullin, University of Toronto. Journal of Transcendent Philosophy, June 2001
"Treating material of mostly historical interest and intended for a rather specialized audience, the book is very thoroughly researched and admirably written. A valuable addition to the literature."-Choice, Vol. 38, No. 11, July 2001
"Des Chene is a scholar on the work of Rene Descartes and is interested in trying to stimulate scholars to look at a fuller picture of the influences on Descartes. . . Des Chene's book makes a valuable contribution to an already vast literature on Descartes and his contributions to Western thought."-Research News and Opportunities, May 2001, Vol. 1, No. 9
"Spirits and Clocks is the third in a series of magnificent books in which Des Chene explores the relationship between late Scholastic (particularly Jesuit) philosophy and Cartesian thought. . . . The result is a superbly nuanced study of a thinker whose brilliance has often dazzled his modern commentators so much that they have forgotten he was addressing a philosophical tradition out of which many of his own concepts and arguments derived."-Margaret J. Osler, Isis, Vol. 93, No. 1 (2002)
"In Spirits and Clocks, Dennis Des Chene deploys his prior examination of seventeenth-century scholastic (mostly Jesuit) writings so as to prevent Descartes's own projects in biology and philosophical psychology form being interpreted solely in terms of our present interests and debates. Des Chene does this brilliantly by shifting the focus from 'the mind-body problem' to such issues as the principle of life and generation, the unity of body, and the union of mind and body."-Roger Ariew, Virginia Tech
"Spirits and Clocks is an enormously impressive accomplishment. In this book, Dennis Des Chene brings together the history of biology, the history of mechanics and late scholastic philosophy to illuminate the way in which Descartes transformed our understanding of living creatures. It isn't easy to make an original contribution to the literature on Descartes, but Des Chene has done it."-Daniel Garber, University of Chicago

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