Descartes and the Passionate Mind


Descartes is often accused of having fragmented the human being into two independent substances, mind and body, with no clear strategy for explaining the apparent unity of human experience. Deborah Brown argues that, contrary to this view, Descartes did in fact have a conception of a single, integrated human being, and that in his view this conception is crucial to the success of human beings as rational and moral agents and as practitioners of science. The passions are pivotal in this, and in a rich and wide-ranging discussion she examines Descartes' place in the tradition of thought about the passions, the metaphysics of actions and passions, sensory representation, and Descartes' account of self-mastery and virtue. Her study is an important and original reading not only of Descartes' account of mind-body unity but also of his theory of mind.


 Reviews:

"Brown's book is historically and philosophically rich and provocative. Her discussion in chapters 3-5 deftly illustrates the way in which attention to the Passions helps to shed a new light on long-standing questions in the interpretation of Descartes, and she also elaborates a challenging approach to understanding the Passions as a whole. Descartes scholars, philosophers interested in early modern conceptions of the passions, and philosophers interested in the history of theories of the passions will all profit from engaging with Brown's book."
- Sean Greenberg, University of California, Irvine


"...Brown's overall recommendation with Descartes and the Passionate Mind is that interpretation of Descartes' Philosophy of mind should be re-conceived in the light of those writings, such as the passions, that discuss the experience of being a unified body and mind..."
-James G. Snyder, Hunter College, CUNY, Philosophical Inquiry


".... Brown's book is a welcome shot across the bow of numerous (mis)readings of Descartes, particularly those that assume that the 'Cartesian' theory of mind supposedly advanced by the second installment of the Meditations on First Philosophy represents a fully realized conception of the human person and human lived experience. I applaud this entry into a field that is not crowded enough; Brown's work is apropos, historically informed and philosophically ingenious. It's also full of delightful asides that I wish I had written myself, such as the description of the pedagogy driving many detractors to continue 'to feed Descartes to our children' as akin to 'that of the conscientious parent whose idea of moral instruction is a family outing at a public flogging'."
-Amy M. Schmitter, University of Alberta, Canadian Journal of Philosophy


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