Descartes' Deontological Turn

Reason, Will, and Virtue in the Later Writings

Descartes' Deontological Turn

This book offers a new way of approaching the place of the will in Descartes' mature epistemology and ethics. Departing from the widely accepted view, Noa Naaman-Zauderer suggests that Descartes regards the will, rather than the intellect, as the most significant mark of human rationality, both intellectual and practical. Through a close reading of Cartesian texts from the Meditations onward, she brings to light a deontological and non-consequentialist dimension of Descartes' later thinking, which credits the proper use of free will with a constitutive, evaluative role. She shows that the right use of free will, to which Descartes assigns obligatory force, constitutes for him an end in its own right rather than merely a means for attaining any other end, however valuable. Her important study has significant implications for the unity of Descartes' thinking, and for the issue of responsibility, inviting scholars to reassess Descartes' philosophical legacy.


"....excellent new book.... this book is a very significant contribution to Cartesian studies -- a "must read," in my opinion, for faculty or graduate students interested in the topics it addresses.... It exhibits a tight thematic unity despite dealing with a number of different issues.... individual chapters contain many more interesting details and so are worth reading as stand-alone explorations of their specific topics. They are impeccably researched and cogently argued, fully engaging both the primary texts and the relevant secondary literature. According to Naaman-Zauderer, her goal in the book is "to open up a new way of approaching a wide cluster of long-debated issues in Descartes' epistemology and ethics" (6). She not only makes a brilliant effort toward this goal, but achieves it."
--C. P. Ragland, Saint Louis University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"....Noa Naaman-Zauderer’s book aims to bring to light the ethical underpinnings of Descartes’ system.... This book’s uncovering of the deontological aspects of Descartes’ thought represents an original and worthwhile contribution to Cartesian scholarship. It is a rich, tightly argued and carefully researched book that accomplishes its proposed goals of inviting scholars to reconsider Descartes’ views in light of deontological considerations and of opening up fresh avenues and perspectives of inquiry...."
--Andreea Mihali, Wilfrid Laurier University, Philosophy in Review

"...Descartes’ Deontological Turn is a thorough piece of scholarship. The book is well researched and well written. Above all, Naaman-Zauderer has offered us an astute defense of many controversial interpretations of Descartes."
--Eric Stencil, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Journal of the History of Philosophy

"...Noa Naaman-Zauderer's Descartes' Deontological Turn is a well-focused and up-to-date contribution to a set of debates in Cartesian scholarship that reinserts Descartes' epistemological and metaphysical thought in the broader context of his theological and ethical preoccupations."
--Richard Davis, Universita degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy, Review of Metaphysics

"Noa Namann- Zauderer’s Descartes’s Deontological Turn is a brilliant book. It is lucid in explanation and elegantly written, achieving a level of originality and mastery of her subject that significantly reshapes our understanding of central aspects of Cartesian metaphysics and epistemology, as well as ethical theory, to a degree not seen since Margaret Wilson’s Descartes. The book is beautifully produced and edited by Cambridge University Press..."
--Tom Vinci, IYYUN: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly

"...DDT’s thorough presentation of current English-language Descartes scholarship on a wide range of topics and its careful collation of numerous passages relevant to the topics of error, freedom, and ethics should make the book useful to Descartes scholars and especially to graduate students."
--Sean Greenberg, University of California, Irvine, HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science