By Hanoch Ben-Yami
Ben-Yami indicates how the know-how of Descartes' time shapes his belief of lifestyles, soul and mind-body dualism; how Descartes' analytic geometry is helping him advance his progressive perception of illustration with out resemblance; and the way those principles mix to form his new and influential concept of perception.
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Additional info for Descartes' Philosophical Revolution: A Reassessment
It thus seems safe to ascribe also to the Stoics the position that representation in perception must be by means of resemblance. In The City of God Augustine discusses our perception of colour, sound, smell, softness and hardness. We perceive all these by means of a bodily sense, he writes, and he adds (emphasis added): We perceive colours, for example, by seeing, sounds by hearing, smells by smelling, tastes by tasting, hard and soft objects by touching; and in all these cases it is the images resembling the sensible objects, but not the corporeal objects themselves, which we perceive in the mind and retain in memory, and which excite us to desire the objects.
I shall now examine the way Descartes justifies in his writings the first six claims. These claims, as we shall shortly see, are interdependent. The key one among them, in the sense that the others follow from it given some additional independent Cartesian assumptions, is the third, namely, that colour in seen things does not resemble the idea of colour in our mind. 19 The claim that bodies do not contain anything similar to the idea of colour in our mind follows from Descartes’ conception of body.
But let us try to bracket common theoretical approaches to nature: are we not familiar from our daily experiences with colours, sounds, heat and cold as well as we are with shapes and motion? In what respect is there anything less clear in a red colour or a sweet taste than in a square or spherical shape? In what sense do the former, but not the latter, require explanation? It is hard to see why one should make these claims, yet Descartes asserts them without any attempt at justification. Moreover, we do not perceive the shape of anything unless it is something we either see or feel; and the perception of motion depends on seeing, hearing or feeling something moving.