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Durham University

Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Dr Emily Thomas

Thomas, Emily (2015). In Defense of Real Cartesian Motion. Journal of the History of Philosophy 53(4): 747-762.

Author(s) from Durham


On Thomas Lennon’s (2007) “Eleatic” reading of Descartes, the Cartesian world is in reality motionless, its motions conceived as mere phenomenal appearances. Lennon is aware that this radical reading appears to be at odds with various Cartesian texts that seemingly describe real motions, and accordingly he reinterprets these texts in such a way as to render them compatible with his reading.
This reply to Lennon considers many further Cartesian texts that cannot be “reinterpreted” along the lines Lennon describes, with the ultimate aim of showing that the phenomenalist is committed to dividing Cartesian texts into passages dealing with reality and with appearance. I argue there are good reasons not to read Descartes in this way, and we should take Cartesian motion at face value: to be real.