Does Cartesian « Mentalism » Exist?

Gillot Pascale
Language of the article : French
DOI: 10.3406/intel.2012.1132
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This article aims at questioning the topic of the so-called “mentalism” and “internalism” which are currently attributed to Descartes, especially by some major authors in the contemporary philosophy of mind (for instance Daniel Dennett, Hilary Putnam and John Searle). The goal is to identify what could, in Descartes' original philosophy and original texts, particularly in the Dioptrics and in the Meditations on First Philosophy, resist such an interpretation; an interpretation which qualifies Cartesianism, and Cartesian epistemology, through the notions of “central theatre” and “representative theory of perception. Against this traditional reading, we develop two main claims.

First, the disjunction at work in Descartes' philosophy between the category of representation and the category of resemblance; such a disjunction is related to the identification of ideas with the “conceptions of thought”.

Second, the irreducibility of the Cartesian theory of ideas as regards the theory of “sense data”, whose origin may be more easily located within Lockean empiricism.

Finally, we examine the heterodoxy of Descartes' so-called mentalism in relationship with his original, non psychological, conception of the Thinking Subject (“Ego sum, ego existo”): a Thinking Subject which may be understandable otherwise than through the frame of a “philosophy of “consciousness”.

Pour citer cet article :

Gillot Pascale (2012/1). Does Cartesian « Mentalism » Exist? In Gillot Pascale & Garreta Guillaume (Eds), The Mind and its Places, Intellectica, 57, (pp.35-54), DOI: 10.3406/intel.2012.1132.