Article ID: CBB792819972

Cartesian Critters Can't Remember (2018)


Descartes held the following view of declarative memory: to remember is to reconstruct an idea that you intellectually recognize as a reconstruction. Descartes countenanced two overarching varieties of declarative memory. To have an intellectual memory is to intellectually reconstruct a universal idea that you recognize as a reconstruction, and to have a sensory memory is to neurophysiologically reconstruct a particular idea that you recognize as a reconstruction. Sensory remembering is thus a capacity of neither ghosts nor machines, but only of human beings qua mind-body unions. This interpretation unifies Descartes's various remarks (and conspicuous silences) about remembering, from the 1628 Rules for the Direction of the Mind through the suppressed-in-1633 Treatise of Man to the 1649 Passions of the Soul. It also rebuts a prevailing thesis in the current secondary literature—that Cartesian critters can remember—while incorporating the textual evidence for that thesis—Descartes's detailed descriptions of the corporeal mechanisms that construct sensory memories.

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Authors & Contributors
Dougherty, M. V.
Gaukroger, Stephen W.
Giacomoni, Paola
Gouk, Penelope M.
Grush, Rick
Hansberger, Rotraud
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
Biology and Philosophy
History of Philosophy Quarterly
Intellectual History Review
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Yale University
Cambridge University Press
Oxford University Press
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Chicago Press
Senses and sensation; perception
Philosophy of science
Mind and body
Descartes, René
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm von
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Bartlett, Frederic Charles
Beeckman, Isaac
Time Periods
17th century
Early modern
16th century
18th century
15th century
Great Britain

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