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Descartes' work on visual perception is but one instance of his adopting a naturalistic stance toward conscious mental experience in seekingto explain aspects of such experience. The Passions constituteanother. It is sometimes said that Descartes' dualismplaced the mind outside nature by rendering it as an immaterial substance. That is a retrospective judgment from a perspective in which immaterial substances are automatically deemed “unnatural.” ForDescartes and his followers, mind–body interaction and its laws were included within the domain of natural philosophy or physics (in the general meaning of the latter term, as the theory of nature). Descartesspoke of regular relations between brain states and the resultingsensory experiences, which his followers, such as Regis,subsequently deemed “laws” of mind–body relation (see Hatfield 2000). In this way, Descartes and his followers posited the existence of psychophysical orpsychophysiological laws, long before Gustav Fechner (1801–87) formulated a science of psychophysics in the nineteenth century.

Meditations on First Philosophy: Descartes Essays

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Descartes finally presented (in French) his vision of the progress of human knowledge in the () (1637). In this , Descartes assessed the deficient outcomes of a traditional education, proposed a set of rules with which to make a new start, and described the original experience upon which his hope for unifying human knowledge was based. The final sections of the and the essays (on dipotric, meteors, and geometry) appended to it illustrate of employing this method.

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It wasn’t until , when Descarteswas forty, that he published his first work, , a discussion of how he had made use of therules he’d begun to lay out in . relatesthe series of revelations Descartes had in 1619 while in the stove-heatedroom in Germany. After confessing how he came to doubt all his knowledge, Descartesshows how he used his rules to solve profound problems. He resolvesthe problem of personal existence in one of the most famous philosophicalstatements of all time, , or “I think,therefore I exist.” He also offers rational proofs that the humanmind is separate from the body, that the mind outlives the body,and that God exists. The was meant toserve as an introduction to three essays Descartes had been laboringover—, and whichcontain science now regarded obsolete. The ,however, remains one of the world’s most influential works of philosophy.

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