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Ideas, Before And After Descartes

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Chapter Summary

Traditionally, the term in its authoritative modern sense is attributed to Descartes. Descartes says he is borrowing a term used to refer to God's ideas (the post-Augustinian heir of the Platonic or neo-Platonic "idea"), and (as he remarks elsewhere), using it more generally for "everything which is in our mind when we conceive something, no matter how we conceive it". This chapter challenges the standard reading of this situation and, a fortiori, expand the Cartesian account. It asks how the term "idea" was used in the seventeenth century before Descartes and considers in the light of this evidence both the possible sources for Descartes' usage and the true originality in his conception. It also talks about the relation between the scholastic and Cartesian view of idea and, especially, to the representation of the Cartesian debates in the scholastic critique and Cartesian response to it.

Keywords: Cartesian view; Descartes; scholastic critique; seventeenth century



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