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Marin Cureau de la Chambre on the Natural Cognition of the Vegetative Soul: An Early Modern Theory of Instinct

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According to Marin Cureau de La Chambre—steering a middleway between the Aristotelian and the Cartesian conception of the soul—everything that lives cognizes and everything that cognizes is alive. Cureau sticks with the general tripart distinction of vegetative, sensitive, and intellectual soul. Each part of the soul has its own cognition. Cognition is the way in which living beings regulate bodily equilibirum and environmental navigation. This regulative activity is gouverned by acquired or by innate images. Natural cognition (or instinct) is cognition by innate images only. Cureau develops a highly originel theory of natural (or 'specialized') instinct. His theory attempts to explain five features of instinct (innateness, specialization, species-specifitiy, coerciveness, teleological nature). According to my interpretation, Cureau proposes a species of what is called a 'teleosemantic theory' of innate cognition.

Affiliations: 1: Humboldt-Universität, Berlin


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