Cartesian Psychology – Could There Be One?

  • Mikko Yrjönsuuri
Part of the Studies In The History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 8)


The chapter examines what it would mean to talk about “psychology” in Descartes’ terms and argues that within the Cartesian framework we cannot really formulate the questions that are posed by contemporary psychologists. This results from the fact that psychological topics can be found on all three levels of Cartesian science: in metaphysics, in physics and finally in the applied sciences, such as medicine and morals. The aim is to show that the sensory and vegetative functions are often taken together by Descartes. Therefore, the Cartesian system does not recognize any principal difference between sensory functions, such as vision, and vegetative functions, such as digestion. Humans can be conscious of both functions being operative in their bodies, but neither function presupposes the existence of a soul. This interpretation emphasizes the importance of Descartes’ anatomical writings, including the manuscript Primae cogitations circa generationem animalium, which have been neglected by most contemporary commentators and scholars of Descartes.


Mind–body relation sense-perception physiology cartesian science metaphysics Descartes 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mikko Yrjönsuuri
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences and PhilosophyUniversity of JyväskyläJyväskylä

Personalised recommendations