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Light and Man: An Anomaly in the Treatise on Light?

  • Gabriel Alban-ZapataEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 43)

Abstract

It has been quite common to talk about Descartes’ text on man as if it were the second part of The World, following a first part which would deserve by itself to be entitled Traité de la lumière. Yet, from the indications given in the Discourse on Method, as well as in the first editions of these texts, it can be established that the text known as “L’Homme” did not correspond, in Descartes’ mind, to a separated book, nor to a second and formally distinct part of his work. It is nothing but a chapter – the last one – which forms a part of a work that Descartes conceived of as an uninterrupted discourse. It can also be established that Descartes intended to entitle the whole book Traité de la lumière. Thus the theses on man do not follow on from the study of light: they are a part of it, and are essential for its realization. The choice of a title may first appear quite anecdotal. The present paper aims to show that it is not. Considering – or not – the text on man as the last chapter of a treatise on light implies specific ways of reading it. It seems hence natural to pay attention to a particular historical context: the history of Optics, and the relationships between Optics and Physics, especially in Kepler’s works. The internal cohesion of the treatise must also be reconsidered – in particular, the key position occupied, within the chapter on man, by the theses on imagination, on memory and on the formation of cerebral “ideas”.

Keywords

Descartes Treatise on Light Man Physiology Optics Kepler Vision 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IHRIM, CNRS, UMR 5317. ENS de LyonLyon Cédex 07France

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