Descartes's Meditations - Further Reading
This section is intended to act as a springboard for those readers who want to develop a deeper understanding of the Meditations, of Descartes's ideas in general, and of related philosophical themes. To aid in this, you will find (eventually) a number of short essays on interesting Philosophical Themes, a list of useful books for Recommended Reading (which are also evaluated in the Reviews section), and a selection of Useful Links. If you find any books or links that you think should be listed here, then please contact me.
I have organised the links roughly into three sections: Online Texts, Background Information, and Topics and Themes. I don’t want to list every site that has anything at all to say about Descartes, but only the especially useful and distinctive ones - so, either useful summaries, distinctive resources, or original approaches. I’m aiming to keep the lists relatively small, but I am always on the lookout for good sites, so if you do come across any - or if any of the links are dead - then please contact me.Online Texts
- Glyn Hughes - Squashed Philosophers – Descartes’s Meditations - A condensed version of the Meditations (6,488 words!), including a “very squashed” version! and a squashed account of Hobbes’s objections and Descartes’s replies. There is also a squashed version of the Discourse On Method, as well as texts by other philosophers.
- Manley and Taylor - Wright State University – The Trilingual Meditations - Three online versions of the Meditations (Latin, French and English) put together by David B. Manley and Charles S. Taylor. Useful for more advanced study of the text, and comparison of the terms used by Descartes through the various editions. The English translation is by John Veitch (the same one I use for the PhilosophyOnline Meditations).
- Jonathan Bennett - Early Modern Texts – the Meditations - An excellent 'translation' of the Meditations into simple, modern English by Jonathan Bennett. Also includes versions of the Objections and Replies, Principles of Philosophy and the Discourse on the Method, plus links to texts by other philosophers.
- Radical Academy – Overview of 17th Century Philosophy - A useful overview of the trends and context of 17th century thought, providing brief summaries of the views of many of Descartes's contemporaries and prevalent ideas of the time
- The Internet Enclyclopedia of Philosophy – Descartes: An Overview - A quite detailed summary of Descartes’s life and thought, with a useful list of further reading.
- Radical Academy - The Philosophy of René Descartes - A concise overview of Descartes’s life, with useful brief summaries of his works and central ideas.
- Edward P. Kardas - South Arkansas University – Descartes and the Mind-Body Problem (and here) - An brief introduction to Descartes and the mind-body problem by psychologist Edward P. Kardas.
- Victor Gijsbers - Positive Atheism - Descartes' God-Claim - Summary of Descartes's arguments for the existence of God, and what part they play in his philosophy, approached from an atheist's perspective.
- Standford Enclyclopedia of Philosophy - Dualism - A detailed overview of different varieties of dualism.
- Robert Wozniak - Bryn Mawr College - Mind and Body: René Descartes To William James - An interesting account of the influence of Decartes's dualism on psychology in America up to and including the time of William James.
- David Chalmers - Online Papers on Consciousness - An enormous list of online philosophy papers relating to consciousness, dualism, and other subjects in the philosophy of mind collated by eminent philosopher of mind, David Chalmers.
This is a list of useful books on Descartes and the Meditations, as well as the related topics of philosophy of mind, theory of knowledge, and philosophy of religion. I will only list here books that I have reviewed on the site, or am intending to review (but which I know are good) - so, if there isn't yet a review, there will be eventually. Reviewed books will have a LAUD rating (see here for more information), and you can click on the title to be taken to the review.
I will add to this list as I come across useful books. If you want to recommend a book, then contact me with the details and I will try to track it down. Or, if you are a publisher who wants to send a book for review, contact me to arrange this.L = Layperson - This book will appeal to those with no specific knowledge of philosophy (this does not mean that it is 'easy', or 'for dummies', but merely that you don't need to have studied philosophy to find it interesting or enjoyable). A = A-level student (UK)/Freshman (US) - This book will be useful for those studying philosophy. It assumes that you will want a certain level of detail and coverage of the subject, and that you are not just reading it for pleasure. However, it is still an introductory text. U = Undergraduate - Generally, a book of this type will provide more detail and be more challenging than a beginner's guide. So, it will either assume some previous knowledge, or else treat the subject in a way that will be useful for more in-depth study. As such, it will be most suitable for those who have aleady read an introductory text, are fairly familiar with the general nature of the subject, and are looking to develop their understanding further. D = Detailed study at degree level. Books of this type are generally quite hard, and - because of their level of detail and depth of argument - are not suitable for beginners or as introductions to the subject. However, they may still be useful for those who have become familiar with the topic in question, and wish to delve deeper (perhaps in search of advanced criticism or clarification of difficult points). Descartes's and the Meditations
- Southwell, Gareth, A Beginner's Guide To Descartes'S Meditations (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008) - order through this website.
- Cottingham, John, Descartes (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986) - An excellent, clear and detailed introduction to the man and his thought.
- Gombay, André, Descartes (Blackwell Great Minds), (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007) - A fascinating and fresh approach to Cartesian philosophy, ideal for providing a different perspective on familiar ideas.
Rating: U D
- Cole, Peter, The Theory Of Knowledge (Access To Philosophy), (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002) - A concise, well-organised and very readable introduction to theory of knowledge, primarily aimed at A-Level students, with a number of sections specific to Descartes.
- Maslin, Keith, An Introduction To The Philosophy Of Mind (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001) - The best available introduction to this topic for A-Level and undergraduate students. A chapter is dedicated to dualism, and Descartes's ideas on mind and body are discussed throughout.
- Hick, John, The Philosophy Of Religion, 4th ed. (London: Prentice-Hall, 1990) - An excellent, clear introduction to the philosophy of religion, providing a clear overview of important arguments and theories. As regards Descartes, mainly discusses his ontological argument, together with the significance of mind-body dualism for notions of immortality.
My intention here is to discuss some of Descartes's ideas in relation to different areas of philosophy - for instance, certain themes in philosophy of mind, or theory of knowledge. However, in writing these essays, I am not aiming for a general coverage of the topics that Descartes's work is relevant to, but rather to explore certain areas that I am personally interested in, and which represent a specific application of Descartes's theories. So, for instance, I may look at animal rights, sceptical scenarios as they appear in books or films, or whether it is really possible to remember if you've locked the back door on your way out.
Some of these essays will therefore be slightly more challenging, and will not necessarily serve as an introduction to Descartes or the Meditations (the rest of the site does that). However, they will help you to appreciate the continuing relevance of some of the ideas that Descartes raised for modern philosophy, and broaden your understanding of his ideas and the themes they relate to.
- "Talking Clocks and Deranged Springs - or, Did Descartes Really Nail Cats to Trees?" - Downloads are available in Pdf or Doc format - Discuss this essay in the forum.
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