The Role of Sensory Experience in Descartes’ Method

In Artículos Publicados, English, Ensayos de Filosofía by MiguelLeave a Comment

The majority of readers can easily recognize the main features of Descartes’ metaphysics, but the confrontation of his most known doctrines with the role of experience in his conception of science is rarely undertaken, and by all means it is not part of the general receive view on his thoughts. In fact, Descartes’ works, such as the Principles, the Discourse or the Dioptric, are plenty of reference about the role of experience in natural science. However, the author does not give a full explanation about how experience and clear and distinct perceptions are related. In this sense, regarding the problem of this relation, Clarke says that Descartes’ effort is mainly focused in support the idea that science requires another kind of certainties different from those that metaphysics can offer. Moreover, Garber draws attention to the fact that Cartesian philosophy is not incidentally concerned about experience but it is just one of his main concerns.

In this essay I shall argue that the role of experience in Descartes’ philosophy cannot be considered independently of his claims of pure intellectual knowledge. I will begin reviewing some passages of Descartes’ works in which the importance of experimentation is highlighted. Secondly, I will briefly analyze the role of common experience in scientific explanation as well as the relationship between experience and reason.

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