Abstract

In this book, Ben-Yami reassesses the way Descartes developed and justified some of his revolutionary philosophical ideas. The first part of the book shows that one of Descartes' most innovative and influential ideas was that of representation without resemblance. Ben-Yami shows how Descartes transfers insights originating in his work on analytic geometry to his theory of perception. The second part shows how Descartes was influenced by the technology of the period, notably clockwork automata, in holding life to be a mechanical phenomenon, reducing the soul to the mind and considering it immaterial. Ben-Yami explores the later role of the digital computer in Turing's criticism of Descartes' ideas. The last part discusses the Meditations: far from starting everything afresh without presupposing anything that can be doubted, Descartes' innovations in the dream argument, the cogito and elsewhere are modifications of old ideas based upon considerations issuing from his separately developed theories, formed under the influence of the technology, mathematics and science of his age.