Causal adequacy principle

The causal adequacy principle (CAP) is a philosophical claim made by René Descartes that the cause of an object must contain at least as much reality as the object itself, whether formally or eminently.

Overview

Descartes defends CAP by quoting Roman philosopher Lucretius: "Ex nihilo nihil fit", meaning "Nothing comes from nothing". —Carus, Lucretius (1947). De Rerum Natura. Oxford University Press. pp. 146–482.

In his meditations, Descartes uses the CAP to support his trademark argument for the existence of God. Descartes' assertions were disputed by Thomas Hobbes in his "Third Set of Objections" published in 1641.

René Descartes was not the founder of this philosophical claim. It is used in the classical metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle, and features eminently in the works of Thomas Aquinas.

Details

  • A "cause" is that which brings something into effect.
  • If an item has the quality X formally, it has it in the literal or strict sense.
  • If an item has the quality X eminently, it has it in a higher or grander form.

To demonstrate this, a person can possess money formally by holding it on their person, or by storing it in a bank account. Similarly, a person can eminently possess money by owning assets that could readily be exchanged for it.

Descartes offers two explanations of his own:

  • Heat cannot be produced in an object which was not previously hot, except by something of at least the same order of perfection as heat.
  • A stone, for example, which previously did not exist, cannot begin to exist unless it is produced by something which contains, either formally or eminently everything to be found in the stone.

Descartes goes on to claim that the CAP not only applies to stones, but also the realm of ideas, and the features that are seen as part of the objective reality of an idea.

References

  • Georges Dicker, Descartes: An Analytical and Historical Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 118ff.
Axiom of Causality

The Axiom of Causality is the proposition that everything in the universe has a cause and is thus an effect of that cause. This means that if a given event occurs, then this is the result of a previous, related event. If an object is in a certain state, then it is in that state as a result of another object interacting with it previously.

According to William Whewell the concept of causality depends on three axioms:

Nothing takes place without a cause

The magnitude of an effect is proportional to the magnitude of its cause

To every action there is an equal and opposed reaction.A similar idea is found in western philosophy for ages (sometimes called Principle of Universal Causation (PUC) or Law of Universal Causation), for example:

In addition, everything that becomes or changes must do so owing to some cause; for nothing can come to be without a cause. — Plato in Timaeus

Modern version of PUC is connected with Newtonian physics, but is also criticized for instance by David Hume. Since then his view on the concept of causality is often predominating (see Causality, After the Middle Ages). Kant answered to Hume in many aspects, defending the apriority of universal causation.Example for the axiom: if a baseball is moving through the air, it must be moving this way because of a previous interaction with another object, such as being hit by a baseball bat.

An epistemological axiom is a self-evident truth. Thus the "Axiom of Causality" implicitly claims to be a universal rule that is so obvious that it does not need to be proved to be accepted. Even among epistemologists, the existence of such a rule is controversial. See the full article on Epistemology.

Cartesian circle

The Cartesian circle is a potential mistake in reasoning attributed to René Descartes.

Descartes argues – for example, in the third of his Meditations on First Philosophy – that whatever one clearly and distinctly perceives is true: "I now seem to be able to lay it down as a general rule that whatever I perceive very clearly and distinctly is true." (AT VII 35) He goes on in the same Meditation to argue for the existence of a benevolent God, in order to defeat his skeptical argument in the first Meditation that God might be a deceiver. He then says that without his knowledge of God's existence, none of his knowledge could be certain.

The Cartesian circle is a criticism of the above that takes this form:

Descartes' proof of the reliability of clear and distinct perceptions takes as a premise God's existence as a non-deceiver.

Descartes' proofs of God's existence presuppose the reliability of clear and distinct perceptions.Thus, Descartes' argument is circular.

Cartesian doubt

Cartesian Doubt is a form of methodological skepticism associated with the writings and methodology of René Descartes (March 31,1596–Feb 11, 1650). Cartesian doubt is also known as Cartesian skepticism, methodic doubt, methodological skepticism, universal doubt, systematic doubt or hyperbolic doubt.

Cartesian doubt is a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs, which has become a characteristic method in philosophy. Additionally, Descartes's method has been seen by many as the root of the modern scientific method. This method of doubt was largely popularized in Western philosophy by René Descartes, who sought to doubt the truth of all his beliefs in order to determine which beliefs he could be certain were true. It is the basis for Descartes' statement, "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"). Of course, Descartes never actually wrote "cogito ergo sum,' instead, he wrote in his native French, "Je pense, donc je suis."

Methodological skepticism is distinguished from philosophical skepticism in that methodological skepticism is an approach that subjects all knowledge claims to scrutiny with the goal of sorting out true from false claims, whereas philosophical skepticism is an approach that questions the possibility of certain knowledge.

Cartesianism

The Cartesian Method is the philosophical and scientific system of René Descartes and its subsequent development by other seventeenth century thinkers, most notably Nicolas Malebranche and Baruch Spinoza. Descartes is often regarded as the first thinker to emphasize the use of reason to develop the natural sciences. For him, the philosophy was a thinking system that embodied all knowledge, and expressed it in this way:Aristotle and St. Augusta’s work influenced Descartes's cogito argument and there can be little doubt that they were epistemologists. Additionally, there is a remarkable similarity between Descartes’s work and that of the Scottish philosopher, George Campbell’s 1776 publication, titled Philosophy of Rhetoric. In his Meditations on First Philosophy he writes, “[b]ut what then am I? A thing which thinks. What is a thing which thinks? It is a thing which doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses, which also imagines and feels."Cartesians view the mind as being wholly separate from the corporeal body. Sensation and the perception of reality are thought to be the source of untruth and illusions, with the only reliable truths to be had in the existence of a metaphysical mind. Such a mind can perhaps interact with a physical body, but it does not exist in the body, nor even in the same physical plane as the body. The question of how mind and body interact would be a persistent difficulty for Descartes and his followers, with different Cartesians providing different answers. To this point Descartes wrote, "we should conclude from all this, that those things which we conceive clearly and distinctly as being diverse substances; as we regard mind and body to be, are really substances essentially distinct one from the other; and this is the conclusion of the Sixth Meditation." Therefore, we can see that, while mind and body are indeed separate, because they can be separated from each other, but, Descartes realizes, the mind is a whole, inseparable from itself, while the body can become separated from itself to some extent, as in when one loses an arm or a leg.

Dream argument

The dream argument is the postulation that the act of dreaming provides preliminary evidence that the senses we trust to distinguish reality from illusion should not be fully trusted, and therefore, any state that is dependent on our senses should at the very least be carefully examined and rigorously tested to determine whether it is in fact reality.

Evil demon

The evil demon, also known as malicious demon and evil genius, is a concept in Cartesian philosophy. In the first of his 1641 Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes imagines that an evil demon, of "utmost power and cunning has employed all his energies in order to deceive me." This evil demon is imagined to present a complete illusion of an external world, so that Descartes can say, "I shall think that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds and all external things are merely the delusions of dreams which he has devised to ensnare my judgement. I shall consider myself as not having hands or eyes, or flesh, or blood or senses, but as falsely believing that I have all these things."

Some Cartesian scholars opine that the demon is also omnipotent, and thus capable of altering mathematics and the fundamentals of logic, though omnipotence of the evil demon would be contrary to Descartes' hypothesis, as he rebuked accusations of the evil demon having omnipotence.It is one of several methods of systematic doubt that Descartes employs in the Meditations.

La Géométrie

La Géométrie was published in 1637 as an appendix to Discours de la méthode (Discourse on the Method), written by René Descartes. In the Discourse, he presents his method for obtaining clarity on any subject. La Géométrie and two other appendices, also by Descartes, La Dioptrique (Optics) and Les Météores (Meteorology), were published with the Discourse to give examples of the kinds of successes he had achieved following his method (as well as, perhaps, considering the contemporary European social climate of intellectual competitiveness, to show off a bit to a wider audience).

The work was the first to propose the idea of uniting algebra and geometry into a single subject and invented an algebraic geometry called analytic geometry, which involves reducing geometry to a form of arithmetic and algebra and translating geometric shapes into algebraic equations. For its time this was ground-breaking. It also contributed to the mathematical ideas of Leibniz and Newton and was thus important in the development of calculus.

Levels of adequacy

In his seminal work Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965), Noam Chomsky introduces a hierarchy of levels of adequacy for evaluating grammars (theories of specific languages) and metagrammars (theories of grammars).

These levels constitute a taxonomy of theories (a grammar of a natural language being an example of such a theory) according to potency. This taxonomy might be extended to scientific theories in general, and from there even stretched into the realm of the aesthetics of art. This present article's use of the phrase as a terminus technicus should not be confused with its everyday language uses.

Mental substance

Mental substance is the idea held by dualists and idealists, that minds are made-up of non-physical substance. This substance is often referred to as consciousness.

This is opposed to the materialists, who hold that what we normally think of as mental substance is ultimately physical matter (i.e., brains).

Descartes, who was most famous for the assertion "I think therefore I am", has had a lot of influence on the mind–body problem. He describes his theory of mental substance (which he calls res cogitans distinguishing it from the res extensa) in the Second Meditation (II.8) and in Principia Philosophiae (2.002).

He used a more precise definition of the word "substance" than is currently popular: that a substance is something which can exist without the existence of any other substance. For many philosophers, this word or the phrase "mental substance" has a special meaning.

Gottfried Leibniz, belonging to the generation immediately after Descartes, held the position that the mental world was built up by monads, mental objects that are not part of the physical world (see Monadology).

Passions of the Soul

In the treatise Passions of the Soul (French: Les passions de l'âme), the last of Descartes' published work, completed in 1649 and dedicated to Queen Christina of Sweden, the author contributes to a long tradition of theorizing "the passions". The passions were experiences now commonly called emotions in the modern period, and had been a subject of debate among natural philosophers since the time of Plato.

Notable precursors to Descartes who articulated their own theories of the passions include St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Hobbes.

Principles of Philosophy

Principles of Philosophy (Latin: Principia Philosophiæ) is a book by René Descartes. In essence it is a synthesis of the Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy It was written in Latin, published in 1644 and dedicated to Elisabeth of Bohemia, with whom Descartes had a long-standing friendship. A French version (Les Principes de la Philosophie) followed in 1647. It set forth the principles of nature—the Laws of Physics—as Descartes viewed them. Most notably, it set forth the principle that in the absence of external forces, an object's motion will be uniform and in a straight line. Newton borrowed this principle from Descartes and included it in his own Principia; to this day, it is still generally referred to as Newton's First Law of Motion. The book was primarily intended to replace the Aristotelian curriculum then used in French and British universities. The work provides a systematic statement of his metaphysics and natural philosophy, and represents the first truly comprehensive, mechanistic account of the universe.

René Descartes

René Descartes (US: , UK: , French: [ʁəne dekaʁt]; Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: Cartesian; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years (1629–1649) of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. He is generally considered one of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age.Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes' influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system (see below) was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, used in the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.

Descartes refused to accept the authority of previous philosophers. He frequently set his views apart from those of his predecessors. In the opening section of the Passions of the Soul, an early modern treatise on emotions, Descartes goes so far as to assert that he will write on this topic "as if no one had written on these matters before". His best known philosophical statement is "I think, therefore I am" (French: Je pense, donc je suis; Latin: Ego cogito, ergo sum), found in Discourse on the Method (1637; written in French and Latin) and Principles of Philosophy (1644; written in Latin).Many elements of his philosophy have precedents in late Aristotelianism, the revived Stoicism of the 16th century, or in earlier philosophers like Augustine. In his natural philosophy, he differed from the schools on two major points: first, he rejected the splitting of corporeal substance into matter and form; second, he rejected any appeal to final ends, divine or natural, in explaining natural phenomena. In his theology, he insists on the absolute freedom of God's act of creation.

Descartes laid the foundation for 17th-century continental rationalism, later advocated by Spinoza and Leibniz, and was later opposed by the empiricist school of thought consisting of Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes were all well-versed in mathematics as well as philosophy, and Descartes and Leibniz contributed greatly to science as well.

Res extensa

Res extensa is one of the three substances described by René Descartes in his Cartesian ontology (often referred to as "radical dualism"), alongside res cogitans and God. Translated from Latin, "res extensa" means "extended and unthinking thing" while the latter is described as "a thinking and unextended thing". Descartes often translated res extensa as "corporeal substance" but it is something that only God can create.Res extensa and res cogitans are mutually exclusive and this makes it possible to conceptualize the complete intellectual independence from the body. The categorical separation of these two, however, caused a problem, which can be demonstrated in this question: How can a wish (a mental event), cause an arm movement (a physical event)? Descartes has not provided any answer to this but Gottfried Leibniz proposed that it can be addressed by endowing each geometrical point in the rex extensa with mind.In Descartes' substance–attribute–mode ontology, extension is the primary attribute of corporeal substance. He describes a piece of wax in the Second Meditation (see Wax argument). A solid piece of wax has certain sensory qualities. However, when the wax is melted, it loses every single apparent quality it had in its solid form. Still, Descartes recognizes in the melted substance the idea of wax.

Rules for the Direction of the Mind

In 1628 or a few years earlier, René Descartes began work on an unfinished treatise regarding the proper method for scientific and philosophical thinking entitled Regulae ad directionem ingenii, or Rules for the Direction of the Mind. This work outlined the basis for his later work on complex problems of mathematics, science, and philosophy. 36 rules were planned in total, although only 21 were actually written. This work was not published during the author's lifetime. A Dutch translation appeared in 1684, and the first Latin edition in 1701.

The first 12 rules deal with his proposed scientific methodology in general. Analysts consider them to be early versions of principles that he expanded upon in his later writings.

The World (Descartes)

The World, also called Treatise on the Light (French title: Traité du monde et de la lumière), is a book by René Descartes (1596–1650). Written between 1629 and 1633, it contains a nearly complete version of his philosophy, from method, to metaphysics, to physics and biology.

Descartes espoused mechanical philosophy, a form of natural philosophy popular in the 17th century. He thought everything physical in the universe to be made of tiny "corpuscles" of matter. Corpuscularianism is closely related to atomism. The main difference was that Descartes maintained that there could be no vacuum, and all matter was constantly swirling to prevent a void as corpuscles moved through other matter. The World presents a corpuscularian cosmology in which swirling vortices explain, among other phenomena, the creation of the Solar System and the circular motion of planets around the Sun.

The World rests on the heliocentric view, first explicated in Western Europe by Copernicus. Descartes delayed the book's release upon news of the Roman Inquisition's conviction of Galileo for "suspicion of heresy" and sentencing to house arrest. Descartes discussed his work on the book, and his decision not to release it, in letters with another philosopher, Marin Mersenne.Some material from The World was revised for publication as Principia philosophiae or Principles of Philosophy (1644), a Latin textbook at first intended by Descartes to replace the Aristotelian textbooks then used in universities. In the Principles the heliocentric tone was softened slightly with a relativist frame of reference. The last chapter of The World was published separately as De Homine (On Man) in 1662. The rest of The World was finally published in 1664, and the entire text in 1677.

Trademark argument

The trademark argument is an a priori argument for the existence of God developed by French philosopher and mathematician, René Descartes.

In the Meditations Descartes provides two arguments for the existence of God. In Meditation V he presents a version of the ontological argument which attempts to deduce the existence of God from the nature of God; in Meditation III he presents an argument for the existence of God from one of the effects of God’s activity. Descartes cannot start with the existence of the world or with some feature of the world for, at this stage of his argument, he hasn’t established that the world exists. Instead, he starts with the fact that he has an idea of God and concludes “that the mere fact that I exist and have within me an idea of a most perfect being, that is, God, provides a very clear proof that God indeed exists.” He says, “it is no surprise that God, in creating me, should have placed this idea in me to be, as it were, the mark of the craftsman stamped on his work.”

Wax argument

The wax argument or the ball of wax example is a thought experiment that René Descartes created within his Meditations on First Philosophy. He devised it to analyze what properties are essential for bodies, show how uncertain our knowledge of the world is compared to our knowledge of our minds, and argue for rationalism.

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