Hatfield (1992)

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Hatfield, Gary. (1992) Descartes' Physiology and its Relation to his Psychology. In Cottingham (Ed.) (1992), 335-370.

Title Descartes' Physiology and its Relation to his Psychology
Resource Type collection article
Author(s) Gary Hatfield
Year 1992
Collection Cottingham (Ed.) (1992)
Pages 335-370


Descartes understood the subject matter of physics to encompass the whole of nature, including living things. It therefore comprised not only nonvital phenomena, including those we would now denominate as physical, chemical, minerological, magnetic, and atmospheric; it also extended to the world of plants and animals, including the human animal (with the exception of those aspects of human psychology that Descartes assigned solely to thinking substance). In the 1630s and 1640s Descartes formulated extensive accounts of the principal manifestations of animal life, including reproduction, growth, nutrition, the circulation of the blood, and especially sense-induced motion. In connection with the latter he discussed at length the bodily conditions for psychological phenomena, including sense perception, imagination, memory, and the passions. He also examined the mental aspects of these phenomena, sometimes by way of complementing his physiological discussions and sometimes as part of his investigation into the grounds of human knowledge.