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The Existence of Material Things or the “Scandal of Philosophy”

The Existence of Material Things or the “Scandal of Philosophy”

Chapter:
(p.9) 1 The Existence of Material Things or the “Scandal of Philosophy”
Source:
On Descartes' Passive Thought
Author(s):
Jean-Luc Marion, Christina M. Gschwandtner
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226192611.003.0002

It is often thought that the Sixth Meditation serves to prove the distinction of soul from body and the existence of material things, but the matter is actually more complicated. The “material things” do not necessarily include the human body, but “my body” has a special and ambiguous status. My mind is so closely joined to my body that they form a unity. Kant misunderstands Descartes by accusing him of the scandalous attempt to prove the existence of his body, assuming that this is subsumed under the proof for the existence of material things. Yet such a proof suffers from several weaknesses. Although most of Descartes’ successors assume that this is what is at stake in the Sixth Meditation, Descartes actually separates external sensation from the ego’s experience. The existence of material things need not be demonstrated to refute skepticism, because the existence of body and mind and their union are assured. Descartes’ commentators and critics are asking the wrong question.

Keywords:   material things, body, Kant, scandal, idealism

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