Study Questions for Descartesís Discourse, Parts V and VI



Please, read carefully Part V of Descartesís Discourse. You can loosen your attention at Part VI. Nevertheless, please, make effort to find out Descartesís main point of Part VI and try to answer (for yourself) the questions below. Also read carefully Morowitzís article. Some of the technical details might be challenging, thatís OK Ė but pay attention to the philosophical issues and consequences.



Discourse, Part V

  1. What is the point of Descartes's big "as if" story of how the creation of the world might have run?
  2. What is the fundamental principle upon which Descartes establishes his explanation of the laws of nature?
  3. What isthe central element of Descartesís explanation of the blood circulation?
  4. What is D's view of human animal bodies?
  5. What did D mean in saying that animals are machines?  Did he deny them all feeling, even sensations of pain?
  6. What reason(s) does Descartes give for the impossibility of imitating humans by machines?
  7. Given D's view of the human body, how can he believe in free will?
  8. What are the key differences between human beings and animals? What do these differences establish?



Discourse, Part VI

  1. Descartes is commonly charged with being a pure rationalist who ignores the importance of experiment. Is this charge true?  Isn't there a problem in seeing how to apply pure reason, including mathematics, to the real world?
  2. Why does Descartes think it is important to publish his ideas?
  3. How does Descartes refer to Aristotleís students? What metaphor does he use?
  4. Descartes alludes to Galileo's trial by the Roman Inquisition.  Does the Discourse therefore end on a pessimistic note?



Rediscovering the Mind

    1. How does Morowitz define reductionism?
    2. What are Morowitzís examples for reductionism?
    3. What important aspect does he emphasize about Einsteinís Theory of Relativity? What about Quantum Mechanics?
    4. How does he connect the three large fields of human enquiry: psychology, biology, and physics?
    5. What does Morowitz mean by epistemological circularity?
    6. What do you think about the philosophical relevance of Morowitzís article?




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