The ‘father of modern philosophy’, René Descartes has been accorded all the admiration a father customarily receives – and all the resentment.
That mind-body duality by which he so deftly made sense of us now seems less paradigm than prison. And yet, to unthink it appears impossible. For better of worse, Descartes must remain our starting-point in the attempt to understand ourselves and our relation to our world.
Yet if the problems begin with Descartes, so too may some of the solutions. John Cottingham’s fascinating guide finds in the French philosopher’s own neglected later work some intriguing hints as to how the stumbling-blocks might be surmounted. The father of modern philosophy, it seems, might yet be his child’s deliverer.