Descartes on the Theory of Life and Methodology in the Life Sciences

In Peter Distelzweig & Evan Ragland (eds.), Early Modern Medicine and Natural Philosophy. Springer. pp. 141-72 (2016)
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As a practicing life scientist, Descartes must have a theory of what it means to be a living being. In this paper, I provide an account of what his theoretical conception of living bodies must be. I then show that this conception might well run afoul of his rejection of final causal explanations in natural philosophy. Nonetheless, I show how Descartes might have made use of such explanations as merely hypothetical, even though he explicitly blocks this move. I conclude by suggesting that there is no reason for him to have blocked the use of hypothetical final causes in this way.
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