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Descartes' Deontological Turn
Reason, Will, and Virtue in the Later Writings


  • Date Published: November 2010
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521763301

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About the Authors
  • This book offers a way of approaching the place of the will in Descartes' mature epistemology and ethics. Departing from the widely accepted view, Noa Naaman-Zauderer suggests that Descartes regards the will, rather than the intellect, as the most significant mark of human rationality, both intellectual and practical. Through a close reading of Cartesian texts from the Meditations onward, she brings to light a deontological and non-consequentialist dimension of Descartes' later thinking, which credits the proper use of free will with a constitutive, evaluative role. She shows that the right use of free will, to which Descartes assigns obligatory force, constitutes for him an end in its own right rather than merely a means for attaining any other end, however valuable. Her important study has significant implications for the unity of Descartes' thinking, and for the issue of responsibility, inviting scholars to reassess Descartes' philosophical legacy.

    • Offers a thorough analysis of key Cartesian notions, covering contemporary readings and the wider context of current interpretations
    • By highlighting the priority to free will as the mark of rationality, appeals to and challenges those interested in reassessing Descartes' work in the history of philosophy
    • Provides in-depth and thorough readings of Cartesian texts
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This book's uncovering of the deontological aspects of Descartes' thought represents an original and worthwhile contribution to Cartesian scholarship. It is a rich, tightly argued and carefully researched book that accomplishes its proposed goals of inviting scholars to reconsider Descartes' views in light of deontological considerations and of opening up fresh avenues and perspectives of inquiry.' Andreea Mihali, Philosophy in Review

    'Descartes' Deontological Turn is a thorough piece of scholarship. The book is well researched and well written. Above all, Naaman-Zauderer has offered us an astute defense of many controversial interpretations of Descartes.' Eric Stencil, Journal of the History of Philosophy

    'Descartes' Deontological Turn is a well-focused and up-to-date contribution to a set of debates in Cartesian scholarship that reinserts Descartes' epistemological and metaphysical thought in the broader context of his theological and ethical pre-occupations.' Richard Davies, Universita degli Studi di Bergamo

    '… this book is a very significant contribution to Cartesian studies - a 'must read', in my opinion, for faculty or graduate students interested in the topics it addresses … According to Naaman-Zauderer, her goal in the book is 'to open up a new way of approaching a wide cluster of long-debated issues in Descartes' epistemology and ethics' … She not only makes a brilliant effort toward this goal, but achieves it.' C. P. Ragland, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

    'Noa Naaman-Zauderer's Descartes' Deontological Turn is a brilliant book. It is lucid in explanation and elegantly written, achieving a level of originality and mastery of her subject that significantly reshapes our understanding of central aspects of Cartesian metaphysics and epistemology, as well as ethical theory.' Thomas Vinci, IYYUN: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly

    '[This book's] thorough presentation of current English-language Descartes scholarship on a wide range of topics and its careful collation of numerous passages relevant to the topics of error,freedom, and ethics should make [it] useful to Descartes scholars and especially to graduate students.' Sean Greenberg, University of California, Irvine

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2010
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521763301
    • length: 236 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 159 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • Table of Contents

    1. Looking inward: truth, falsehood, and clear and distinct ideas
    2. Error in judgment
    3. Free will
    4. Free will and the likeness to God
    5. From intellectual to practical reason
    6. Descartes' deontological ethics of virtue

  • Author

    Noa Naaman-Zauderer, Tel-Aviv University
    Noa Naaman-Zauderer is senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Tel-Aviv University. She is the author of Descartes: The Loneliness of a Philosopher (2007) and co-editor of Discourse and Dialogue: Multi-Perspective Philosophy (2003).

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