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Theses

Descartes et le problème de l'action

Abstract : Descartes is often the target of criticism in the various fields of analytic philosophy. But unlike the fact that Descartes' theses on knowledge and on the nature of the human mind are more or less developed by some epistemologists and philosophers of mind, his discussion of action is known as nothing but a negative example in the eyes of the action theorists. The influence of the criticism on Descartes made by the founders of the philosophy of action in the contemporary sense is so strong that for a long period of time, the action theorists have casted aside the set of notions labelled as "Cartesian", notably, the concept of the will as a faculty of the mind which serves to explain human agency. What is meanwhile called into question, is the whole Cartesian metaphysics - how could one explain a bodily action, for example, the case "I raise my arm", by referring to a faculty of the mind which is by definition non-corporeal? A "mind-body" dualism, for analytic philosophers, can never explain human action without falling into a "categorical mistake". In this thesis, I explain primarily in what sense Cartesian philosophy is related to the problem of action formulated in the contemporary framework, and at which point it is particularly misinterpreted, with an aim to reintroduce Descartes in the contemporary debate on action. Through a detailed study on Descartes' discussion of action in three main dimensions (metaphysical, psychophysiological and moral), I attempt to reconstruct a "Cartesian theory of action" based on a newly interpreted dualism. Such an investigation will have a double function: on the one hand, it gives us the opportunity to reread the Cartesian contribution to the problem of action; on the other hand, it will question the entrenched and poorly examined assumptions in contemporary philosophy of action itself, which have led to this or that caricatures of Descartes, or of the history of philosophy in general, so that one will at least have a new possibility to reflect on the substance of the problem of action and to remove the prejudices that may block the field of vision. It should be noted that this project is distinct from a systematic defence of a pre-established Cartesian theory of action, and from a pure attempt to correct the caricatures of Descartes on the question of action. In fact, we are trying to reconstruct a theory of action according to the conceptual resources that Descartes offers us in his study of "man", which integrates different disciplines in the contemporary sense, so that the problems that we often encounter in the field of action (such as the causality of action, freedom and responsibility of "agents") would be better treated, or at least, treated from a perspective that is radically different from the currently dominant theories (e.g. the Anscombian theory and its variants) that share an Aristotelian-Thomistic conceptual base.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - 4:59:12 PM
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Ruidan She. Descartes et le problème de l'action. Philosophie. Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - Paris I, 2021. Français. ⟨NNT : 2021PA01H216⟩. ⟨tel-03709205⟩

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