The roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches emerging from the trunk are all the other sciences, which may be reduced to three principal ones, namely medicine, mechanics and morals.
That is a very bold statement and put in a seemingly simplistic way, recorded in his first meditations. But, suffice it to say that the textual evidence is also in favor of the claim that Descartes, despite the unforeseen problem about surfaces, maintained that particular bodies are substances.Striving to separate the spiritual from the corporeal to enable scientific examination of the earthly without interference from the divine, Descartes conceives that the two basic human substances, Mind and Body, are distinct and therefore able to exist separate of one another in his [in]famous claim of substance dualism. One can agree to this last claim, yet, talking of mindsets, humility does not strike one as the most fitting description of Descartes's bent of mind, not even in its most contemplative mode. So imagination and sensation are faculties of the mind in a weaker sense than intellect and will, since they require a body in order to perform their functions. To warrant this judgment, something that does not change must have been perceived in the wax. Similarly, since practical action must usually be performed without delay, there usually is not time to discover the truest or most certain course of action, but one must follow the most probable route. It certainly comes up first in his characterization of free choice even though his ensuing gloss on it may seem to cover it up under the more "common" doctrine of the school AT 7 58, CSM 2 In fact you could actually be in a dream right now. Over the years, scholars have debated whether this response is adequate. In the words of Arnauld: I have one further worry, namely how the author avoids reasoning in a circle when he says that we are sure that what we clearly and distinctly perceive is true only because God exists. Here Cottingham returns to reflecting on the tensions in Descartes's philosophical project between the ambitions of the mathematical scientist and the theological and ethical agenda of the metaphysically bent philosopher.
He argues that the mind and body operate as separate entities able to exist without one another. But how do mind and body interact? In tune with the modern secularist and naturalist agendas of the Anglophone philosophical academy, the latter overlook the pervasive appeal to God, whose nature and existence are rightly said to "lie at the very heart of his entire philosophical system" p.
This last conclusion was presented merely as a hypothesis whose fruitfulness could be tested and proven by way of its results, as contained in the attached essays on Dioptrics and Meteorology. Yet the topics covered by Cottingham extend very widely and offer nuanced and often instructive reflections both on controversial Cartesian views that still challenge his commentators, and on their simplified canonical images that continue to haunt contemporary discussions.
Elizabeth probed Descartes about issues that he had not dealt with in much detail before, including free will, the passions and morals. They both had a desire to help others scale the heights of religion, using the path of reason, and bring them to the other side with a firm perception and knowledge of the reality of, not just a god, but the one, true God.