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Cartesian optics and the mastery of nature.

Cartesian optics and the mastery of nature. Descartes's Dioptrics is more than a mere technical treatise on optics; it is an essay in the "practical philosophy" that he claimed could render us "masters and possessors of nature." Descartes's practical intent is indicated first by the instrumentalist character of his derivation of the sine law of refraction, which is based on a heuristic and readily mathematizable model that requires no consideration of light's "true nature." Descartes's subsequent discussion of human vision is an extended critique of nature's workmanship that grounds the possibility of improving vision by artificial means. I suggest that this critique is the source of Descartes's doctrine that the purpose of sensory perception is to preserve the mind-body composite, not to provide knowledge of the essential nature of things. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of the Dioptrics is to "master" human vision by raising it from a mere means of self-preservation to an instrument of scientific knowledge. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences Pubmed

Cartesian optics and the mastery of nature.

Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences , Volume 88 (1): 20 – Jun 5, 1997

Cartesian optics and the mastery of nature.


Abstract

Descartes's Dioptrics is more than a mere technical treatise on optics; it is an essay in the "practical philosophy" that he claimed could render us "masters and possessors of nature." Descartes's practical intent is indicated first by the instrumentalist character of his derivation of the sine law of refraction, which is based on a heuristic and readily mathematizable model that requires no consideration of light's "true nature." Descartes's subsequent discussion of human vision is an extended critique of nature's workmanship that grounds the possibility of improving vision by artificial means. I suggest that this critique is the source of Descartes's doctrine that the purpose of sensory perception is to preserve the mind-body composite, not to provide knowledge of the essential nature of things. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of the Dioptrics is to "master" human vision by raising it from a mere means of self-preservation to an instrument of scientific knowledge.

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ISSN
0021-1753
DOI
10.1086/383626
pmid
9154736

Abstract

Descartes's Dioptrics is more than a mere technical treatise on optics; it is an essay in the "practical philosophy" that he claimed could render us "masters and possessors of nature." Descartes's practical intent is indicated first by the instrumentalist character of his derivation of the sine law of refraction, which is based on a heuristic and readily mathematizable model that requires no consideration of light's "true nature." Descartes's subsequent discussion of human vision is an extended critique of nature's workmanship that grounds the possibility of improving vision by artificial means. I suggest that this critique is the source of Descartes's doctrine that the purpose of sensory perception is to preserve the mind-body composite, not to provide knowledge of the essential nature of things. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of the Dioptrics is to "master" human vision by raising it from a mere means of self-preservation to an instrument of scientific knowledge.

Journal

Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influencesPubmed

Published: Jun 5, 1997

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