The Cartesian alternative to substantial forms: Towards a mechanical physics


  • William de Jesus Teixeira Universidade de Brasilia (UnB).


Descartes, Scholasticism, Natural philosophy, Substantial form, Res extensa.


The objective of this paper is to show how Descartes worked out his mechanical philosophy. So the first step to reach this goal led Descartes to criticize and to abandon the obscure notion of ‘substantial form’, which was widely employed by the Scholastics to explain all events concerning natural beings in a qualitative way. Having rejected the substantial forms, the next step would be to establish a new subject matter for natural philosophy, which he found in the material body (res extensa) and its geometrical properties. Finally, we will see that from these modifications introduced by Descartes in the object of study of natural philosophy will also emerge a new method of investigating and explaining natural phenomena based on the principles of mechanics and mathematics. Nonetheless, we will conclude by claiming that nothing of this will suffice to exclude substantial forms from natural philosophy and that is why metaphysics will play a fundamental role in Descartes’ philosophical system.

Biografia do Autor

William de Jesus Teixeira, Universidade de Brasilia (UnB).

Bacharel em filosofia pela Universidade de Brasília (UnB).


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