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BOOK REVIEWS 251 The emphasis during the period under discussion is not, according to Professor Watt, confined to theology--as the term "Islamic Thought" might lead someone into believing-but rather to the significance of religious doctrines in the Islamic community, as well as the development and the intellectual lines of thought which led to the maturation of Islam in all its facets. In his attempt to achieve such a difficult objective, Professor Watt offered a radical "critique of the main heresiographical tradition" (p. 5). Instead of accepting the standard heresiographical tradition, Professor Watt offers "certain procedural rules.., to guide the student of early Islamic thought" (ibid). These "procedural rules" include the following: (a) "focus should be on particular individuals and their views" (ibid.); (b) "one must realize that sect-names are not objective and must always ask who is applying this name to whom" (ibid); (c) "early material is generally to be preferred to later, since it is more likely to retain the original form of expression" (ibid.); and (d) "it is desirable to link up doctrinal statements with the contemporary political and historical situation, since often the apparently theological assertions have a political relevance" (ibid.). Adopting these "rules," Professor Watt surveyed the intellectual development of Islam by focusing on the following in successive chapters: (1) The Kharijites; (2) Proto-Shi'ite phenomena under the Umayyads; (3) The general religious movement; (4) God's deterruination of Events; (5) Faith and Community; (6) The establishment of 'Abbasids; (7) The attraction of reasoning; (8) The great Mu'tazilites; (9) The Polarity of Sunnism and Shi'ism; (10) The maturing of Sunnite theology. This book is strictly for Islam specialists. ROBERT ELIASABU SHANAB The University o] Libya at Benghazi The Origin o/Subjectivity: An Essay on Descartes. By Hiram Caton. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1973. Pp. xvi + 248. $12.50) In The Origin o/Subjectivity, Hiram Caton gives a major interpretation both of the origins and of the contours of Descartes' metaphysics. Caton's thesis is that the Meditations derive from and depend on Cartesian physics, specifically as advanced in the Dioptrics. Using this order of reasons as his primary principle of interpretation, Caton drives Cartesian metaphysics inexorably toward absolute materialism. All ideas and "modes [or ways] of thought [such as sensing, conceiving, and willing] are only modifications of the brain" (p. 180); they are incorporated by "a completely mechanical, corporeal conception" (p. 165). The human body is a total automaton responding to the physical environment; "only the body-machine acts" (p. 186); "the will does not move the body" (p. 188). Thus Caton's statement that "the order that emerges generates our principal interpretive thesis that self-consciousness is the fundamental and unifying motif of Cartesian philosophy" (p. 3) becomes paradoxical. That is, Caton's two interpretive principles lead to the crucial intersection of Cartesian science with Cartesian metaphysics: The subjectivity of the knower and the objectivity of the world are generated by one and the same reflection that "distinguishes" the mind from the body. This reflection, which from the .perspectiveof the Meditations appears to occur in a moment and without reference to the world, in fact has its roots in animal automatism and physiological optics. (P. 77) The paradox is that despite the centrality of self-consciousness in the origin of subjectivity, the mind isstripped of all mental faculties, All of "the powers [and activities] traditionally attributed to the soul [or mind]" (p. 165) are identified as belonging to the brain. Cartesian mind is shrunk to a self-consciousness that is mere awareness of the body. Although Caton 252 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY supports strongly the view that "Cartesian self-consciousness is not given, but [is] produced by will or reason's self-assertion in the resolution to assume self-control" (p. 60), none of this self-assertion or self-control is possible. What is the self that is selfconsciousness ? Caton argues urgently that the mind is not a mental substance. Mostly, the mind is the brain, and the self-consciousness that remains "is purely a 'spectator'" (p. 97) of the mechanical scene, a specter, a hapless ghost in the body-machine. 'Selfconsciousness ' becomes a misleading term, for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 251-256
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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