chapter  V
20 Pages

Rethinking Representation in the Middle Ages: A Vade-Mecum to Medieval Theories of Mental Representation

WithPeter King

The charge that Descartes is a representational realist has two sources: the Demon thought experiment and Descartes's representational theory of mind. Rather than conflating concepts with species, Descartes adopts the Platonic terminology of 'ideas' but, as he is commonly understood, drops the association between ideas and 'exemplars', copies of the Divine ideas, or models for creation. The problem of representation Descartes is sketching here would not go away with a materialist theory of mind, a point with which many contemporary externalists about mental content concur. Denying that Descartes's theory of ideas is in any straightforward way a resemblance theory is not to say that there is no non-referential component to ideas as Calvin Normore has pointed out. Descartes's general view of sensation is that because the mind is aware of its sensations and because sensations present as they do that it is natural to refer them to external objects.