Descartes's Grey Ontology

978-1-58731-176-5
Cloth $35
Translated by Sarah E. Donahue, 320 pages, 6 1?8" x 9 1/4", preface, introductions, abbreviations, footnotes, bibliography, indexes, pub date: November 2017

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Descartes's Grey Ontology

Cartesian Science and Aristotelian Thought in the Regulae

Marion, Jean-Luc

The reader who approaches Descartes's first work “Cartesianly,” that is, epistemologically, is faced with an insurmountable difficulty: the Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii is virtually incomprehensible in Cartesian terms. Indeed, Descartes himself appears to have disowned the work, after having put it aside, never to be completed. In this groundbreaking study, first published in 1975 to accompany an Index to the Regulae published in 1976 and a new French translation published in 1977, Jean-Luc Marion argues that the key to understanding the text – and the genesis of Cartesianism – is to read it as a dialogue with Aristotle. Descartes's Rules for the Direction of the Mind becomes intelligible when the precise correspondence between its themes and various Aristotelian texts concerning science and being is established.

By situating Descartes within the history of the discourse on being, Marion brings into relief the grey ontology that lies at the origins of Cartesian science. Grey because it is never made explicit; grey because its “objects” are the impoverished shadows of Aristotelian “things”; grey because it never takes the full measure of itself. Within this history, then, the Regulae inaugurates a new era, where Descartes's own metaphysics and his conception of the divine become profoundly ambivalent.

In revealing the origins and presuppositions of Cartesian science, Descartes's Grey Ontology reveals us – we moderns – to ourselves. At the same time, it is an introduction to contemporary Cartesian scholarship in France, revitalized since its publication, and it is an introduction to the thought of one of France's premier philosophers, whose oeuvre brings together the history of philosophy, phenomenology, and theology. A number of Marion’s works have already been translated into English, many of them billed as an introduction to his thought. But this work of Cartesian scholarship, Marion's Ph.D. dissertation, provides the reader with a window into the genesis of that thought. This translation reproduces the third edition of the French original. Between 1975 and the third edition, Marion's rethinking of the consequences of Descartes's grey ontology produced Sur la théologie blanche de Descartes (forthcoming from St. Augustine's Press).

Jean-Luc Marion is Professor of Philosophy at Paris IV, La Sorbonne, and the John Nuveen Professor at the University of Chicago in the Divinity School, the Department of Philosophy, and the Committee on Social Thought. He was awarded the Grand Prix de Philosophie from the Académie Française in 1992 for his work as a whole. He is the co-Director of the Centre d'Études Cartésiennes and one of the founding editors of the FrenchCommunio.

Sarah Donahue is a PhD. candidate in philosophy at the Catholic University of America.