Consciousness in Early Modern Philosophy


This commentary on Udo Thiel’s rich and inspiring book The Early Modern Subject consists of three parts. The first part expresses agreement with Thiel’s claim that the early modern philosophers use terms such as “conscientia”, “conscience”, “consciousness”, and “Bewusstsein” in order to refer to forms of “relating to one’s own self”. However, Thiel’s additional claim that the early modern philosophers were not much concerned with object consciousness is found wanting. The second part takes issue with Thiel’s understanding of the way in which René Descartes’s psychological usage of the term “conscientia” is innovative. It is argued that Descartes does not arrive at the psychological meaning of the term by abstraction from its moral meaning. Instead, Descartes only widens the application of the term in one of its established ancient meanings. The third part presents objections to Thiel’s higher-order reading of Cartesian conscientia.Peer Reviewe

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