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Descartes on the Highest Good: Concepts and Conceptions

Journal article
Authors Frans Svensson
Published in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly
Volume 93
Issue 4
Pages 701-721
ISSN 1051-3558
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 701-721
Language en
Keywords virtue, love, Philosophy
Subject categories Philosophy


What is the highest good? In the ethics of Rene Descartes, we can distinguish between at least seven different answers to this question: (a) God; (b) the sum of all the different goods that "we either possess ... or have the power to acquire" (CSMK, 324/AT 5, 82);(1) (c) free will; (d) virtue; (e) love of God; (f) wisdom; and (g) supernatural beatitude. In this paper, I argue that each of these answers, in Descartes's view, provides the correct particular conception, relative to a distinct sense or concept of the highest good. Just as there are seven different conceptions of the highest good, according to Descartes, there are thus also seven different senses or concepts of the highest good.

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