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Durham e-Theses
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‘The Meditations as Meditation?: The Significance of Reading Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy from a Meditational Perspective’

WALLACE, SARAH,KATHARINE (2012) ‘The Meditations as Meditation?: The Significance of Reading Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy from a Meditational Perspective’. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This project considers the significance of the title of Descartes’ Meditations, asking questions of the nature and extent of the influence of the meditational genre on the text. Approaching the text from a meditational perspective is shown to be highly illuminative. Meditation is not just one ‘aspect’ of the text; rather, it impacts on its very nature, purpose and meaning.

Despite the quantity of research on the Meditations, the text often meets with heavy criticism. This is at least partly due to the way the text is approached; the compartmentalisation of ‘problems’ in the text, and the sidelining of ‘literary’ considerations in favour of the ‘philosophical’, create a fractured representation of the text. This thesis promotes philosophical and literary interdependency, by focusing the reader’s attention on the role of meditation in informing the text. It offers a fresh approach to the Meditations.

The thesis draws on comparisons with St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, to assess if, and in what way, this type of meditational writing informed the Meditations. The thesis establishes a basic connection between Ignatius and Descartes, before giving Descartes a voice in explaining why he chose to so title his work, emphasising epistemological considerations. The final part builds a picture of how the meditational genre impacts on the reader’s interpretation of the Meditations.

By focusing on the importance of how the text is read, a consideration of the title is shown to be key in bringing about a more balanced understanding of the text. This sympathetic approach renders some of the classic ‘Cartesian problems’ less threating to Descartes’ project. Furthermore, reforming the way we read the Meditations has wider implications for handling other philosophical and theological texts. The focus on considerations of style and genre can be applied more widely, paving the way for fruitful textual interpretation.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Keywords:"Descartes"; "Meditations"; "meditation"; "Ignatius"; "literary"; "epistemology"; "genre"
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Feb 2013 13:35

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