PRINT September 2010

Adrian Piper

IN THE THIRD MEDITATION, Descartes attempts to answer the solipsist’s question as to whether there exists anything external to oneself, by considering whether he has any ideas about the external world that could not have arisen from within his own mind. He distinguishes those properties that are “clearly and distinctly perceived” in his “ideas of corporeal objects, namely

–magnitude or extension in length, breadth, and depth;

–figure [i.e., shape], which results from the termination of extension;

–situation [i.e., position], which bodies of diverse figures preserve with reference to each other; and

–motion or the change of situation; to which may be added

–substance [i.e., solidity],

–duration, and


from the other tactile qualities,” including








The latter, Descartes observes, are “thought with so much obscurity and confusion” that he “

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