Moral Uncertainty, Feminism and Descartes’ Demon

  • Alison Assiter


In this chapter the theme of moral uncertainty in the modern world is addressed through a discussion of Descartes’ mind/body dualism. I suggest that such uncertainty may, to some degree, be attributed to a kind of cultural mind/body dualism which makes reasoned moral judgement virtually impossible. I suggest, further, that a more careful reading of Descartes may help overcome such cultural dualism and establish firmer grounds for practical philosophy.


Moral Judgement Physiological Sensation Practical Philosophy Moral Universe Cartesian Dualism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adam, C. and Tannery, P. [AT] (1897–1910), Oeuvres de Descartes, 12 vols., Paris: Leopold Cerf.Google Scholar
  2. Ariew, R. and Grene, M. (1995), Descartes and his Contemporaries, Meditations, Objections and Replies, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Assiter, A. (1996), Enlightened Women, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, G. and Morris, K. (1996), DescartesDualism, London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Blair, T. (2004), Speech, in The Guardian, 5 March.Google Scholar
  6. Braidotti, R. (1991), Patterns ofDissonance, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  7. Calder, G. (1998), ‘Liberalism without Universalism’, in Brecher, B., Halliday, J. and Kolinska, K. (eds), Nationalism and Racism in the Liberal Order, Avebury Series in Philosophy, Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  8. Cornford, F. M. (1907), Thucydides Mythistoricus, London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  9. Derrida, J. (1976), Of Grammatology, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Descartes, R. (1968), Discourse on Method and Other Writings, London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  11. Descartes, R. (1985), The Philosophical Writing ofDescartes, 2 vols., trans. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothhoff and D. Murdoch, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frankfurt, H. (1971), ‘Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person’, Journal of Philosophy, 68.Google Scholar
  13. Fricker, M. (1991), ‘Reason and Emotion’, Radical Philosophy, no. 57, Spring Issue, Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Gatens, M. (1996), Imaginary Bodies, Ethics, Power and Corporeality, London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Gilroy, P. (1993), The Black Atlantic, Modernity and Double Consciousness, London: Verso.Google Scholar
  16. Kant, I. (1933), Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp-Smith, London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Lloyd, G. (1984), The Man of Reason, ‘MaleandFemalein Western Philosophy, London: Methuen.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lyotard, J. F. (1979), The Postmodern Condition, Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  19. O’Neill, O. (1996), Towards Justice and Virtue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Parekh, B. (2000), Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory, Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  21. Plumwood, V. (1993), Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Rorty, A. (1986), Essays on DescartesMeditations, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Rorty, R. (1980), Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  24. Russell, B. (1946), History of Western Philosophy, London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  25. Ryle, G. (1949), The Concept ofMind, London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  26. Scheman, N. (1993), ‘Though This be Method, yet there is Madness in it’, in Scheman, N. (ed.), Engenderings, Constructions of Knowledge, Authority, and Privilege, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Sorrell, T. (1994), ‘Descartes’ Modernity’, in J. Cottingham (ed.), Reason, Will and Sensation, Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  28. Scruton, R. (1984), A Short History ofModern Philosophy, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Waizer, M. (1977), Just and Unjust Wars, Harmondsworth: Penguin. Young, I. M. (1990), Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton, NJ:Google Scholar
  30. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alison Assiter 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Assiter

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations