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"A superior piece of work. I can't think of any other work that sets for itself as ambitious a task or that does as well with anything like it."-Roger Ariew, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
This Routledge guidebook is excellent for people have come to read Descartes' Meditations for the first time. While the Meditations themselves are well-written, this guidebook will help reader grasp not only the ideas presented in the work, but also their implications, and of course the arguments and counter-arguments put forward by other thinkers.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Superb exigesis of the Meditations27 Feb. 2006
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This is the third of these Routledge Guidebooks that I've purchased, and they have all been extremely good. Hatfield has written extensively on Descartes and knows his work inside and out. He also provides the background and context that show what Descartes was up to, and what was at issue in those days that drove his agenda. Long story short, he was out to overthrow Aristotle in the interest of improving empirical science, not to establish some world-denying skepticism. The Meditations are an attempt to first wipe the slate of what we think we know and then, by the end of the 6th Meditation, to have trained the reader in an entirely new way of thinking about the world. The Meditations are a narrative meant to gradually bring you along on that project, which was a tricky and even dangerous one for Descartes, because Aristotle was the Church's intellectual saint.
If you haven't read the Meditations before, or only long ago, I recommend reading Hatfield's treatment of each one first. If you read Descartes first, you are likely to find that Hatfield has added so much to your understanding that you'll be going back for a second read, anyway. I haven't read any other full-length expositions of the Meditations, but I can't imagine how anyone could do a better job than Hatfield has done here.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
comprehensive intro16 Dec. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a first rate introduction, not just to the "Meditations," but to Descartes work as a whole. Hatfield situates Descartes' most famous text in relation to his other works, arguing that the "Meditations" is most profitably read as a work on the foundations of physics. His Descartes is a "mathematician and natural philosopher" before he is a metaphysician or epistemologist. Hatfield offers illuminating discussions of the scientific and philosophical context in which Descartes wrote, stressing his contributions to both physics and metaphysics. We get a good account of the scholastic doctrines against which Descartes reacted. The "Meditations" emerges as a work on the "first principles" of our knowledge of god, the mind, and the natural world. Hatfield thus downplays the epistemolgoical side of Descartes' work, shifting the focus away from skepticism and concerns about the limits of knowledge. He also does a good job explaining how the literary form of the work contributes to its overall aims, clarifying the significance of the "meditative" first-person narrative and the "analytic" method it's designed to exemplify. The book concludes with a helpful, if brief, account of the Cartesian legacy. In general, the book presents a heavily contextualized reading of the "Meditations," one that will surely surprise readers familar only with the standard picture of Descartes and his work. Despite the emphasis on contexts unfamilar to most, readers will find this book very accessible. It's organized well, and Hatfield handles the techinical terminology adroitly, explaining things patiently, while, at the same time, avoiding a burdensome amount of detail. (I have only one complaint: the paper back edition is not put together very well. It's stiff as a board, and the spine cracked as soon as I got going. So I don't expect it to last very long.)
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good Commentary, Bad Binding6 July 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent introduction to Descartes' Meditations. Throughout the commentary, Hatfield presents and considers alternative interpretations to reading one of Descartes' seminal works. He also illuminates the background in which the text was written - Descartes' philosophical and scientific influences, as well as considering political circumstances at the time. Regardless, this book only receives 4 stars, but not for any reason on Hatfield's part or the content. The 4 stars is based on, what another reviewer said, the horrible binding of the book. Fortunately, my spine is still intact, but it is surely in poor condition (and I take great care of my books). They definitely could have done better with the binding.