On the Situation of Descartes’ Thought within History of Metaphysics

Dominique Pradelle

This paper focuses on the position of Descartes’ thought within the history of metaphysics. Hegel and Husserl both attributed to Descartes the historical function of the founder of modernity: he may have disclosed for philosophical thought the absolute ground of self-consciousness or pure subjectivity. Th at is precisely the question on which our paper focuses: within history of metaphysics is there a radical epistemological break from the medieval supremacy of theology, or on the way from medieval ontology towards the Cartesian ontology is there less break than real continuity? In his lessons from the year 1923–24, which are an “Introduction to the Phenomenological Research”, Heidegger elaborates a genealogical method of clarifying Descartes’ philosophical thought: he characterizes the Husserlian phenomenology by the supremacy of concern for certainty, which determines in advance the nature of its phenomena as being eidetic and transcendental; then he comes back up to Descartes, and aims at revealing in a genealogical way the origin of this Husserlian theoretical concern for certainty. And he brings into light that there is no Cartesian discontinuity within history of metaphysics, but, on the contrary, Descartes’ thought is situated in the continuity of medieval ontology and aristotelical supremacy of theoretical life. So he discloses the historical character of Dasein, so that history of being becomes itself the essential ground and focus of philosophical investigation.


Keywords: Descartes · Husserl · Heidegger · phenomenology · certainty · historicity · cogito

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