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Alan Nelson

I like this analysis given the stipulation that we are to take what D says here as a straight, true account of his motivation.
Given the full theory of the passions, however, we needn't try to get "close" to generosity via pride. -Passions- #153 defining generosity is preceded in #152 with a connection between wisdom and good reasons for self-esteem. So "using one's will well" (generosity), i.e. willing what one carefully judges to be best. So for D, it is generous to pursue the advancement of human knowledge.

This does seem like a good example of your concept of philosophical prophecy. (Setting aside the oddness of the quoted text itself being retrospective).

Eric Schliesser

Yes, Alan, I agree that there is no doubt that for Descartes it is generous to pursue the advancement of human knowledge (in more way than once), but I still find his expressed motivation in the quoted passage, well, peculiar.

Philosophical prophecy often entails a variety of oddness.:) I am very pleased, of course, that you like this purported example.

George Gale

If I'm reading you right here, Eric,
wouldn't (accurate) philosophical prophecy be a species
of self-fulfilling prophecy?

Eric Schliesser

Close. There is indeed a family resemblance between the two (and I discuss this in my paper). But in self-fulling prophecies an initially false claim turns out to be true, while in philosophic prophecy an initially implausible/improbable claim becomes true. (It cannot be knowingly false.)

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