•  8803
    Clear and Distinct Perception in Descartes's Philosophy
    Dissertation, University of California Berkeley. 2005.
    (Shoshana Smith now goes by her married name, Shoshana Brassfield: http://philpapers.org/profile/37640) Descartes famously claims that everything we perceive clearly and distinctly is true. Although this rule is fundamental to Descartes’s theory of knowledge, readers from Gassendi and Leibniz onward have complained that unless Descartes can say explicitly what clear and distinct perception is, how we know when we have it, and why it cannot be wrong, then the rule is empty. I offer a detailed …Read more
  •  1983
    Never Let the Passions Be Your Guide: Descartes and the Role of the Passions
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 20 (3): 459-477. 2012.
    Commentators commonly assume that Descartes regards it as a function of the passions to inform us or teach us which things are beneficial and which are harmful. As a result, they tend to infer that Descartes regards the passions as an appropriate guide to what is beneficial or harmful. In this paper I argue that this conception of the role of the passions in Descartes is mistaken. First, in spite of a number of texts appearing to show the contrary, I argue that Descartes does not regard it as th…Read more
  •  919
    "Overcoming Objectification: A Carnal Ethics," by Ann J. Cahill (review)
    Teaching Philosophy 35 (2): 217-221. 2012.
    The central argument of Ann Cahill’s Overcoming Objectification is that the concept of sexual objectification should be replaced by Cahill’s concept of derivatization in order to better capture the wrongness of degrading images and practices without depending on an objectionably narrow and disembodied conception of self. To derivatize someone is not to treat her as a non-person, but rather to treat her as a derivative person, reducing her to an aspect of another’s being. Although not perfect, …Read more
  •  500
    Descartes and the Danger of Irresolution
    Essays in Philosophy 14 (2): 162-178. 2013.
    Descartes's approach to practical judgments about what is beneficial or harmful, or what to pursue or avoid, is almost exactly the opposite of his approach to theoretical judgments about the true nature of things. Instead of the cautious skepticism for which Descartes is known, throughout his ethical writings he recommends developing the habit of making firm judgments and resolutely carrying them out, no matter how doubtful and uncertain they may be. Descartes, strikingly, takes irresolution to …Read more