Descartes and Spiritual Exercises: A Critique of Pierre Hadot's Historical Narrative

Eksen K.

PHILOSOPHY TODAY, vol.63, no.1, pp.73-92, 2019 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 63 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.5840/philtoday2019611258
  • Journal Name: PHILOSOPHY TODAY
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.73-92
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The present study is an attempt to contribute to the debates on the relationship between spiritual traditions and Descartes's Meditations. Taking its point of departure from Pierre Hadot's inspiring studies, the article aims to describe the nature of the philosophical practice that Meditations embodies and to discuss the ways in which the work can be located in the history of the relations between theory and practice. To this end, Hadot's suggestion that Meditations should be read as a set of spiritual exercises will be criticized through an analysis of the nature of the "nonargumentative" or "experiential" level that is at work in Descartes's text. By showing that the transformation intended by Descartes does not reach beyond the level of cognition, it will be argued that even though Descartes makes use of certain key elements of the spiritualist literature, he belongs to the modern age of "philosophy without spirituality."