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The Natural Light and Natural Impulses

This clear/imperfect distinction is related to another distinction Descartes makes between the natural light and natural impulses.

clear and distinct

imperfect and confused

natural light

‘whatever is revealed to me by the natural light — for example that from the fact that I am doubting it follows that I exist, and so on — cannot in any way be open to doubt. This is because there cannot be another faculty both as trustworthy as the natural light and also capable of showing me that such things are not true.’

(Third Meditation).

natural impuses

‘as for my natural impulses, I have often judged in the past that they were pushing me in the wrong direction when it was a question of choosing the good, and I do not see why I should place any greater confidence in them in other matters’

(Third Meditation).

van der Wel et al, 2014 figure 2A

‘Dual-process theories of thinking and reasoning quite literally propose the presence of two minds in one brain. The stream of consciousness that broadly corresponds to System 2 thinking is massively supplemented by a whole set of autonomous subsystems in System 1 that post only their final products into consciousness and compete directly for control of our inferences, decisions and actions. However, System 2 provides the basis for hypothetical thinking that endows modern humans with unique potential for a higher level of rationality in their reasoning and decision-making.’


Evans, 2003 p. 458

‘the proper purpose of [...] sensory perceptions [...] is simply to inform the mind of what is beneficial or harmful’


Descartes, Meditation IV

Why not say the same about natural impulses
... and about the natural light?