The two-volume selection by Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch (see under Texts and Translations) is the most satisfactory collection of Descartes’s writings in English. Individual philosophical texts by Descartes are also widely available in paperback editions published by Penguin, Everyman, Mentor, and Nelson. A particularly useful translation by Stephen Voss of The Passions of the Soul (Indianapolis, 1989) can also be mentioned in this connection. The selection of Descartes’s enormous correspondence translated by Anthony Kenny (see under Texts and Translations, p. ix) has now been corrected, enlarged, and incorporated as a third volume into the Cottingham, Stoothoff, and Murdoch edition of Descartes’s writings. Further correspondence, on psychology and ethics, has been translated by John Blom (see below). Also of interest is Descartes’s Conversation with Burman, edited and translated by John Cottingham (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976).
Descartes’s scientific writings are usually excerpted rather than printed complete. The selections given in Cottingharn et al. should meet the needs of the general reader. For the Discourse and Essays in its entirety, see the English translation by Paul Olscamp (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965). See also T. S. Hall (trans.), Treatise of Man (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), and the translation of The Principles of Philosophy published by Reidel in 1984.
In French, besides the Adam and Tannery, there is an edition of Descartes’s writings by Alquié (Paris: Gamier, 1963–73).
The first biography of Descartes was Adrien Baillet’s La Vie de Monsieur Descartes, published in 1691 (Paris: La Table Ronde, 1946), recently reprinted by Slatkine Reprints (Geneva, 1970). Modern accounts of Descartes’s life, which at times correct Baillet, include Charles Adam, Vie et Œuvres de Descartes (1910; AT, vol. 12), on which I have relied heavily, and, in English, Jack Vrooman, René Descartes: A Biography (New York: Putnam, 1970). Much more recent is Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes: An Intellectual Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), which has a very full treatment of Descartes’s scientific writings.
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Apart from Gaukroger’s biography of Descartes, one of the few recent books to cover Descartes’s philosophy and science is Daniel Garber’s excellent Descartes’ Metaphysical Physics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992). Considerably older but still worth consulting is Jonathan Rée, Descartes (London: Allen Lane, 1974). More on Descartes’s philosophy and science can be found in Desmond Clarke, Descartes’ Philosophy of Science (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1982), and the collection of papers edited by Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes: Philosophy, Mathematics, and Physics (Brighton: Harvester, 1980).
Descartes’s science is considered in some depth in J. F. Scott, The Scientific Work of René Descartes (London: Taylor and Francis, 1952). Also useful is the chapter on Descartes in volume 7 of Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958).
For a more general survey, see Gerd Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: The Classical Origins—Descartes to Kant (Oxford: Blackwell, 1969).
Among the many good books on Descartes’s philosophy, I mention: Anthony Kenny, Descartes: A Study of his Philosophy (New York: Random House, 1968); Harry Frankfurt, Demons, Dreamers and Madmen: The Defence of Reason in Descartes’s Metaphysics (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970); Bernard Williams, Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978); E. M. Curley, Descartes against the Sceptics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978); Margaret Wilson, Descartes (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978); John Cottingham, Descartes (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).
Recent collections of articles on Descartes’s philosophy include John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), Stephen Voss, Essays on the Philosophy and Science of Descartes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), and John Cottingham (ed.), Reason, Will and Sensation: Essays on Descartes’s Metaphysics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). A collection of articles on the Objectors to the Meditations edited by Roger Ariew and Marjorie Grene (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995) includes contributions from leading French Descartes scholars.
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Texts, including letters, relevant to a study of what Descartes calls ‘morals’, are assembled in John Blom (trans.), Descartes: His Moral Philosophy and Psychology (Hassocks: Harvester, 1978).
Descartes’s medical writings are discussed and interpreted in Richard Carter, Descartes’s Medical Philosophy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978).
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On Cartesianism in philosophy after Descartes’s death, see Norman Kemp Smith, Studies in the Cartesian Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1902), and Richard Watson, The Downfall of Cartesianism 1673–1712 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966).
The influence of Cartesian innatism in linguistics is discussed in Part Three of S. Stich (ed.), Innate Ideas (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975).
For an indication of reactions against Descartes in latter-day philosophy, see Rée (cited above), and Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980).