It is a matter of continuing scholarly dispute whether Descartes offers a metaphysics of the material world that is “monist” or “pluralist.” One passage that has become crucial to this debate is from the Synopsis of the Meditations, in which Descartes argues that since “body taken in general” is a substance, and since all substances are “by their nature incorruptible,” this sort of body is incorruptible as well. In this article I defend a pluralist reading of this passage, according to which there are indefinitely many bodies-taken-in-general, each of which counts as an incorruptible material substance. However, I also consider some surprising features of the argument in the Synopsis. One is that this argument conflicts with the implication in Descartes that any two “really distinct” substances can each exist without the other existing. Another is that the argument tends to undermine his suggestion that there is room at a fundamental metaphysical level for ordinary material objects.

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