Front Page Titles (by Subject) VIII.: Innate Ideas. - The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes
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VIII.: Innate Ideas. - Réné Descartes, The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes 
The Method, Meditations and Philosophy of Descartes, translated from the Original Texts, with a new introductory Essay, Historical and Critical by John Veitch and a Special Introduction by Frank Sewall (Washington: M. Walter Dunne, 1901).
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The predicate “innate” has been a source of great debate in connection with the philosophy of Descartes. But any one who intelligently apprehends its first principles, will readily see both what it means and what is the extent of its application in his philosophy. It will be found to amount to this, that there is no mental modification whatever in our consciousness, which, according to Descartes, is not innate. But it is innate not in the sense of being actually developed, or an actual modification of consciousness; innate only in the sense of being a potentiality capable of development into a form of consciousness, yet waiting certain conditions ere this takes place. In this sense, every idea of perception, and every state of sensation is innate. The supposed outward world and the organic impressions which precede perception and sensation lie wholly beyond consciousness. Yet, but for their action in the view of Descartes, neither perception nor sensation would occur. At the same time, their influence ceases at the threshold of consciousness; and when their action is completed, there originate in the mind out of its own nature the conscious idea of extension, and the conscious sensation of color or sound. These ideas and sensations are wholly innate, in the sense that they are evolutions of the consciousness alone; that they are not transmitted to the mind by the action of outward objects or by the organic impressions. They are the forms of a new and independent power, which arise simply on occasion of external stimuli, but which these stimuli serve in no way to create. Perceptions are innate,— due to the independency of the mind, on the theory of Descartes, hardly less than they are innate on the doctrine of the spontaneous monadic development of Leibnitz.
But there is another class of mental modifications with Descartes. These are not perceptions or sensations. They are “truths,” or “common notions,” or universal principles,—such as the law of substance and quality and of non-contradiction. These too are innate,—especially innate. They are innate potentialities, over and above mere perceptions or sensations. They too become actual in experience — but, unlike sensation, they are not immediately preceded by organic impressions. The moment the doctrine of Descartes is thus correctly apprehended, the whole polemic of Locke against “Innate Ideas” is seen to be irrelevant. If the doctrine is to be validly assailed, it must be on wholly other grounds than those stated by Locke.*
[*]All that is stated here will be found proved and illustrated in the Appendix to the present volume. Notes I., II., and VI. These are now reproduced exactly as they appeared in the Appendix to the Translation of The Meditations, published in 1853. The information therein contained, and the relative passages, have since been generally utilized by writers on Descartes and Cartesianism; and not unfrequently the quotations are credited to those who thus make use of them as introduced for the first time into our Cartesian literature.