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Skepticism is thereby defeated, according to Descartes.
Here, Gassendi singles out two features of methodic doubt — itsuniversal and hyperbolic character. In reply,Descartes remarks:
Much of epistemology has arisen either in defense of, or in oppositionto, various forms of skepticism. Indeed, one could classify varioustheories of knowledge by their responses to skepticism. For example,rationalists could be viewed as skeptical about the possibility ofempirical knowledge while not being skeptical with regard to a prioriknowledge, and empiricists could be seen as skeptical about thepossibility of a priori knowledge but not so with regard to empiricalknowledge. In addition, views about many traditional philosophicalproblems, e.g., the problem of other minds or the problem ofinduction, can be seen as restricted forms of skepticism thathold that we cannot have knowledge of any propositions in someparticular domain that is normally thought to be within our ken.
Of his own methodology, Descartes writes:
Building on these texts, assume that Descartes holds that theneeded conclusion comes to be self-evident — namely, theconclusion that an all-perfect God exists who guarantees the C&DRule. Assume, indeed, that this truth comes to have a kind ofcogito-like status, in the following sense: whenever I try todoubt whether God exists, or is a deceiver, or the like, the effort atdoubt ends up being self-stultifying. When I try to doubt myown existence, I immediately apprehend that I must exist inorder to be attempting the doubt. Similarly (on this interpretation),when I try to doubt God's existence, or omnipotence, orbenevolence — or any other attribute contained in the veryconception of an all-perfect being — I immediately apprehend,as Descartes writes, that any such sceptical conception of God“implies a conceptual contradiction — that is, it cannotbe conceived” (1643 letter to Voetius, AT 8b:60). In that case,the hard problem for an unbounded doubt interpretation has dissolved. Ican no longer doubt the Arc 1 conclusions about God, or the Arc 2conclusions about the divine guarantee, because those conclusions havebecome self-evident: to try to doubt them is to think about them; butto think about them is to apprehend their truth. The mechanism fordoubting inferential truths — that of attending to a conclusionwithout also attending to the premises on which it rests — isnow impotent. No longer resting on premises, those truthsare self-evidently recognized as true whenever I attend to them. Thisinterpretation explains why Descartes holds, in the final analysis,that the Evil Genius Doubt eventually loses it undermining potency.
Various themes about innate truths are introduced in the FifthMeditation. Among them concerns the effects of repeated meditation:truths initially noticed only by means of inference might eventuallycome to be apprehended self-evidently. In the build-up to the passageclaiming that the Evil Genius Doubt is finally and fully overcome,Descartes has his meditator say:
Father of this method is Renee Descartes.
In the final analysis, Descartes holds that such transparent truths— along with demonstrable truths, and many judgments ofinternal sense — are indeed Knowable. To becomeactually Known, however, they must stand unshakable in the facethe most powerful of doubts. The stage is thus set for the introductionof another sceptical hypothesis.
Though dreaming doubts do significant demolition work, they arelight-duty bulldozers relative to Descartes' most power scepticaldoubt. What further judgments are left to be undermined?Following the discussion of dreaming, the meditator tentativelyconcludes that the results of empirical disciplines “aredoubtful” — e.g., “physics, astronomy,medicine,” and the like. Whereas:
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This concludes the discussion of CP-style argument for skepticism.
That is, the cause is either infinite substance (God), or finitesubstance; and if finite, then either corporeal, or somethingelse. Descartes eliminates options (a) and (c) by appeal to Godbeing no deceiver:
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Interestingly, Descartes would agree that experientialresources cannot solve the problem. By the Sixth Meditation, however,Descartes purports to have the innate resources he needs tosolve it — notably, innate ideas of mind and body. Among themetaphysical theses he develops is that mind and body have whollydistinct essences: the essence of thinking substance is pure thought;the essence of body is pure extension. In a remarkable maneuver,Descartes invokes this distinction to refute the sceptical worry thatsensations are produced by a subconscious faculty of the mind:“nothing can be in me, that is to say, in my mind, of which I amnot aware,” and this “follows from the fact that the soulis distinct from the body and that its essence is to think”(1640 letter to Mersenne, AT 3:273). This result allows Descartes tosupplement the involuntariness argument, thereby strengthening theinference from line 1 to line 2. For from the additional premise thatnothing can be in my mind of which I am unaware, it followsthat if sensations were being produced by some activity in my mind, thenI'd be aware of that activity on the occasion of its operation. SinceI'm not thus aware, it follows that the sensation I'm having is producedby a cause external to my mind. As Descartes writes, this cause
On Cartesian Skepticism Essays 1 - 30 Anti Essays
Descartes' strategy for proving an external material world has two mainparts: first, he argues for the externality of the causes ofsensation; second, he argues for the materiality of theseexternal causes. (Let's refer to these putative sensations assensations, though, strictly speaking, we cannot yet be using the termin a way that presupposes being caused by external sense organs.) From these two steps it follows that there exists an external materialworld. Let's consider each phase of the argument.
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Further reading: For Descartes' response to the chargesof circularity: see the Fourth Replies. For texts concerning his finalsolution to hyperbolic doubt: see Fifth Meditation; Second Replies;letter to Regius (24 May 1640). For a treatment of the Fourth Meditationproof of the C&D Rule, see Newman (1999). For discussions of therole of the Fifth Meditation in the eventual, self-evident apprehensionof God, see Newman and Nelson (1999), Nolan (2005), and Nolan and Nelson(2006). For examples of unbounded doubt interpretations, see Carriero(2009), Curley (1978 and 1993), DeRose (1992), Loeb (1992), Newman(2012), Newman and Nelson (1999), Sosa (1997a and 1997b), and Van Cleve(1979). For examples of bounded doubt interpretations, see Broughton(2002), Doney (1955), Della Rocca (2005), Kenny (1968), Morris (1973),Rickless (2005), and Wilson (1978). For an anthology devoted largely tothe Cartesian Circle, see Doney (1987).
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