Causes, Existence, and Ideas

Thomas C. Vinci

in Cartesian Truth

Published in print June 1998 | ISBN: 9780195113297
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833825 | DOI:
 Causes, Existence, and Ideas

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There are two main formulations of a key causal principle in the Cartesian a priori philosophical system: one, present in Meditation III, says that the cause of the representational content (”objective reality”) of an idea must be situated at the same or higher level in ontology than the level at which the object represented is situated (the ”levels formulation”), the other, present in the axioms section of the Second Replies, says that the cause must contain ( formally or eminently) the same property (”reality”) as is represented by the idea (the ”same‐property” formulation). This central chapter defends four main contentions. (1) The same‐property formulation is basic in Descartes's system. (2) The notion of causality in the basic causal principle does not represent a spatio temporally extended natural process but a form of intentional explanation. (3) When point (2) is combined with the interpretation of the rule of truth offered in Ch. 2, the rule of truth and the basic causal principle prove to be equivalent. Finally, (4) in light of (3), there is one main pattern of inference in Cartesian epistemology taking the rule of truth/causal principle as its major premise and underlying all of Descartes arguments from my ideas to the existence of things outside my ideas, including the proof of my own existence (the cogito), the proof of the existence of God in Meditations III and V and the proof of the existence of the external world in Meditation VI and the Principles of Philosophy II,1.

Keywords: causal principle; Descartes; epistemology; existence of God; external world; inference; Meditations; objective reality; ontology; Principles of Philosophy; property; rule of truth; scepticism

Chapter.  17005 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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