Truth and Imprecision in the Fourth Meditation

David Cunning

in Argument and Persuasion in Descartes’ Meditations

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780195399608
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866502 | DOI:
Truth and Imprecision in the Fourth Meditation

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This chapter argues that the truth rule—that whatever we perceive clearly and distinctly is true—is derived initially at the end of the Third Meditation, and then derived again at the end of the Fourth on behalf of Descartes’ more confused readers. The chapter argues that the truth rule is to be used in two ways—as a premise in an argument to yield that a particular result is true, or, in cases where we have already recognized a result to be true, as a rebuttal to the objection that the results that we recognize to be true might nonetheless be false. The chapter argues that although the premises of the First Meditation skeptical arguments seemed clear enough at the start of inquiry, they can now be seen for the confusions that they are; they are rejected in favor of the clearer premises that show that God exists and is not a deceiver. Accordingly, there is no Cartesian Circle. The chapter also considers various confusions that the meditator expresses because he had them before entering the Meditations and has not yet emended them. For example, the chapter considers the meditator’s views on the overall goodness of the universe and compares it with Descartes’ contrary commitment to voluntarism. Finally, the chapter argues that although the Fourth Meditation meditator has a pronounced experience of freedom and independence, Descartes himself is a compatibilist. Descartes does accept that we make errors when we misuse our wills to affirm what our intellects do not fully understand, but he is not a libertarian. In the final analysis he subscribes to the view that our wills are sometimes at the mercy of bodily processes, and he also subscribes to the view that God has preordained for eternity each and everything that occurs. The chapter also discusses Descartes’ stoicism.

Keywords: truth rule; Cartesian Circle; voluntarism; will; intellect; stoicism; freedom; error; compatibilist; libertarian

Chapter.  12073 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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