Why it matters that I'm not insane: The role of the madness argument in Descartes's first meditation

Descartes’s First Meditation employs a series of arguments designed to generate the worry that the senses might not provide sufficient evidence to justify one’staking as certain one’s beliefs about the way the world is. As the meditator considers what principle describes the conditions under which it is possible to attain certain knowledge, one after another doubt-generating device is ushered in, until at last he finds himself like someone caught in a whirlpool, able neither to stand firm nor to swim out. In this paper, I examine one of those devices, namely, what is often referred to as the Madness Argument. In particular, I want to discuss its relation to the Dream Argument and its function in the Meditations as a whole. My position stands in contrast to the interpretations of Anthony Kenny, Margaret Wilson, Michael Williams, and, more recently, Janet Broughton and Catherine Wilson
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DOI 10.5840/ipq200747159
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