Scepticism and science in Descartes

Recent work on Descartes has drastically revised the traditional conception of Descartes as a paradigmatic rationalist and foundationalist. The traditional picture, familar from histories of philosophy and introductory lectures, is of a solitary meditator dedicated to the pursuit of certainty in a unified science via a rigourous process of logical deduction from indubitable first principles. But the Descartes that has emerged from recent studies strikes a more subtle balance between metaphysics, physics, epistemology and the philosophy of science. There is much to be praised in this revaluation, but a dangerous amount of over-compensation has gone on, particularly in the reinterpretation of the role of sceptical doubt in Descartes' thought. This reinterpretion plays down the epistemological reasons for worrying about scepticism, suggesting that Cartesian physics is what ultimately drives the introduction of scepticism in the First Meditation.
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