The cartesian fallacy fallacy

Noûs 39 (2):309–336 (2005)
In this paper, I provide what I believe to be Descartes's own solution to the problem of the Cartesian Circle. As I argue, Descartes thinks he can have certain knowledge of the premises of the Third Meditation proof of God's existence and veracity (i.e., the 3M-Proof) without presupposing God's existence. The key, as Broughton (1984) once argued, is that the premises of the 3M-Proof are knowable by the natural light. The major objection to this "natural light" gambit is that Descartes identifies the natural light with the faculty of clear and distinct perception, a faculty that cannot be known to be reliable in advance of the 3M-Proof. I explain that Descartes distinguishes between three kinds of clear and distinction perceptions depending on their source; the senses, the imagination, or the intellect. I claim that although the First Meditation is designed to cast doubt on the clear and distinct perceptions of the senses and of the imagination, it is not designed to cast doubt on the clear and distinct perceptions of the intellect. The "natural light" gambit relies on the assumption that the natural light, by which propositions can be certainly known without presupposing knowledge of God's existence, is to be identified with the faculty of *intellectual* clear and distinct perception.
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DOI 10.1111/j.0029-4624.2005.00503.x
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