Descartes, divine veracity, and moral certainty

Dialogue 44 (1):15-40 (2005)
This article explores the relation between Descartes’s appeal to God’s veracity and his connected notions of “metaphysical” and “moral” certainty. I do this by showing their roles in his proof of the external world, his position on other minds, and his position on the “beast-machine.” Descartes uses God’s veracity in the first proof, but not in the second or third. I suggest that the reason for this is that extending his appeal to God to other minds would have placed his beast-machine doctrine in jeopardy. I conclude by accounting for some Cartesian passages that might seem incompatible with my reading of moral certainty’s important role in his philosophy.Cet article explore les liens entre le recours à la véracité de Dieu et les notions de certitude «métaphysique» et «morale» chez Descartes. Pour cela, je montre le rôle qu’elles jouent dans sa preuve de l’existence du monde extérieur, sa position sur l’existence d’autres esprits et celle sur l’«animal-machine». Descartes se sert de la véracité de Dieu dans le premier cas, mais pas dans le deuxième ni le troisième. Je suggère que c’est parce que faire à nouveau appel à la véracité de Dieu dans le cas des autres esprits aurait mis en péril sa doctrine de l’animal-machine. Je conclus en me penchant sur des passages de Descartes qui pourraient sembler incompatibles avec l’interprétation que je fais du rôle important que joue la certitude morale dans sa philosophie
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