Silencing the demon's advocate: The strategy of Descartes' meditations (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (2):pp. 315-316 (2009)
Abstract
Ronald Rubin's new book provides a refreshingly even-handed interpretation and analysis of Descartes's Meditations. Rubin skillfully employs short expositions of Latin philosophical terminology, textual analysis, and contemporary analytic method to arrive at a largely sympathetic understanding of this seminal work. But his development and employment of the heuristic device of the "Demon's Advocate" surely sets this work apart from the other, vast literature on the Meditations.The first three chapters lay the groundwork for Rubin's study. Chapters 1–2 examine Descartes's use of the opposing terms of 'doubt' and 'certainty' and shows how this is an opposition between the vacillation and stability of belief. Rubin's point is that Descartes establishes doubt in order to achieve a stable system of beliefs. This commonplace conclusion is, however, nicely augmented by Rubin's development of the "Demon's Advocate" in chapter three. In this chapter, Rubin imagines that Descartes the author has two personae in the Meditations. The one is Descartes himself—the seeker of stability—while the other is the Demon's Advocate, who holds all of the same beliefs as Descartes but
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