Descartes, Scientia and Pure Enquiry

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19 (5):873-886 (2011)
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In Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry, Bernard Williams supplies an interpretation of Descartes's Meditations in which the meditator's clean sweep of initial beliefs is justified by a stance that abrogates all practical pressures: the stance of pure enquiry. Otherwise, Williams explains, it would not be reasonable to set many of the initial beliefs aside. Nowhere, however, does Descartes assert that his approach is in this sense ?pure?. It would of course be preferable if the meditator's rejection of all the initial beliefs did not require an abrogation of the conditions that govern everyday belief-formation and assessment. I supply a reading that accomplishes this. The key to this reading is recognition that Descartes is a thinker of his time, a time when the pre-modern worldview was being systematically rejected. I show, in this regard, that when Descartes characterizes a belief as ?uncertain?, this has the implication that the belief is false. And, certainly, the rational policy, without need for any special stance, is to reject falsehoods



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Mark Glouberman
Kwantlen Polytechnic University

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