In Stephen Gaukroger (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Descartes' Meditations. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 122--141 (2006)

Gary Hatfield
University of Pennsylvania
The problem of the Cartesian circle, as it is called, has sparked ongoing debate, which intersects several important themes of the Meditations. Discussions of the circle must address questions about the force and scope of the famous method of doubt introduced in Meditation I, and they must examine the intricate arguments for the existence of God and the avoidance of error in Meditations III to V. These discussions raise questions about the possibility of overturning skepticism, once a skeptical doubt has been introduced. More generally, the problem of the circle resonates with recent questions about the foundations of knowledge: Must we be able to validate our methods of reasoning or of knowing before using them? If we must, wouldn't we be forever stuck at the beginning, unable to use our methods of reasoning or of knowing in their own validation? The problem of the Cartesian circle raises general questions about the validation of reason and the possibility of knowledge. This chapter examines the Cartesian circle in the context of Descartes' central project in the Meditations, to secure the foundations of metaphysics. In carrying out this project, Descartes felt the need, or adopted the strategy, of examining the possibility of human knowledge more generally. Such an examination can be interpreted in various ways. Depending on the interpretation given, the roles assigned to the method of doubt and the proofs about God may differ, thereby altering how we see the problem of the circle. We therefore need first to consider Descartes' metaphysical project along with the methods and strategies he adopted in carrying it out. Subsequently, I explain and evaluate several main approaches to the problem of the circle. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the relation of Descartes' metaphysics of knowledge to other prominent positions in the history of philosophy.
Keywords Meditations on First Philosophy  Cartesian doubt  Descartes' truth rule  Cartesian circle  Scholastic Aristotelian philosophy  Van Cleve, J
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References found in this work BETA

The Cartesian Circle.Louis Loeb - 1992 - In John Cottingham (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Descartes. Cambridge University Press. pp. 200--235.
The Cartesian Circle.Dugald Murdoch - 1999 - Philosophical Review 108 (2):221-244.
The Texture of Thought: Why Descartes'“Meditationes” is Meditational, and Why It Matters.Dennis L. Sepper - 2000 - In John Schuster, Stephen Gaukroger & John Sutton (eds.), Descartes' Natural Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 736--750.

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Citations of this work BETA

Knowledge, Doubt, and Circularity.Baron Reed - 2012 - Synthese 188 (2):273-287.

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