Cartesian Theodicy: Descartes Quest for Certitude


Abstract
This study is the first work ever to interpret the Meditations as theodicy. I show that Descartes' attempt to define the role of God for man's cognitive fallibility in so far as God is the creator of man's nature, is a reiteration of an old Epicurean argument pointing out the incongruity between the existence of God and evil. The question of the nature and origin of error which Descartes addresses in the First Meditation is reformulated in the Fourth Meditation into broader considerations about the nature and scope of human freedom. ;The point of gravity of my thesis is Descartes' conceptions of human freedom and divine liberty. Since the conception of human freedom is the reversal of the doctrine of divine liberty, I analyze the two conceptions as two sides of the same problem--the problem of man's relation to God, or the problem of the relation of finitude to Infinity. I show that Descartes' quest for Certitude--which runs parallel to his attempt to overcome the problem of an evil deity--can be reformulated into the problem of creation. I present the problem of error as the problem of evil, and the problem of human will I present as the problem of human freedom, and the search for Certitude I interpret as the vindication of God's goodness and omnipotence, that is, theodicy. ;There are several points which are essential for Cartesian metaphysics, and which, as I demonstrate, Descartes borrowed from St. Augustine: the doctrine of the eternal truths , the conception of human freedom, the theory of error and the explanation of the will's propensity towards error , and the account of human nature. It is my contention that as much as Descartes insisted on the timelessness of his philosophy, what he had to say on the relationship between God and man is a reflection of the 17th c. theological debates which were fought by the Augustinians and the Molinists and were expressed by Descartes in the language and categories created by St. Augustine
Keywords Descartes, René   Theodicy   Certainty
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Reprint years 2001
ISBN(s) 079236127X (alk. paper)
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