Brendan Larvor
University of Hertfordshire
It would be a mistake to imagine that the problem of the Cartesian circle lies in Descartes’ suggestion that we cannot know anything unless we know God. It is true that this thought seems fatal to his enterprise; for if we cannot know anything prior to knowing that God exists, then it follows that we cannot know the arguments that prove God’s existence. However the problem of the Cartesian circle does not consist in this logical error. It consists, rather, in the fact that Descartes’ attempts to deal with the charge of circular reasoning seem so inadequate. It is implausible that Descartes simply failed to appreciate the point, for the objection is a very simple one, requiring no special vocabulary nor any advanced logical apparatus. He addressed the problem twice in the replies to his critics and went over it again in the Principles of Philosophy. Despite these qualifications, Descartes was not able to lay out his position with sufficient clarity to satisfy his reviewers or to prevent the publication of a bewildering variety of interpretations. The question then becomes, if Descartes understood the objection, why did he not deal with it more effectively.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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ISBN(s) 0093-4240
DOI 10.5840/gfpj200122229
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