Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (3):465-497 (2005)

Jennifer Nagel
University of Toronto, Mississauga
Although Descartes presents himself as an adversary of skepticism, in contemporary epistemology he is celebrated much more for his presentation of the skeptical problem than for his efforts to solve it. The ‘Cartesian skepticism’ of the evil genius argument remains a standard starting point for current discussions, a starting point that is seen to provide such a powerful challenge to knowledge that while one as much as contemplates such arguments one loses the right to ascribe knowledge to anyone. Even Descartes’s less radical skeptical arguments are still widely credited as having tremendous force: Barry Stroud, for example, argues at length that no satisfactory response has yet been given to the dream argument of the First Meditation. The Cartesian response to skepticism, on the other hand, is not nearly so warmly received. In the current literature on skepticism one does not find much resistance to Stroud’s assessment of the Cartesian response to skepticism as utterly unpromising, nor to his diagnosis of its central fault: the Cartesian response depends on a series of theological claims that Descartes does not show to be plausible, let alone true. Perhaps motivated by charity, contemporary epistemologists do not even discuss one of Descartes’s most peculiar theological claims—the claim that God is simultaneously incomprehensible and yet clearly and distinctly understood. The aim in what follows is to argue that Descartes’s often overlooked development of the contrast between comprehension and understanding both makes the role of God in his epistemology more interesting than is perhaps commonly thought, and constitutes an advance against skepticism with continuing relevance for current epistemology.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI cjphil200535332
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References found in this work BETA

Elusive Knowledge.David K. Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
The Skeptic and the Dogmatist.James Pryor - 2000 - Noûs 34 (4):517–549.
Solving the Skeptical Problem.Keith DeRose - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):1-52.
Knowledge and the Internal.John Mcdowell - 1995 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 55 (4):877-93.

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