Descartes, Madness and Method

This paper replies to Fred Ablondi’s discussion of Descartes’s treatment of madness in the Meditations. Against Ablondi’s interpretation that Descartes never seriously takes on board the skeptical hypothesis that he might be mad, because to do so would be for him to undermine the logical thought processes required to realize his agenda in the Meditations, I contend that Descartes does employ madness as a skeptical device, by assimilating its skeptical essentials into the dream argument. I maintain that while Descartes does not use madness to undermine logical processes, he does adduce other considerations that reveal him to be prepared to see those processes undermined. On the question why Descartes abandons madness in the Meditations, I argue that, despite its attractiveness as a skeptical device, the madness hypothesis involves methodological shortcomings that render it unfit for service in the doubt
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DOI 10.5840/ipq200949224
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