Dissertation, Heidelberg University (2016)

Zhang Weite
Tsinghua University
This book attempts to contribute a historical and interpretive study of Descartes' epistemology. It provides a systematic and exhaustive clarification of the mysterious and puzzling doctrine of "clear and distinct perception" and illuminates the relationships between this doctrine and four other central notions: "truth," "metaphysical doubt," "(metaphysical) certainty," and "knowledge." Roughly speaking, a clear and distinct perception is a pure understanding, an intellectual perception, or a mental intuition in which a purified and attending mind has a simple mental intuition of a simple proposition or a necessary deduction (i.e., a complex mental intuition) from such simple propositions to a complex proposition. A simple proposition can be regarded as a necessary conjunction of simple ideas. Descartes' composition theory of ideas, which supposes that all ideas are composed of simple ideas, provides a crucial basis for clear and distinct perception. Descartes' doctrine of clear and distinct perception is an attempt at mathematizing epistemology and is the main content of his new "method" (for truth and knowledge), which he sought throughout his life. This book attempts to shape a new image of Descartes' epistemology.
Keywords Descartes  epistemology  the early modern philosophy  clear and distinct perception  metaphysical doubt  certainty  truth  knowledge
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