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Descartes, the Cartesian Circle, and Epistemology without God Author(s): Michael Della Rocca Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Jan., 2005), pp. 1-33 Published by: International Phenomenological Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40040778 . Accessed: 30/05/2013 20:39
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Research and Phenomenological Philosophy


Vol. LXX, No. 1, January2005

theCartesian and Descartes, Circle, Without God Epistemology


MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

Yale University

of Descartesaccordingto which he sees us as This paper defendsan interpretation of all clearand distinct normative ideas (and notmerely having psychological) certainty in which are and on this the However, clearly they apprehended distinctly. during period doubtaboutclearand distinct ideas is possible.This interpretation view,a retrospective to avoid theCartesian Circle in an effective allows Descartes way and also showsthat in some respects, an epistemological externalist. The paper Descartes is surprisingly, thisinterpretation againstsome powerful objections goes on to defend philosophical by of thecreation Wilsonand others how Descartes'doctrine of the by showing Margaret can be brought in to support This doctrine eternaltruths his epistemology. and other in Descartes can also reveal thatDescartes, again surprisingly, analogouspositions takesimportant without direct stepstoward doingepistemology appealto God and God's veracity.

You know thestory.Descartes does a splendidjob of settingup the skeptical serious doubts in the First Meditaproblem.His articulationof increasingly tion is masterful and has rightly of students.However, captivated generations so the storycontinues,his attempt to get out of his own skeptical doubts by provingthatGod exists and is not a deceiver is completelyand embarassingly unsuccessful.The embarassment lies not just in his offering at the crucial Third and Fourth a Meditations) particularly stage (the suspect argumentor of for the existence of but also and in more significantly God, pair arguments his failing to appreciatethe verynatureof the problem he has so skillfully raised. This failureis due to Descartes' attemptto put forthargumentsabout God in orderto defeatskepticism whenthe premises of those veryarguments are called intodoubtby the skeptical arguments Descartes himselfhas generated. How could Descartes have failed to see that,by his own lights, he was not entitledto these proofsconcerningGod? This is the blunderof the socalled CartesianCircle, and it is so transparent thatit does not seem as if any of value can lurk within it and, to some extent,redeem philosophical insight it. It would have been better,so the story goes, for Descartes not to have appealed to God, to a deus ex machina,to solve his (Descartes') philosophical had Descartes faced the skeptical problem problems.It would have been better

DESCARTES, THE CARTESIAN CIRCLE, AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITHOUT GOD

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God that itcannot be solved,rather thanbringing headon orat leastadmitted on thestageso ineffectually. If only,so thestory had seen ends,Descartes thepoint that laterphilosophers, so e.g. HumeandKant,wereto appreciate in well: one cannot accord God role legitimately any pivotalphilosophical one's epistemology. In thispaper, I will challenge I will show thatDescartes thisstory. does takeimportant toward how to do without God and steps seeing epistemology mostsurprisingly, in his response he does thisprecisely to theproblem that, Circle.The divorce between God andepistemology is posedbytheCartesian notcomplete butit is present, andit reveals that or,I willadmit, successful, Descartes notonlyfully thenature of the skeptical he appreciates problem has raised, butalso grasps theinsight that one cannot in God fruitfully bring inanystraightforward hard work. waytodo anyepistemological To establish thesepoints,I will lay out anddefend of my interpretation Descartes'way of handling the Cartesian Circle. Through certain defusing but mistaken to this interpretation, we will see how important, objections Descartes loosenstheties between God and epistemology. The crucialtool for these andfor thus theloosening is, as I will defusing objections effecting Descartes' doctrine of the creation of the eternal the doctrine truths, argue, God somehow has whether over or not such neceswhereby power seemingly claimsas "2+2=4" aretrue orfalse.Thisdoctrine is often seen as implisary catedinDescartes' doubts.Thatmaybe so, but I extreme wayof generating will arguethat, evenmoresignificantly, it is central to theremovalof the doubt andtoDescartes' without God. toward steps epistemology I. The StandardInterpretation ofDescartes9 Problem In order of my interpretation, to see theforce it is necessary to outlinethe standard account of how theCirclearises.At crucial pointsin the Meditawhileconsidering of a deceiving thepossibility tions, God, Desparticularly cartes doubts all ofhisbeliefs. to "matters whichI think Thesedoubts extend I see utterly with clearly mymind'seye" (AT VII 36, CSM II 25), including, it seems,all of Descartes' to removethis clearanddistinct ideas.1In order - his clear Descartes thatat leastsome of his ideas or beliefs doubt, argues - are true.But, so the standard and distinct ideas objectiongoes, such an cannot is in question, like any succeed. This because the argument argument with thatareto lead to the starts argument, premises in thiscase, premises all fall within conclusion that clearanddistinct ideasaretrue. Thesepremises
1 Generally, I will follow the translationsin CSM and CSMK. Descartes says in the Third Meditation thatunless he proves thatthereis no deceiving God, "it seems thatI can never be quite certainabout anythingelse" (AT VII 36, CSM II 25). Cf. the importantpassage beliefs about which a doubt may fromthe First Meditation,"there is not one of my former not properly be raised" (AT VII 21, CSM II 14-15). Gewirth, "The Cartesian Circle Revisited," p. 672, asserts thatDescartes startsout doubting all. MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

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- i.e., prior to the scope of the extensive doubt that Descartes has already on this argument announced.As such, the premises themselves embarking to believe or to rely on. are doubtful; theyare claims Descartes is notentitled But if he is not entitledto the premisesin question then he is not entitledto the conclusion to which theylead, i.e., the claim that clear and distinctideas are true.For thisreason, it is oftenclaimed, he has not succeededin removing thedoubt about clear and distinctideas; Descartes must still worryabout or nothe is being deceived by God even in what seems to him most whether on this reading,is thus inevitably ineffectual: evident.Descartes' argument, the of the the premises cannot renderhim justified in doubt, given scope clear and that his distinct ideas are true, cannot enable him to know believing thathis clear and distinct ideas are true. This apparently inevitable ineffectuality of the argumenthas seemed to many to show that Descartes is engaged in circular reasoning. Since the premisesDescartes relies on are, as he emphasizes,2themselvesclear and distinct ideas, he may seem to be presupposingin the argument that his clear and distinctideas are true. But such a presuppositionwould, of course, beg thequestion. I must say that this criticismof circularity seems much less clear to me thantheprecedingone of ineffectuality. Even if Descartes does rely on clear and distinct ideas thathe is notentitled to rely on, it does not follow that he is presupposingthat these ideas are truebecause they are clear and distinct. He certainly holds thattheseideas are trueand he certainly holds that they are clear and distinct, but thisdoes not by itselfshow thathis argument relies on the claim that theirclarityand distinctness is sufficient for their truth,nor does it even show thatthe concept of clarityand distinctness figuresin Deswill cartes' argument. return to this If Descartes is not presup(I pointlater.) forthe truthof clear and distinct posing that the premises of his argument ideas are truebecause they are clear and distinct,then it is no longer clear thathis argument, even if ineffectual, can be called circular.In any event, we can simply go on with the more compelling aspect of the standard picture: Descartes' argument fortheclaim thatclear and distinct ideas are trueis ineviDescartes has called all his tablyineffectual given that, priorto theargument, beliefs intodoubt. For reasons thatwill be important this paper, it will be helpthroughout ful to state a bit more preciselywhat goes wrong with Descartes' reasoning on the standard picture.At the beginningof the ThirdMeditation,Descartes a of each proposition.He has, at thatstage a good reason for doubt expresses
2 See, e.g, AT VII 40, CSM II 28: "It is manifest by the natural lightthat there must be at least as much in the efficient and total cause as in the effectof that cause." This premise is, of course, crucial to Descartes' Third Meditation proof of God's existence. The natural lightis, as Principles I 30 indicates, the facultyof clear and distinctperception. DESCARTES, THE CARTESIAN CIRCLE, AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITHOUT GOD 3

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doubtingany proposition.I will put this point by saying thatDescartes does not know any particular certain of any claims and, in fact,is not normatively has a claim. At this Descartes stage, psychological relation to particular claims. are he There claims considers and believes, and some of many many these he may even be compelled to believe. We may say thatthe claims he is compelled to believe are ones of which he is psychologicallycertain.But on the standard these are merely psychological facts about Desinterpretation, cartes.The claims thatDescartes believes- includingthose he believes under - are ones he has good reason to doubt. In other some sort of compulsion is at this stage merelypsychological and not norwords,Descartes' certainty mative.One way to get at the distinctionbetweennormativeand psychological certainty is by noting that if a claim is merely psychologically certain, - if thenit may well be false; but,arguably,if a claim is normatively certain thereis no good reason to doubt it thenit mustbe true. On this understandnormative is a kindof knowledgein that ing of normative certainty, certainty it entails truth.3 Now given the scope of the doubt, the premises that Descartesrelies on in his argument for the claim thatclear and distinctideas are trueare themselvesdoubtful.Descartes is at most psychologicallycertainof these claims. Indeed,the scope of the doubt ensures thatany argumentone would hope to construct for the truth of clear and distinctideas would have premisesthatfall withinthe scope of Descartes' radicaldoubt. If this is so, thenDescartes cannotmountany legitimate for the claim that clear argument and distinct ideas are true. This point leads to a characterization in the most general terms of the problem with Descartes' argument concerningclear and distinctideas on the standard because it violates the general is illegitimate reading.That argument claim: (A) If Descartes is, priorto the conclusion of his theological argument in the Thirdand Fourth Meditations,at most merelypsychocertainof propositions in genlogically(and thus not normatively) eral, then Descartes cannot by means of argumentgo on to acquire normative of some propositions.4 certainty

For similar see Cottingham, characterizations of whatI am calling"normative certainty", flirts "The Cartesian with, Descartes,p. 69, and Gewirth, Circle,"pp. 389, 393. Bennett in Descartes' Meditations" this notion in "Truth butdoes notendorse and Stability p. 80. in thenotion of reasonsor justification involved of normative The notion or knowledge is neutral betweenexternalist and internalist reasons,etc. We will see later, certainty in some respects that Descartes has an externalist of reasons.Butin however, conception theconception of normative one need not presupposeeitheran articulating certainty, or an externalist terms. internalist of therelevant conception epistemic out withat mostpsychological that one who starts (A) does notrule out thepossibility than can go on to acquirenormative meansother certainty certainty through argument. MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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The point is that if one startsout doubting claims in general, then no argumentcan legitimatelyremove these doubts since any premise of that would itselfbe doubtful. (A) gives expression to a kind of insularargument certain:one can use ityof the domain of claims of which one is normatively to acquire normative of some claims only if one relies on certainty argument certain.The problem some otherclaims of which one is alreadynormatively with Descartes' reasoning,on the standard is that he fails to interpretation, i.e., he fails to see that appreciatethis basic factabout normativecertainty, (A) is true.5 Many have, of course, triedto show thatDescartes' reasoning in the Third and FourthMeditationsis not as bad as it firstappears. (I myself will jump on thisrather largebandwagon later in the paper.)6There have been a bewilderingvarietyof proposed Cartesian escapes from the Cartesian Circle and fromthe Cartesian blunderthat I have described.Obviously, I will not go throughall the possibilities here. I don't have the stamina for that, and, I do you. At this stage I would just like to point out that the suspect,neither failureto appreciatethe truthof (A) is the downfall of some of the most and insightful interesting approachesto the problem of the Cartesian Circle. Edwin Curley,Willis Doney7 all hold thatDescartes does start Alan Gewirth, out by doubtingall claims, i.e., they accept the antecedent of (A). However, these interpreters reject(A) itselfor at least hold that Descartes does so.8 For if one piles up the right kind of clear and distinctideas these interpreters, to which has at the outset merelya psychological relation),and, one (claims in particular, if one comes to have the clear and distinctidea that God exists and is nota deceiver,thenone can legitimately achieve normativecertainty of at least some propositions, i.e., one can remove the doubt about at least some claims. But without details of this strategy, we can delving intofurther see thatit clearly will not work.Given the initialscope of the doubt accepted

and Stability," "Truth endorses Bennett, (A). pp. 101-102, ThusI willbe taking backmycautiously assessment of Descartes' epistemopessimistic and Skepticism in Descartes and Spilogical projectin Delia Rocca, "MentalContent noza." "The CartesianCircle"; Curley,Descartes againstthe Skeptics,chapter 5; Gewirth, s ConMoral,and Metaphysical"; Curley, "Certainty: Psychological, Doney, "Descartes' of Perfect ception Knowledge". Thus Gewirth of Descartes' s metaphysical says,"the verynature problemrequiresa to metaphysical thatis to say, thatthe psychological certainty: requires, passage from than conclusion be morecertain itspremises, notin thesense of havinggreater psychobutin thesense of havinga metaphysical whichtheyinitially logicalcertainty, certainty lack" ("The Cartesian can Circle," p. 378). He also says, "a metaphysical certainty from whosecertainty, at thepoint at which occurin thedemonemerge they propositions is onlypsychological," stration, (ibid.,p. 387).
DESCARTES, THE CARTESIAN CIRCLE, AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITHOUT GOD 5

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be whatever ideas one piles up will themselves by these interpreters, doubtful.9 oftheplausibility In thelight oftheantecedent of(A) andthetruth of (A) does not achieve itself,it mightseem thatwe mustadmitthatDescartes theconclusion normative Some interpreters embrace thatDescartes certainty. does not achievenormative andtheybelievethat,to some extent, certainty Descartes himself embraced this conclusion.10 On this interpretation, Descartes was not seeking normative so as like much certainty something psyor stableor unshakable, but still merely chological certainty psychological, This dark view is perennially but it seems to me to be certainty. popular, bothfrom a philosophical and interpretive misguided pointof view. HowI will not here a full-scale case for thiskindof interever, develop rejecting I Instead will takeup a muchmorepromising pretation.11 option,one that sees Descartes as after normative This optionconsistsin genuine certainty. theantecedent of (A), i.e., in denying thatDescartes starts out with denying at mostpsychological This allows us to of the certainty. option accept truth and to see Descartes as having andacquiring views, (A), unlike Gewirth-style normative unlike more psychological Moreover, certainty, interpretations. thisinterpretation and is, I will argue, textually well-supported philosophicallyimportant. II. The Case forAccepting theAntecedent of(A) In order tobegin to see all this, we needtoaddress as I noted at thefactthat, of theoutset, there seemsto be very evidence for theantecedent good textual morecarefully. This will be evidence (A). I wantnowto lookat thistextual thefirst of theantecedent that of (A), and therejection stagein myargument theapproach to the problem of the Cartesian Circle consequent upon this aretextually andphilosophically defensible. rejection, of (A) is true,that at the Many passagessuggestthatthe antecedent of the Third at Meditation Descartes is most merely beginning psychologithus not of As I mentioned, certain cally (and normatively) propositions. intheThird Descartes writes Meditation thatat thatstage,sincehe does not or notGod exists, ofanything. This doubt knowwhether he cannot be certain seemsto extend evento "thosematters whichI thinkI see utterly clearly withmy mind'seye" (AT VII 36, CSM II 25). Or, as Descartes puts the
9 This criticism of Gewirth and his cohort has been effectively made by Broughton ("Skepticism and the Cartesian Circle," pp. 600-604) and Van Cleve ("Foundationalism, Epistemic Principles, and the Cartesian Circle," pp. 60-61). Loeb, "The Cartesian Circle"; Larmore, "Descartes' Psychologistic Theory of Assent"; this way, though this is controverBennett,"Truthand Stability". I tend to read Frankfurt sial and his views are hard to classify (see Frankfurt, Demons, Dreamers, and Madmen and "Descartes on the Consistency of Reason"). In other work, in progress, I do develop such a case. MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

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surveyof his doubt, "I saw point in the Sixth Meditationin his retrospective nothing to rule out the possibility that my naturalconstitutionmade me prone to erroreven in matterswhich seemed to me most true" (AT VII 77, CSM II 53). Such passages supportthe view that,forDescartes, the claims that he perceivesclearly and distinctly priorto the conclusion of this theoare not ones of which he is then normativelycertainand logical argument certain.12 indeed are at best merelypsychologically of (A). Thus thereseems to be a strong textual case for the antecedent How, then,do its proponentshandle the many instances in which Descartes appears to assert that he is certainof some claims even priorto the conclusion of theproofof God's veracity? Such instancesappear in the Third Meditationitself.Descartes says there:
[W]hen I turnto the thingsthemselves which I thinkI perceive very clearly, I am so convinced by them that I spontaneously declare: let whoever can do so deceive me, he will never bringit about thatI am nothing,so long as I continue to thinkI am something;or make it true at some futuretime thatI have never existed, since it is now truethatI exist; or bring it about that two and threeadded togetherare more or less than five, or anythingof this kind in which I see a manifestcontradiction.(AT VII 36, CSM II 25)

Later in theThirdMeditation, Descartes says,


- for example that from the fact that I am Whatever is revealed to me by the natural light doubtingit follows thatI exist, and so on cannot in any way be open to doubt. (AT VII 38, CSM II 27)

Those who accept (A)'s antecedent tendto deal with such passages by saying that these expressionsof certainty are merely expressions of psychological or factual to Indeed,I think (as opposed normative)indubitability.13 certainty thatthisapproach to thesepassages is the only plausible one forproponents of theantecedent of (A) to adopt. The claim that Descartes' certainty prior to his theological argumentis receives from his various claims that,priorto purelypsychological support that argument, he is compelled to assent to ideas currently clearly and distinctly perceived.Thus Descartes says in theFifthMeditation:

12 13

Cf. Gewirth: notmetaphysical is possiblebefore God's "onlypsychological, certainty existence is known" "The Cartesian Circle,"p. 386 ). See also Gewirth, ("The Cartesian CircleRevisited," p. 672. See Gewirth, "The Cartesian PrinciCircle,"p. 392. Cf. DeRose, "Descartes,Epistemic and Scientia"p. 235n6; Frankfurt, Demons, Dreamers,and ples, Epistemic Circularity, edition of the Conversation with Madmen,pp. 166-67;Wilson,reviewof Cottingham's Burman> p. 455.
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I havealready that of whichI am clearlyaware is true.And amplydemonstrated everything evenif I had notdemonstrated of mymindis such thatI cannotbutassentto thenature this, thesethings, at leastso longas I clearly them. (AT VII 65, CSM II 45) perceive

It might of compulsion seemthatin speaking to assent,Descartes is asserta fact about himself is not and that, ing merely psychological asserting prior to theconclusion ofthetheological he is genuinely or normatively argument, certain ofanything. Thusthere ofthedefense of (A), aretwokeycomponents oftheantecedent of the claim that to the not norDescartes is (i.e., prior argument theological certain ofanyclaims): matively assertsthat he (i) thosepassagescitedabove in whichDescartes doubtsat thebeginning of theThird even thoseclaims Meditation which most evident to him appear ofDescartes' claimsof certainty (ii) theinterpretation apparent prior to theconclusion ofthetheological as claimsthatexpress argument and the interpretation of Descartes' merely psychological certainty assertions of compelledassent as having merelypsychological import. III. The Case fortheRejectionoftheAntecedent of(A) (Part One) I nowwantto dismantle thisdefense of theantecedent of (A). In so doing,I willbe arguing notonlythat theantecedent of (A) is falseandthatDescartes itas false, Descartes himself as starting offthetheoi.e.,that regards regards withmorethanmerely but also logical argument psychological certainty, thatDescartes himself as at of the outset certain regards being normatively eachcurrently and idea.15 I will Afterwards, clearly distinctly perceived briefly consider someother haveargued thatDescartes waysin whichcommentators theantecedent of(A). rejects I willbeginbycriticizing thereliance on theclaim thatDescartes regards thedoctrine ofcompelled assentas purely (andnot normative) psychological incharacter. I will arguethatDescartes' discussion of compelled assentmay concern in which one cases is comassent, i.e., onlynormatively compelled reasons to assent to a and thus is no there claim, pelledbygood good reason

14

Cf. AT IV 116,CSMK 233-34;AT VII 38-39,69, CSM II 27, 48, Gewirth, "The Cartesian Circle,"pp. 371-72. In thesesections, I willbe relying on passages later than(thoughconsistent primarily On thisreading, themselves. Descartes in the later therefore, with)the Six Meditations in effect, seeks to clarify and articulate better his views on doubtand normative works, certainty.
MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

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of (A).16 A number of for the second element in the case forthe antecedent passages supportthisinterpretation. Firstconsider two very important passages fromDescartes' Conversation In the first of these two passages, Burmanraises the problem withBurman.17 of theCircle and Descartes responds:
It seemsthere is a circle.Forin theThird theauthor uses axiomsto prove Meditation [Burman] of God,eventhough he is notyetcertain of notbeingdeceivedaboutthese. theexistence He does use suchaxiomsin theproof, buthe knowsthathe is notdeceived with [Descartes] to them. to them, becausehe is actually attention Andfor as longas he does pay regard paying to them, he is certain thathe is notbeingdeceived,and he is compelledto assentto attention them (AT V 148,CSMK 334).18

In the firstpart of his reply,Descartes says that he knows (scit) some axivaluable epistemic position oms. This suggests that he is in a normatively withregardto them.In the second part of his reply,he elaboratesthis claim or compelled assent. Jonathan Bennett,a by invokingthe notionof certainty of of the antecedent of indeed the view that is Descartes (A) (and proponent of any claim) takes thisshiftfromtalk about not seeking normative certainty and compelled assent as evidence that Desknowledgeto talk about certainty cartes is objectionably conflatingnormativeand psychological indubitabilreading. Instead, the passage can be ity.19But this is a ratheruncharitable takenas evidence that the compelled assent or the kind of inabilityto doubt with here is, in particular,a normativelywellthat Descartes is concerned assent or compelled inabilityto doubt. Further,in this light, the grounded claim thathe is certainthathe is not deceivedcan be taken as the claim that he is normatively certainthathe is notdeceived. Later in the Conversation,the topic of the Circle arises again in these remarks by Descartes:

16

PerhapsI shouldspeak of cases in whichone is compelledby good reasonsqua good as goodreasons. Thisqualification be needed to rule reasons, i.e., in their capacity might out cases in whichI am compelledto assentto a claim by good reasons,although the of thosereasons was notcausallyrelevant to myassenting to theclaim. I will goodness in what leaveoutthis follows. though qualification I willomithereall thestandard aboutwhether or nottheConversation can qualifications as a reliable For a helpful be taken discussion of thisissue, guideto Descartes' thought. see Cottingham's introduction to hisedition of theConversation. I use thesepassageshere I draw fromthemare supported because theconclusions particularly by othermore Cartesian thepassage from thePrinciples thatI go on authentically passages,especially todiscuss. etscitse in Usnonfalli, ad ea attendit; autem idfacit,certusest Probat, quoniam quamdiu se nonfalli; etcogitur illisassentiri. a purely Bennett, p. 78. Larmorein facttakesthispassage as supporting psychological of Descartes'response to theCircle(p. 70). ButLarmoreignores account thenormative - scit - in thispassage. element
DESCARTES, THE CARTESIAN CIRCLE, AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITHOUT GOD 9

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Ifwe didnotknowthat all truth has itsorigin in God, thenhoweverclear our ideas were, we - I mean, of wouldnotknow[sciremus] thattheywere true, or thatwe were not mistaken thatwe to them, remembered whenwe werenotpaying attention and whenwe merely course, to whenwe do pay attention had clearly and distinctly them. Foron other occasions, perceived thetruths we maynotknowGod exists, we cannotbe in any doubt even though themselves, aboutthem; we could notprovethat God exists[namalias nonpossemusdemonotherwise, strare Deumesse]. (AT V 178,CSMK 353)

Descartes begins hereby saying that,priorto the conclusion of the proofof God's veracity,we cannot know (sciremus) even that our clear and distinct ideas are true, to them. This suggests exceptof course whenwe are attending thatif we do currently clearlyand distinctly perceivean idea, we do know that idea to be true. Again, Descartes seems to be stating that he has a normaof these ideas. Descartes goes on to say, howtively valuable apprehension "we cannot be in ever,thatwhen we do perceiveideas clearly and distinctly, froma normative claim to a any doubt about them."He seems to have shifted claim about the to doubt. in the last Then, merelypsychological inability he shifts back to a normative when he "otherwise we clause, locution, says, could not prove that God exists." Such shiftingbetween talk of knowledge and proof,on the one hand,and talkof inabilityto doubt, on the other,again suggeststo Bennett(p. 78) thatDescartes is guilty of an illegitimateconflation of psychological and normativeindubitability. But here also I think a more charitable(and indeedplausible) readingis available: Descartes is concernednotwith inabilityto doubt in general,but with an inabilityto doubt thatstemsfromthepossession of knowledgeor good reasons. Anotherpassage thatsupportsmy contention thatDescartes' concernwith compelled assent extendsonly to normatively compelled assent comes from

PrinciplesI 13:

The mind, itself butstillin doubtaboutall otherthings, then, [quae se ipsamnovit], knowing looksaroundin all directions in orderto extenditsknowledge further suam [ut cognitionem ulterius ofall, itfinds First within itself ideasofmany andso longas it merely extendat]. things; theseideas and does notaffirm of anything or denytheexistenceoutsideitself contemplates itcannot be mistaken it finds certaincommon notions them, Next, [falli resembling nonpotesi]. from which itconstructs it is completely various to them, and,foras longas it attends proofs; convinced of their truth omnino sibipersuadet esse veras]. attendit, [adquas quamdiu

Descartes begins this passage with the expression of a desire to extend his and witha consideration of ideas with regardto which the knowledgefurther mind"cannotbe mistaken." These claims indicateDescartes is here concerned with some kind of normativerelationto the truth.But he then goes on to describethe extension of his knowledge as accomplished when he is comto them. of particular claims while attending pletely convincedor persuaded Yet again Bennett(p. 78) takes this passage as evidence of Descartes' conflationof the normative and the psychological.But, as before,this is uncharita-

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MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

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be readas viewing Descartes can instead thekindof conble andimplausible: to clearand distinct ideas as normatively thatarisesfrom attention viction as normatively certain. valuable and,perhaps, theview thatDescartes draws All ofthese no sharpdispassagessupport andnormative between that tinction and,inparticular, psychological certainty he is compelled to assent to particular takeshisclaimsthat ideasas Descartes These areclaimsaboutwhat more than mere claimsabouthis psychology.20 as I noted, thefirst he knows, aboutnormatively of assent; indeed, compelled in particular thattheknowledge in questhetwo Burman passagessuggests Since Descartes holds thatall curtionhereinvolvesnormative certainty. ideas our and assent,thesepassages perceived rently clearly distinctly compel anddistinctly that all currently ideas arenormatively clearly suggest perceived I am awareof no passageswhichconflict withthisreading certain. Further, claimsaboutcompelled thus counts of Descartes' assent.All this evidence of the the doctrine of assent, psychological reading against merely compelled theclaim(which inpart was tobe supported andthus by thispsychoagainst that Descartes starts offtheThird Meditation without normalogicalreading) tivecertainty.21 of(A) (Part Two) IV. The Case fortheRejectionoftheAntecedent I have weakened or eliminated In theprevious thesecondelement in section, of (A). But whataboutthefirst that thecase fortheantecedent element, is, those tohandle claimsin whichDescartes asserts howdo I propose explicitly of theThird Meditation doubt thathe does at thebeginning (andelsewhere) Don't thesepassages show definieven whatseemsto him most evident? the theologicalargument himself as entering regards tivelythatDescartes ofanyclaims? without normative certainty roundabout I will answerthis questionin a somewhat manner by first that I am related Let's that the antecedent of a question. right, addressing grant holds that all ideas and that Descartes and disis false (A) currently clearly arenormatively certain. On thisinterpretation, whatis the tinctly perceived for of of the the God? veracity argument point this recallthat Descartes allows thatone can doubta To answer question, idea whenone is no longer to it. On my view, clearanddistinct attending amounts to theclaimthat there is goodreasonto doubttheno thisallowance idea. Althoughat the momentof perceived longerclearlyand distinctly anddistinctly theideawe are, on this view, normatively clearly perceiving oftheidea,we can after certain ofthetruth thefactwonder whether thisidea
20 to Meslandof 2 May 1644 of seeing(voyant)something that Descartes'talkin theletter in thesame direction a thing is goodas leadingto compelledassentmayalso point (AT IV 115-16,CSMK 233-34). Fora different route to theclaimthat thecertainty Descartes earlyin theThird expresses Meditation is notmerely see Cottingham, psychological, p. 69.
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thatwe previouslyclearly and distinctly perceivedis true and we can wonder are true.At theselatertimes, we whether our clear and distinct ideas generally are notnormatively certainof the claim in question, though we were normaof tivelycertainof it earlier.It is because we do not have normativecertainty the claim afterwe perceiveit clearly and distinctlythat Descartes says that our apprehensionof thisclaim does not yet amountto scientia, an awareness that is not vulnerableeven to retrospective reasons for doubt. It is for the same reason that,forDescartes, an atheist(who, qua atheist, lacks a proof thathis remembered clear and distinct ideas are true)can never achieve scientia.22 Once Descartes carriesout the argument for God's veracity,Descartes has good reason to believe that his clear and distinctideas are true and thus Descartes can, unlike the atheist,have normativecertainty of claims that he no longer clearly and distinctly I will normative of call perceives. certainty claims thatwere,but no longerare,clearlyand distinctly perceived "retrospectivecertainty".23 We can now return to the matter of how, on my interpretation, to account in forthose passages whichDescartes says thatat the beginningof the Third Meditationnothingis exemptfromdoubt, thateven what is most evidentto him is doubtful.Don't these passages show that,contrary to the interpretationI am offering, Descartes denies that,priorto the conclusion of the theohe has normative No, they do not. We are fortulogical argument, certainty? nate to have otherpassages in whichDescartes explicitlytells us how we are to understand his claims early in the ThirdMeditationand elsewhere to the effect thatnothingis freefromdoubt. In the SeventhReplies, Descartes says:
I haveexplained, in severalplaces,thesense in whichthis'nothing' is to be understood. It is So longas we attend this. to a truth whichwe perceive veryclearly,we cannotdoubtit. But as oftenhappens, we are notattending in thisway, theneven though to any truth we when, remember thatwe have previously therewill be perceivedmanythings clearly,nevertheless which we maynotjustly[merito] doubtso longas we do notknow[nesciamus]that nothing we clearly whatever is VII true. 460, CSM II 309.) (AT perceive

Here Descartes says thatyes, nothing is free fromdoubt, but we must understandthisdoubtfulness relativeto certaintimes. Although each as, in effect, claim is doubtfulat some time (viz. those times which are priorto the con22 See especially AT VII 142,CSM II 101; AT III 65, CSMK 147. For a similar account of Descartes'advantage overtheatheist, see Van Cleve,pp. 68-69, Loeb endorsesan interpretation Cottingham, p. 72. Although accordingto which Descartesis notseekingnormative but only unshakablepsychological certainty certainty, ofhis insightful much accountof Descartes' advantageover theatheist can be carried overto a morenormative and difficult Loeb also takesup theimportant reading. question of whether themerememory thatone has carriedout theproofof God's veracity sufficesforretrospective or whether, the actual carrying out of theproof instead, certainty is necessary each timeone wishesto attain On thisissue,see AT retrospective certainty. VIII 70, CSM II 48; AT III 65, CSMK 147. MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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elusion of our proofof God's veracityand which are times at which we are not clearly and distinctly perceivingthe claim in question), Descartes denies thateach claim is doubtfulat all times. Claims that are currently clearly and this at time, though they may be doubtperceivedare notdoubtful distinctly ful at othertimes. For Descartes, at the beginning of the Third Meditation nothingis freefromdoubtjust in the sense that nothingis such that it cannotbe doubted when one is not clearly and distinctly perceivingit. But this construalof 'nothing' still allows claims to be certaineven priorto the conas long as they are currently clusion of the theological argument clearly and perceived. distinctly A similarpassage occurs laterin the SeventhReplies:
we knowthat God exists, we havereason[occasionem]to doubteverything [UJntil (i.e., evenot of such that we do have a clear it before our as I have often minds, rything perception (AT VII 546, CSM II 373) explained).

Here too we findDescartes restricting the meaning of his claim that everything is doubtfulin a way that allows fortimes at which some things are certain.24 Now it might be granted that in these important passages fromthe SeventhReplies Descartes is allowing thatalthoughin some sense everything is he has certainty of some claims priorto the conclusion of the theodoubtful, he is allowing logical argument;but it might be argued that the certainty himself here is merely psychological certainty.Such a claim would go of (A) thatI am proposing. againstthecase fortherejectionof theantecedent of However, forreasons given earlier,I do not thinkthat the interpretation Descartes as starting out the ThirdMeditationwith only psychological certainty is persuasive. Descartes' doctrineof compelled assent seems, as I and thus the kind of compelled assent argued,to be normativein character thatcurrently intuited clear and distinctideas involve may well be compelled assent by virtueof good reasons. Thus, contrary to the claims of those who the of antecedent the in which Descartes seems to doubt (A), accept passages - in part for reasons given all do not explicitly by Descartes himself- supportthe view that,as he entersthe theological argument he has no normative certainty.25
Another passagein thesame veinoccursin theSecondReplies:"whenI said thatwe can know[scire]nothing forcertain until we are awarethat God exists,I expressly declared thatI was speaking onlyof knowledge[scientialof those conclusionswhichcan be recalled whenwe are no longerattending to the arguments by means of which we deducedthem" (AT VII 140,CSM II 100) This reading a criticism that DeRose in particular stresses thiskind helpsto defuse against of interpretation. are directed whichis (His comments againstvan Cleve's interpretation similar to myown.) The passage in question is translated by Haldane and Ross (whose translation DeRose hereuses, following van Cleve) as: "If I findthatthereis a God, I must also inquire whether he maybe a deceiver;forwithout a knowledge of thesetwo THE CARTESIAN WITHOUT GOD DESCARTES, CIRCLE,AND EPISTEMOLOGY 13

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of (A) can be summarizedin the following The case againsttheantecedent of (A) is truebecause Descartes says way. To the claim that the antecedent thathe doubts everything as he begins the theologicalargument, I respondby the in which in tempoout Descartes cashes out pointing passages helpfully ral termshis claims about the doubtfulness of everything. The case forseeing thecertainty in question hereas merelypsychological, as the defenders of the antecedent of (A) would hold, is notstrong and, indeed,the evidence seems to Descartes seems to regard the certainty he has at pointin theotherdirection: the outset,the certainty thatcompelled assent involves,as normativein character. Thus despitethe initialprospectthatthe antecedentof (A) is unassailable, I have arguedthat,on the contrary, the textual evidencesupportsthe rejection of this claim. In fact,I am aware of no passage that is clearly incomof (A) and with the claim that patible with the rejectionof the antecedent Descartes has normativecertainty of all currently clearly and distinctlyperceived ideas. I admit,of course, that Descartes does not in the ThirdMeditation launch his theological argumentwith the productionof retrospective as his explicit goal.26 But given that Descartes explicitly states in certainty other many places (includingtheFifthMeditation,the Second Replies, PrinI and the ConversationwithBurman) thatretrospective is ciples 13, certainty his goal, and given that, in the Replies, he explicitlyclaims that we should understand his universaldoubt and the endeavorto remove it in terms of a concernwith retrospective I regard the interpretation I am offering certainty, as warranted. Not only is the rejectionof the antecedent of (A) textuallywell-grounded, it allows us to attribute to Descartes a position that is freefromthe philosoOnce phical and textual objections that plague Gewirth-style interpretations.
I do notsee that truths I can everbe certain of anything" (Haldane and Ross, I 159). For thatDescartes has no normative DeRose,this suggests certainty priorto thetheological Buta better translation of the lastpartof thispassage is in CSM: "For if I do argument. notknowthis, itseemsthat I can never be quitecertainaboutanything else." (The Latin is: hac enimreignorata, non videorde ulla alia plane certusesse unquamposse.) The "seems" here indicates thatDescartes is notcertainwhatto say aboutwhether everyis in doubt. Read thisway,thepassagedoes notcommit Descartes to sayingthatinithing he has no normative here to Broughton who makes a (I am indebted tially certainty. similar in "Skepticism andtheCartesian 's Method Circle," point p. 606, and in Descartes from thistranslation is further reasonto think thatthis ofDoubt,p. 182.) Apart issue,there withmyinterpretation passageneed notbe seen as incompatible (or Van Cleve's interforthat Thispassage,especially in light of theSeventh matter). pretation Replies,can be readas elliptical for"I can never be quitecertain aboutanything else as longas I am not thosethings The passage from the Seventh currently perceiving clearlyand distinctly" I havestressed showsthatthiskindof qualification is one thatDescartes is Repliesthat to make.Van Cleve does notappreciate thispoint and so he makesunnecesquitewilling is on p. 223. Sosa sarilyheavy weatherof thispassage (p. 67n30). DeRose's criticism raisesa similar to Van Cleve (p. 235). objection Wilson(p. 235n37)emphasizes this. 14 MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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of some claimsprior as normatively certain to theconcluwe see Descartes sionofthetheological indeed oncewe see him as normatively cerargument, tainof all currently and then we can see ideas, distinctly perceived clearly as entitled torely on thepremises of his theological All Descartes argument. areonesthat claimsto perceive ofthese Descartes premises explicitly clearly Thustheconclusion from anddistinctly.27 Descartes draws thesenormatively viz. thatGod is not a deceiver, certain is also normatively certain premises, forhim(or at leastwe cannot that the conclusion is not cersay normatively tainon theground thatsome or all of thepremises are notnormatively cerviews,thisinterpretain).In thisway,we can see how,unlikeGewirth-style tation does nothaveDescartes (A), theclaim thathe cannot violating acquire normative of God's if he starts out withonly certainty veracity by argument This preservation of (A) is, as we have seen, an certainty. psychological for ofDescartes advantage anyinterpretation - a justification This justification in believing thatGod is nota deceiver has that Descartes on my interpretation allowsDescartes to be normatively certain ofclaimsthat he merely recalls anddistinctly having clearly perceived. This givesDescartes that the atheist lacks. scientia, something So on my interpretation, Descartes has a suitably ambitious epistemoandnot merely cerlogicalgoal: he seekstoreachnormative, psychological, of theclaimthatGod is not a deceiver, andhe seeks to exploitthis tainty result in order to produce normative of his clearand retrospective certainty distinct ideas.However, on my view, contrary to the Gewirth-style views, Descartes doesnotprovide himself withso exiguousa starting pointthathe can never aims. Furlegitimately hope to achievehis normative epistemic seems ther, myinterpretation well-grounded textually. V. OtherInterpretations thatRejecttheAntecedent of(A) To clarify thisinterpretation, itwillbe helpful to compare it with some other like the antecedent of I should that, myown,reject (A). interpretations repeat, that I cannot however, hopetodojusticehereto all theinsightful competing ofDescartes. interpretations As I haveargued, Descartes notonlyholdsthathe enters thetheological with normative of some but he also holdsthathe claims, argument certainty is normatively certain of eachcurrently anddistinctly idea. clearly perceived To this theso-calledmemory extent, myinterpretation agreeswith interpretationandwiththetemporal of Etchemendy.28 Wheremy view interpretation differs from theirs is in therole it assignsto theargument fortheexistence andveracity ofGod. On thememory thepoint of theargument interpretation,
27 See note2. See Doney, "The Cartesian "The CartesianCircle: Circulusex Circle"; Etchemendy, Tempore"
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is to validate Descartes' memory claims about clear distinctideas: God is neededto guarantee theaccuracyof my memoryof clearly and distinctly perin aim Descartes' a claim. On Etchemendy's ceiving particular interpretation, at is to show that what was clearly and distinctly the argument perceived tj and what was thustrueat t,, is still truenow (at t2). Each of these interpretain the literature29 and I will not go over all the tions has been well-refiited reasons against them here. The main point I want to bring out is that each fails to recognize thatDescartes' doubt is not about memory or about the continuing truthof particularpropositions, but about whetherwhat was rememberhaving clearly and distinctly perceivedat tj (and what I correctly at was true even at clearlyand distinctly tj) t,. My view accommoperceived dates thisretrospective of Descartes' doubt. character Some otherinterpretations of (A), i.e., deny,as minedoes, the antecedent hold that Descartes starts off with more than psychological certainty of at least some claims, but,unlike mine, hold thatit is not the case that all clear and distinctideas are normativelycertain when they are attended to. I will considertwo such views and explain some of the reasons why I reject briefly them. Firstthereis Janet Broughton'sreadingaccordingto which some clear and distinct ideas are normatively certainpriorto the proofof God's veracity,but otherclear and distinctideas (perhapsthe majorityof them) are not initially certainand requirethe theological argument in orderto achieve normatively thatstatus.30 We need not herego intothe details of Broughton's way of distinguishingthe firstclass of clear and distinctideas from the second class. This interpretation is ingenious and compelling in many ways, but (apart fromothertextualand philosophicaldifficulties) one of themain reasons I do not accept it is the following. Broughtoncannot handle those passages from theConversationwithBurmanand the Seventh Replies that indicatethat for Descartesall clear and distinct ideas are subject to retrospective doubt and all clear and distinct ideas are at thetimetheyare perceivednot subject to doubt. in the class of clear and distinctideas that has draws a distinction Broughton insufficient textualgrounding and is indeedcontradicted by some key texts. DeRose has a very subtle interpretation that, like mine and Broughton's, does so in a verydifferent denies theantecedent of (A), yet his interpretation all For DeRose clear and distinct ideas at the outsetdo have more episway.31 temic standingthan mere psychological certainty.Here I agree. But, says DeRose, despite being epistemicallyvaluable, all clear and distinctideas initially lack full-blownnormativecertainty.They achieve their higher status
29 See Frankfurt,"Memory and the Cartesian Circle" on the memory interpretation; Bennett,"Truthand Stability,"p. 90, on the temporalinterpretation. See Broughton,"Skepticism and the Cartesian Circle," "The Method of Doubt," and Descartes' Method of Doubt. is similar to DeRose's, as Sosa acknowledges, p. 246n20. Sosa's elegant interpretation MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

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hascarried outhis proof of God's veracity. DeRose onceDescartes onlylater untilone has allayedthe metaphysical claimsthatforDescartes doubtby that God is not a deceiver, one's clearanddistinct ideasarenotcerproving and despitehavingsome epistain,evenwhentheyarecurrently perceived temicvalue. As DeRose says,"Descartes does holdthatone is psychologi- at least what ofdoubting oneclearly and distinctly callyincapable perceives whileone is clearly anddistinctly But one a it. still has reason for perceiving these reason andthey are in thisevaluathings themetaphysical doubting thanpsychological, sensedoubtful" tive,rather (p. 236nlO, see also p. 224 andp. 235n7). As withBroughton's thisone, I believe,fails interpretation, whichindicate to do justice to the textsI have marshaled that Descartes' doubtof clearanddistinct ideasis a purely and that,for affair retrospective at themoment areperceived clearanddistinct ideasarenot at Descartes, they all doubtful andindeed arenormatively certain.32 view in basic its most andVan is, My strategy, likethoseof Cottingham I have given a fuller Cleve.33 accountof the complex ways in However, which as Descartes conceives it,bearson thistypeof certainty, psychological I have how for considered Descartes assentmay interpretation (e.g. compelled be as we will see, I takeup assent).Further, simply normatively compelled to thistypeof interpretation thatCottingham andVan Cleve do objections or do not deal withadequately, notdeal with andI bolster thisinterpretation it to a broader and outlookin a by linking metaphysical epistemological new It to is these and to this broader outlook thatI wholly way. objections nowturn. VI. A TemporalObjectionto myInterpretation withmyReply together I wantnow to takeon several related to theinterpretation I have objections will that lead to see us how Descartes tries in some presented, objections way todisentangle God from The first arisesin thisway. epistemology. objection On my view,whilehe attends idea of (say, at tj) to the clearand distinct is normatively certain of p. However, when(say, at proposition p, Descartes no longer thisideaclearly anddistinctly, but merely t2)Descartes perceives recalls that he did it and Descartes can, correctly perceive clearly distinctly, with doubtthat theskeptical thathe reason, p is true by raising hypothesis evenin what seemsmostevident to him,even in his clear maybe mistaken
32 I am unsure aboutwhether and Nelsonshouldbe read as denying Newman the Although antecedent of (A), I do see their as foundering on a similar forthem, interpretation point: as forDeRose, clear and distinct ideas are notat theoutset certainwhen normatively I haveother in particular abouthis view grasped. qualmsaboutDeRose's interpretation, in some wayDescarteswouldbe willing that to accept, in thiscontext, an epistemically circular ButI do nothavespace to discussthisobjection here. argument. In fact, someof thesame passages thatI do. Van Cleve, though emphasizes Cottingham he has a similar failsto mention theBurman the position, passagesand thepassages from lendmostsupport to theinterpretation Van Cleve presents. Repliesthat
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and distinct ideas. (This doubtof ideas thatwere but are no longer clearly and distinctly perceivedlasts only until Descartes proves that God is not a deceiver.) Thus my view involves the following two claims: First, at t2 Descartesdoubts thatp (and indeeddoubts all else) by consideringthe skeptical thathe may be wrongeven in his clear and distinctideas, and sechypothesis certainthatp (which he clearly and disond, Descartes is at t, normatively - aren't these tinctlyperceivedat that time). But- and here is the objection two claims inconsistent? Doesn't the laterdoubt of p and all otherclear and distinctideas show that Descartes' earliergrasp of p was not in factnormatively certain?Thus, if Descartes has reason to doubt p at t2, then he must also have reason to doubtp at t,, i.e., he is not normatively certainat t,. To himselfas being) normatively cerhold, as I do, thatDescartes is (or regards tain of p at tj is, it may now seem, to saddle Descartes with an incoherent position.34 However the threat of inconsistency is illusory.Descartes' doubtat t2 of p stemsfromhis consideration of theclaim thateven his clear and distinctideas may be mistakenand fromthefact thatDescartes does not at t2 have a proof thathis clear and distinct ideas mustbe true.Since thatis how the doubt at t2 arises, the doubt at t2of p would by itselfshow thatDescartes' clear and distinctapprehensionof p at t{ is (or was) also doubtfuland not normatively certainif and only if Descartes' earlier apprehensionof p is based on the claim thatclear and distinctideas in generalare true and on the claim that Descartes' current idea (at tj) of p is clearly and distinctly perceived.If Descartes' claim at tx has this basis, then since Descartes at tj as well as at t2 lacks a proofof thetruth of clear and distinctideas in general,then his grasp of p would be doubtfuland not normatively certain.But if Descartes' apprehension of p at t, is not based on the claim that his grasp of p at tj is clear and distinctand the claim thatclearly and distinctly perceivedideas must be true,then the factthat Descartes lacks at t2 and at t, a proofof the truthof clear and distinct ideas in generalwould notby itselfgo to show that the idea was doubtfulattP Now on my interpretation, Descartes' belief in p at tj is not based in this of his apprehension of p at tj.35Descartes' way on theclarityand distinctness
34 Wilson considers this kind of objection, in Descartes, p. 134. The objection here is roughly the reverse of an objection Bourdin raises against Descartes in the Seventh Replies. Bourdin worries, in effect, how Descartes can be certain of a propositionat a later time if he was in doubt about it at an earlier time. The current objection is: how can Descartes be certain of a claim at an earlier time if he is in doubt about it later? Notice thatDescartes' answer to Bourdin's objection is in general termsthatwould apply to both kinds of cases: something may be doubtfulat one time, yet certain at others. Descartes says thatBourdin wronglysuggests "thatthe reasons which may fromtime to time give us cause to doubt somethingare not legitimateor sound unless theyprove thatthe same thing must be permanently in doubt" (AT VII 460, CSM II 309). I foreshadowed this point in the thirdparagraphof section I of this paper. MICHAEL DELLA ROCCA

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of seeing thatp is true while attending to at t, is simply a matter certainty of this claim, if it requiresdemonstrathis claim (and to the demonstration at t,,Descartes does not need to reflect on his idea, grasp tion). In particular, of the claim that clear and thatit is clear and distinct and also grasp the truth at tj simply requireshim ideas in generalmustbe true.His certainty distinct to have theidea and to perceiveit clearly and distinctly.As Descartes says of himselfin one of theBurmanpassages quoted earlier,
[H]e knowsthathe is notdeceived withregardto them[particular axioms],because he is attention to them. Andforas longas he does payattention to them, he is certain actually paying he is notbeingdeceived. that (AT V 148,CSMK 334)

Here we have Descartes saying,in effect, thatcertainty of p is simply a matter of clearly and distinctlyperceivinga claim.36 This certaintydoes not requireDescartes to have at t{ a proofof theclaim thatclear and distinctideas in generalare true. This certainty does not requireeven an independent argumentforthe more narrowclaim that this particular perception(i.e., his perNor does his certainty ception now, at ti, of p) is not illusory.37 requirecertaintythat his idea is indeedclear and distinct.Certaintyat tx is simply a matter of clearlyand distinctly is true. In this way, we perceivingat t, that/7 can see thatDescartes is a kind of externalist with regard to the justification of current clear and distinct A current clear and distinctperception perceptions. even withoutour "checkingup" on that pergives us knowledgeor certainty ideas in generalmustbe true. ceptionand realizingthatclear and distinct At t2 when Descartes no longer perceivesp clearly and distinctly,he no that clear and distinctperceptionby itself longer has the kind of certainty affords. For this reason, certainty at t2 requiresshowing (or being able to or his past perceptionof p is in facta grasp of someshow?) thathis current thing true. In otherwords,at t2, though not at t,, Descartes is (with good reason) vulnerableto skepticalhypotheses accordingto whichhe does not and did notgrasp thetruth withregardtop and thus the later,retrospective doubt is not inconsistent withthe earliernormative certainty.

Van Cleve, "Foundationalism," p. 69, and Kenny, Descartes, p. 194, make this point well. On my interpretation, Descartes may well have a non-independentargumentfor the nonillusorinessof his perception of p simply by virtue of having at t, the clear and distinct idea of p. While having the clear and distinctidea of p, Descartes could argue non-indeI am not deceived with regard to p in pendentlyin the following way: p is true; therefore my current perception of its truth;this perception is thus not illusory. (Recall that Descartes says in the important Burman passage quoted above thathe is certain he is not being deceived in his acceptance of particularaxioms.) This argument for the non-illusoriness of his perception fails to be independent because its premise (that p is true) is somethinghe's entitled to only by virtue of having the perception of p in question. An independentargumentfor the non-illusorinessof the perception would be one that does not rely on a premise that one is entitledto simply by virtue of having the perception in question. DESCARTES, THE CARTESIAN CIRCLE, AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITHOUT GOD 19

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VII. Deeper Worriesand theCreationoftheEternalTruths A pair of deeper worries now arises,once we examinemore closely the - thatDescartes - highlighted in my answer to thepreceding claim objection is certain and ideas of currently clearly distinctly simplyby virtue perceived As Margaret ofthefact he does perceive anddistinctly. that those ideasclearly "it Wilsonsays,describing similar (Nottingham's interpretation,is a feature 'most manifest' to him that he knowshe's not being [Descartes] ofp's being deceived" on myview,it seemsthatit is partof the (p. 134). ForDescartes, nature of clearanddistinct certain. it seems ideasto be normatively Indeed, thatit is, in some sense, necessary ideas have this thatclearand distinct forDescartes, statusin that, it is in virtueof their and distinctness clarity that clearanddistinct are all certain. In ideas several normatively places,Descartes invokes sucha necessary connection between anddisexplicitly clarity andnormative the tinctness Consider first the two from certainty. passages withBurman thatI haveemployed. In thefirst Conversation such passage, Descartes of particular axiomsbecause (quoniam)he saysthathe is certain attends to them(AT V 148, CSMK 334). This suggests thatthere is some kind ofnecessary Descartes' clearanddistinct connection between perception In thesecondpassage,Descartes andhis certainty. says thatwhenwe attend to particular ideasthatwe graspclearly anddistinctly "we cannot be in any doubt aboutthem" de Us dubitare;AT V 178, CSMK 353). (nonpossumus On theassumption, forwhich I haveargued, that thisinability to doubtis an to doubt is on Descartes is that based inability goodreasons, sayingherethat In certain. attended-to clearanddistinct ideascannotfail to be normatively bothpassages,theview seemsto be thatthefactthata givenclearanddiscertain is notan accident butis somehow tinct idea is normatively necessary. EarFurther evidence for this viewcomesfrom passagesnotyetdiscussed. lierintheConversation with Descartessays thatsome simpleprinBurman, whocarefully focuses his attenbe denied ciplesoraxioms"cannot byanyone tion on them"(ea ab eo, qui attentead ilia animadvertit, negari non V we I have thatDesAT CSMK If as 146, 333). argued, possunt; grant, its undeniof a claim (or, presumably, in theindubitability cartes'interest thenin this in normative in particular, indubitability ability)is an interest to carefully (i.e., presumably, passagehe is sayingthatideasthatwe attend are must be indubitable. and and normatively Again there clearly distinctly) anddistinctness andnorconnection between seemsto be a necessary clarity mative certainty. thispoint. An important Meditation corroborates theThird passagefrom is revealed tomebythenatural Descartes light forexample says:"Whatever it follows that I exist, and so that fromthe factthat I am doubting - cannot in any way be doubtful" on (AT VII 38, CSM II 27). The natural I of clearand distinct as noted the earlier, (see faculty perception lightis,

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Principles I 30). Thus Descartes' point here is that clear and distinctideas cannot be doubtful. Once again assuming that Descartes' interestin the in thatwhich is normatively indubiinabilityto doubt amountsto an interest in we can see that this Descartes is that clear disand table, passage claiming certain. tinctideas are necessarilynormatively seems to lead directly to two relatedand This aspect of my interpretation Wilson as the First, puts point (in a passage part of important objections. whichI quoted above):
Ifitis a feature ofp's being'mostmanifest' to himthat he knows he's notbeingdeceived,then itaboutthat he's deceived'even in his mostdistinct itis not'easy' forGod to bring intuitions.' Butthisproposition is notone thatDescartescan nonchalantly abandonas a temporary misTo denyitwouldsurelybe to acknowledge a striking limitation on God's power, conception. ofCottingham's edition of theConversation withBurman, (p. 134; see also Wilson'sreview p. 456).

Here Wilson is invoking a crucial passage near the beginning of the Third MeditationwhereDescartes says:
thispre-conceived Whenever of thepre-eminent opinion powerof God occurs to me, it is not ifHe wishes, itis easyfor Himtobring itaboutthat I err,even possibleforme nottoallow that I think I intuit aboutthosethings which as evidently as possibleby theeyes of the mind. (AT VII 36, CSM II 25; I followWilson's translation of thispassage on her p. 134 whichis more literal than CSM's translation.)

Descartes is here expressingthe view thatonly God's will- and presumably the goodness of God's will- stands in the way of his making clear and distinctideas false. This is indicatedby Descartes' appealing to God's will later in the Third Meditationto rule out thispossibility.There is no suggestion in the textthatDescartes thinksthatthereis some otherindependent reason that God could notmake clear and distinctideas false. Thus, as Wilson claims, it does seem thatforDescartes God does have power over current clear and distinctideas, thathe can make themfalse if he wishes. But if clear and distinctideas are by naturenormatively certain(and thus to what Descartes explicitly says, true),it seems thatGod does not, contrary have the power to make them false (and thus not normativelycertain).38 Since I do not want to come into conflictwith one of Descartes' central
38 It might be thought that theclaimthat God might makeourclearanddistinct ideas false is a claim of epistemic and notof metaphysical If that'sthecase, then merely possibility. there wouldbe no conflict between the claim that clear and distinct ideas are by nature certain and trueand theclaim thatit is (epistemically) normatively possibleforGod to make clear and distinct ideas false. However,it is notplausiblethatDescartes' claim hereis a mere claimofepistemic This is because Descartesdoes, as we will possibility. see shortly, holdrather views on God's power whichhe sees as extending to the strong truth or falsity of theso-calledeternal The vastness truths. of God's power,in Descartes' that hisclaimhereis nota mere claimofepistemic Wilsonalso eyes,indicates possibility. stresses this as we willsee. point,
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thesesabout God's power, this is a potentiallyveryserious problem for my view. However, Descartes would have a directresponse to this objection: he would rejectany inference fromthe power of God over the truthof clear and distinct ideas to theclaim that,therefore, clear and distinctideas are not necessarilyor by naturetrue (and thus not necessarilyor by naturenormatively is an instanceof a kind that Descartes explicitly and certain).This inference oftenrejects. For Descartes, the factthat God has power over the truth of a a feature to a not does entail that that propositionattributing given thing is not part of propositionis not necessary,nordoes it entail that that feature the natureof the thingin question. Thus the factthatGod has power over the truth of clear and distinctideas does not entail that it is not necessarythat clear and distinct ideas are trueand normatively certainand does notentail that clear and distinct ideas are notby naturetrueand normatively certain. The generaldoctrine at workhereis simply Descartes' famous, notorious, and famouslynotoriousdoctrineof the creation of the eternal truths.Descartesholds the view thatGod has, or least had, power over the eternaltruths, such as, e.g., "squares have foursides." The following are representative passages:39
You... ask what necessitated God to create these truths;and I reply that he was free to make it not true thatall the radii of the circle are equal - just as free as he was not to create the world. (Letter to Mersenne, 27 May 1630, AT I 152, CSMK 25) I turnto the difficulty of conceiving how God would have been acting freely and indifferently if he had made it false thatthe threeangles of a triangle were equal to two rightangles, or in general that contradictories could not be true together. It is easy to dispel this difficultyby considering thatthe power of God cannot have any limits. (Letter to Mesland, 2 May 1644, AT IV 118, CSMK 235) I do not thinkthatwe should ever say of anythingthat it cannot be broughtabout by God. For since every basis of truth and goodness depends on his omnipotence, I would not dare to say that God cannot make a mountain withouta valley, or bring it about that 1 and 2 are not 3 (Letter for Arnauld, 29 July 1648, AT V 224, CSMK 358-59).

Thus, forDescartes, God's freewill somehow made it truethat,forexample, thatsquares have foursides squares have foursides. I will call theproposition "/?".It might be thoughtthat this freedomon the part of God precludesp frombeing necessary.But Descartes denies this. On the contrary, he holds thatGod not only wills p to be true,but that he also wills p to be necessary and that/? is therefore necessary.Descartes says:

39

Some of the material in the rest of this paragraph and in the next paragraph is adapted frommy paper, "'If a Body Meet a Body: Descartes on Body-Body Causation", pp. 6365.

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I do notthink truths which we can know thattheessences of things, and themathematical are immutable of God. Nevertheless I do think that and are independent them, they concerning sincethewilland decreeof God willedand decreed thattheyshouldbe so. (AT VII eternal, 380,CSMII261) thethree shouldnecessarily [I]t is becausehe [God] willedthat anglesof a triangle equal two in this is true cannot so on other VII 432, that and be and cases. otherwise; (AT right angles CSMII291)

In a similarvein Descartes says in the letter to Mesland that thereare "things whichGod could have made possible, but which he has nevertheless wished to make impossible" (AT IV 118, CSMK 235). Thus forDescartes p is necessary in virtueof God's willingp to be necessary.40 Descartes also makes clear that God has the power freely to impose natureson things. In the Fifth Replies, Descartes says that the essences of of God (AT VII 380, CSM II 261). The context things are not independent heremakes clear thattheessences of thing are not independent of God's will in particular. In the letterof 27 May 1630 to Mersenne,Descartes says that God "is the authorof the essence createdthings, no less than of their existence; and this essence is nothingotherthan the eternaltruths"(AT I 152, CSMK 25). Thus we can see thatDescartes would say thatdespite God's power over the truth(and normativecertainty) of clear and distinctideas, such ideas can nevertheless be necessarily or by theirverynaturetrue (and normatively cerThere for no here between God's is, Descartes, tain). genuine incompatibility ideas and thefact that those ideas are necessarily powerover clear and distinct and by theirverynaturetrue and normatively certain.Thus Wilson's objectionis avoided.41
40 On this point,see Beyssade, La philosophie premiere de Descartes, p. 112. Frankfurt and Plantinga adopt the contraryview thatfor Descartes claims such as p are, after all, con"the eternal truths are inherentlyas contingentas any other propositingent.Frankfurt: tions," ("Descartes on the Creation of the Eternal Truths," p. 42). Plantinga: "Every truth is within his [God's] control; and hence no truthis necessary," {Does God have a Nature?, p. 113). See also Van Cleve, "The Destructionof the Eternal Truths." Although in some passages (such as some of those quoted above), Descartes claims only thatGod could have made eternal truths other than they are, and although in some passages he stresses thatGod does not now have power over the eternal truths(e.g. AT V 360, CSMK 343; AT VII 380, CSM II 261), nevertheless he does suggest elsewhere that God can make eternal truthsother than they are. For example, Descartes says in an letterto Mesland "the power of God cannot have any limits[la puissance de important Dieu ne peut auoir aucunes bornes]" (AT IV 118, CSMK 235). Consider also these passages: "I do not thinkthat we should ever say of anything that it cannot [posse] be brought about by God. For since every basis of truthand goodness depends on his omnipotence, I would not dare to say thatGod cannot make a mountain withouta valley, or bring it about that 1 and 2 are not 3" (AT V 223-24, CSMK 358-59); "I am not so bold - I as to assert ...that he [God] cannot do what conflicts with my conception of things merelysay thatit involves a contradiction"(AT V 272, CSMK 363). So there is reason to thinkthatDescartes' views on whetherGod has or only had power over the eternal truths DESCARTES, THE CARTESIAN CIRCLE, AND EPISTEMOLOGY WITHOUT GOD 23

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But to see Descartes as taking this way out of the objection might seem For how could Descartes have reason to deny that God's rather uncharitable. over certain shows that they are not genuinely necessary?To truths power avoid a problemwithDescartes' approachto the Cartesian Circle by making such an unwarranted denial seems, if anything,only to get Descartes into even deeper philosophical trouble. This may be so, but the philosophical troublehere is troublethatDescartes does not shy away fromand, indeed,in some sense, Descartes' philosophical system thrivesupon such trouble. To hold thatwe cannot draw the expectedimplications fromGod's activityis, I of one or both of two centralaspects of Descartes' believe, a manifestation of God. conception First, Descartes clearly holds that certain aspects of God's activity are in his discusand he emphasizes this incomprehensibility incomprehensible, sions of the doctrine of the creationof the eternaltruths(AT I 146, CSMK 23; AT IV 118, CSMK 235; AT VII 436, CSM II 294). If God's activityis thenwe should notbe surprisedthat that activitydoes not incomprehensible, have theimplications one would standardly expect. The second factabout Descartes' conceptionof God that may help explain whyDescartes claims that the standard implications do not hold is his view that certainpredicates do not apply univocally to God and to his creatures. (Descartes makes a generalappeal to this lack of univocityin AT VII 137, 433, CSM II 98, 292; AT V 347, CSMK 375.) Normally we would expect thatif it is in the power of the freewill of an agent to make a propositionp false, thenthatpropositionis not necessary.(Thus, e.g., if I have power over the truth or falsityof the propositionthat I raise my hand at tt, then that proposition is not necessary.)But if Descartes holds that the predicate"has power over p" does not apply univocally to createdthings, such as myself, and to God, then there is room for Descartes to say that, contrary to our expectations,the claim that God has the power to make a proposition false
viz. that areunsettled. thegeneral stillremains, lessonI drawin thetext But,in anyevent, since God's powerover theeternaltruths does notspoiltheirnecessity, God's power in his of their truth. overclearand distinct ideas does not spoilthenecessity (Nottingham to Wilson'sobjection thatGod's powerover theeternaltruths, and in stresses response is tempoovertheclaimthatclear and distinct ideas are normatively certain, particular I see as the uncomfortable in what limited rally (p. 76n22).ThisputsCottingham position that it is easy forGod to makeclear and distinct of denying forDescartes ideas false. In addition to theunclarity overthetemporal thereis much doctrine, scope of thecreation as to whether eternal truth is subjectto God's free will.I tend unclarity every absolutely tothink that theanswer to this is "yes", butthematter is controversial, see, e.g. question of the "Descarteson theCreation Eternal Wells,"Descartes'Uncreated Truths", Curley, Eternal Truths," Descartes, pp. 592-97,Wilson, pp. 123-26.Again,however,as far as I can see thisaspectof thedoctrine here.As longas Descartesallows fairly is notrelevant forresponding broadscope forGod's creative truths, powerovertheeternal mystrategy to Wilson's objection doctrine can go forward, even if thecreation does notextendto eternal truth. absolutely every 24 MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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does not entail that that propositionis not necessary.In the next section, I will briefly discuss othercases in which theremay be an appeal to a lack of of univocity certainpredicatesthatcan be applied to God and to creatures. I believe it is this incomprehensibility and lack of univocity that Descartesassociates with God thatenable him to accord maximal power to God while stilldoing justice to the necessityof the eternaltruths and to the builtin normative of clear and distinct to ideas. the Or, certainty put point another view for that holds that of God over the eterDescartes, any way, any power nal truthswould underminetheir necessity would fail to do justice to the enormouspower of God. In particular, to say that God can incomprehensibly have power over the truthand normativecertainty of clear and distinctideas ceronly if those ideas are not necessarilyor by naturetrueand normatively tain would, on this way of thinking, be to limitGod's power in an unacceptable way. It is preciselybecause God's power is enormousthat,for Descartes, we should not shy away fromthese kinds of paradoxicalclaims about God's power. I want to turnnow to a relatedimportant objection the answer to which will shed crucial light on the character of the epistemological position Descartes is, on my interpretation, endorsing.As we have seen, Descartes' strategy is to maximize God's power over our clear and distinctideas and yet to claim that these ideas are normativelycertain simply by virtue of being withoutour having to conductan independent and, in particular, apprehended check on whether or notGod is deceivingus with regard to clear and distinct ideas. But to the extentthat God's power over our clear and distinctideas is greatit mightseem that it is all the more urgentto check up on God, as it were, in orderfor those ideas- even currently perceived clear and distinct ideas- to be normativelycertain. Nonetheless, Descartes says that, in the case of clear and distinct ideas, we are exempt fromhaving to do such checking. Why should thisbe so? The puzzlement here becomes even greater when we consider that theearly MeditationsDescartes explicitlyrequiresan independent throughout check forone's ideas to be certain.This certainlyseems to be the procedure the increasingly severe doubtsraised in theFirstMeditationand it throughout seems to be an internalist procedure.But now all of a suddenwhen Descartes turns to currently clear and distinctideas, he goes externalist and apprehended check is needed fornormative says thatno independent certainty. Why does he apparentlydrop the ball so late in the game, when we are, in effect,up - God's power over even curagainst the most potentiallyinsidious power clear and distinct It ideas? rently perceived might seem that here if anywhere we need to be more, not less, vigilant and that Descartes' newfoundinsouciance about an independent check is somewhatperverse.

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Theproper to thesecharges shouldbe obviousfrom my answer response to thefirst God is an exception, andso in thefaceof God's power objection. thestandard for normative do not apply.We neednot certainty requirements God's our clear about over current and distinct ideas precisely worry power becausethatpoweris so incomprehensible. God's poweris For Descartes, vastandnon-threatening, andindeed becauseitis so vast. non-threatening So in response to myinterpretation to certain of Descartes' keyobjections of the I his Cartesian have invoked on the exotic views Circle, way handling status ofGod's power hisviewson thecreation and,inparticular, exceptional oftheeternal truths. Thisrevealsa muchcloserconnection thedocbetween trine of thecreation of theeternal truths and the Cartesian Circle thanhas been appreciated. Some have argued thatthe creation is doctrine typically in engendering Descartes'most radicaldoubt the doubtabout important clearanddistinct ideas.42 This maybe so, but hereI'm stressing thewholly distinct that the creation doctrine not Descartes into the point only gets but also the Descartes out of It doubt. does this doubt, helps get by obviating certain to what hisanti-skeptical is, as I haveargued, objections strategy.43 VIII. AnalogousCases and Epistemology without God thecreation doctrine be put,can we be sure Despitethisuse to which might that Descartes wouldbe happy toemploy inorder this to support doctrine his It must be admitted that does Descartes not invoke epistemology? explicitly thecreation doctrine todeal with intheway thatI difficulties epistemological have.Butthekeymovesoftreating God's poweras incomprehensible andas a univocity-spoiling are ones thatDescartes makes exception quiteexplicitly in aspects ofhissystem in addition to thecase of theeternal truths as which, I haveargued, out his The the of basic procehelps epistemology. prevalence dureI see as at work inthecase of theeternal andtheCartesian truths Circle lendsindirect, but significant of to the defense of support my understanding Descartes' of the In this I Cartesian Circle. would like way handling regard, toexamine someofDescartes'viewson freedom, andcausubstance, briefly sation.I shouldstress thatin noneof thesecases can I hope to offer herea treatment oftherelevant issues. complete freedom. In his account of freedom, Descartes at one pointappeals First, to theincomprehensibility ofGod's activity in a waythatmirrors theappeal to incomprehensibility in connection withthecreation of theeternal truths.
42 See Wilson,pp. 128-31;Brehier, "The Creationof the EternalTruthsin Descartes's "The CartesianCircle," p. 373; Gewirth,"The CartesianCircle System";Gewirth, "The Cartesian Reconsidered," Circle,"pp. 224-27. pp. 674-75; Murdoch, missesthisimportant doctrine a threat He sees thecreation as merely to Cottingham point. and so he triesto limit the scope of thatdoctrine.I see the creationdoccertainty - precisely by virtue of its extreme claims about God's incomprehensible trine - as safeguarding a threat. and,by no means, power certainty MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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In Principles1 41, Descartes says thatGod willed and preordained whateveris or can be. He goes on to say:
of thispower to perceiveclearlyand distinctly thatGod We mayattain sufficient knowledge geta sufficient possessesit;butwe cannot graspof it to see how it leaves thefree actionsof Nonetheless we have such close awarenessof thefreedom and indiffermenundetermined. is nothing we can graspmoreevidently or moreperfectly. And it ence which is in us, that there we not one which must because do we know its wouldbe absurd, simply grasp thing, by very be beyond our comprehension, to doubtsomething else of whichwe have an intimate nature within ourselves. graspand whichwe experience

Here Descartes seems to be saying that somehow- though exactly how is - the factthatGod wills and produceseverything, beyondour comprehension including our actions, is compatible with those actions nonetheless being undetermined and free. That is, the incomprehensibility of God's activity thefollowingconditional: serves to undermine and wills our actions, then those actions are (B) If God preordains determined and unfree. Descartes' rejectionof this conditionalis analogous, I believe, to his rejectionof the conditional: ' such as 2+2=4' or 'clear and (C) If God has power over propositions distinctideas are trueand normatively certain',then those propositionsare notnecessary. And thefact that he clearlyrejects the former conditionalbuttressesthe case forseeing him as rejectingthe latter conditional.44 Descartes' rejectionof the conditional involving freedomis also importantly and explicitly bound up with the lack of univocity of a term that applies to God and to creatures.Earlier I claimed that, for Descartes, the "has power over p" does not apply univocally to creaturesand to predicate - with God. Descartes makes a similar claim- and does so more explicitly to the notion of dependence. Descartes says in a letterto Princess regard Elizabeth,
The independence whichwe experience and feelin ourselves, and whichsuffices to make our actions or blameworthy, is not incompatible witha dependenceof quiteanother praiseworthy all things aresubject to God. (AT IV 333, CSMK 277) kind, whereby

There maybe morethanjust an analogue here since Descartes' claim about God's extends notjust to free butto "whatever is or can be" (PrinciplesI actions, preordination God preordains can be Descartes maybe referring whatever to the 41). In sayingthat viewthat God has powerovermodaltruths.
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The differing to here are, I believe, kinds of dependence thatDescartes refers kinds of power that are at work in Descartes' of a piece with the differing account of thecreationof theeternaltruths. Justas thepower of God over the eternaltruthsdoes not entail (contrary to what we might expect) that those truths are not necessary,so too thedependenceof our actionson God does not entail (again, contrary to what we mightexpect) that those actions are not free. Dependence of our actions on God is completely different from any those actions on have other finite In the dependence might things. particular, on God does not have the same kind of implication that the dependence has. dependenceon otherfinite things The second case in which Descartes makes moves analogous to those I have attributed to him in thecase of the eternaltruthsand the Cartesian Circle concernshis accountof substance. Consider Principles 151:
we can understand otherthana thing whichexistsin such a way as to By substance nothing foritsexistence.And thereis only one substancewhichcan be dependon no otherthing to depend understood on no other God. In thecase of all othersubwhatsoever, thing namely we perceive that can existonlywiththehelp of God's concurrence. Hence the stances, they term'substance'does notapplyunivocally as theysay in the Schools,to God and to other that of thetermwhichis common to God is, thereis no distinctly things; intelligible meaning and his creatures.

Here Descartes insists that finitethings and God are not substances in the same sense. We can see thisfactas undermining the followingconditional: x (otherthanGod) depends on God to exist, thenx (D) If something is not a substance. This conditionalwould be true if the term"substance" as it appears in the conditionalwere used in the way in which that termis applied to God. For, else whatsoever; accordingto thatuse, a substancecannotdepend on anything forthisreason God, as Descartes emphasizes, is the only substance according to this sense.45However, thereis anothersense of "substance" accordingto which a thingis a substancejust in case it dependsfor its existence on nothing else besides God. It is thissense of substance thatallows the conditional (D) to be false. Again, just as in the case of the eternaltruthsand the Cartesian Circle, God's activitydoes not have the implications one would standardly expect. Finally,Descartes' views on the causation of motion also involve a rejection of conditionals analogous to (C). As many have observed, Descartes holds that God is the directand sufficient cause of all motions that occur when one body strikesanother{Principles II 36ff). God's causal role here,
45 like(D) forprecisely thisreason. Spinozawouldacceptsomething MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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accordingto Garberand Hatfieldand others,entails that forDescartes bodies are not genuinecauses of motionin bodies.46That is, Garberand Hatfieldsee Descartes as acceptingthefollowingconditional: cause of all motions that occur (E) If God is thedirectand sufficient then are not genuinecauses of when one body strikes bodies another, in other motion bodies. This conditional may have much plausibility; however, as I have argued elsewhere,Descartes quite clearly rejects this conditional. For him, God's causal role does not precludethe causation of motion by bodies. Indeed,as I show, God's causal activityis the ground of the genuine causal activity of bodies. Descartes does not explicitlyconnecthis rejectionof (E) to his conor to his conceptionof ceptionof the lack of univocityof certainpredicates but Descartes' use of those notions in other, God's incomprehensibility, relatedcases makes it plausible to see them at work in his account of the causation of motion. This is not the place to enterinto the various textual of this account. The point to considerationsin supportof my interpretation thatDescartes would reject(E), emphasize here,however,is thatif I am right evidence for the existence of a patternin Descartes' then we have further - perhaps because of God's to which God's causal activity thought according - does not have the and because of the lack of univocity incomprehensibility implications that one would expect. This systematicfeatureof Descartes' - while it may not justify his rejection of (C) - does justify us, I thought to Descartes therejectionof thatconditional. believe, in attributing In each of these cases, Descartes seeks to preservean importantclaim on the case, they are free,substances, about finitecreatures (that,depending or have while also maintainnormative active, necessary, certainty) causally Descartes treads this fine line God's extreme by stressingthat ing power. God's power is not anythinglike the power of finiteobjects and is, indeed, Descartes is, in effect, saying that we can give God maxiincomprehensible. about thatpower spoiling any valumal power and thenproceed notto worry of finite able feature objects. As I said, God is, forDescartes, non-threatening or rather, non-threatening preciselybecause he is despite being all-powerful; when it comes to these valuable features of Indeed, considering all-powerful. finiteobjects, it is almost as if God doesn't exist. When we examine these we can proceedfreely withoutworrying about bumping into God or features, Descartes is thus preparing the way forthe steppingon his toes, as it were.48
46 47 "Force (God) in Descartes' Physics"; See especiallyHatfield, Garber,"Descartes and Occasionalism". See Delia Rocca, "if a Body Meeta Body'". science is "cut off from See Brehierwho says thatbecause of thecreation doctrine, of theEternal in Descartes'sSystem," Truths ("The Creation p. 202). Hatfield theology"
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substance,causation and modality that developmentof accounts of freedom, proceedwithoutany invocationof God, accounts that proceed independently of God. And the most surprising partof all thisis, perhaps, that these points to also apply to Descartes' epistemology.In some way, Descartes is starting make room for the view that epistemologycan proceed without concerning itselfwithGod.49 Descartes has, as I said at the outset, begun to loosen the ties betweenGod and epistemology,and he does this precisely in his treatment of the problem of the Cartesian Circle- that aspect of his epistemological views thatmightseem most bound up with God. Of course, the disof God and epistemologyis by no means complete in Descartes, entangling for (to take just one case) althoughthe normativecertainty of our currently clear and ideas distinct does not one's apprehended eye back to requirecasting we do need to on in check up God orderto have retrospective God, certainty. Nonetheless,we can see in Descartes crucial steps towarda view that makes God irrelevant to epistemology. In this way, Descartes is a surprisingand of the kind of God-detached important precursor epistemologythat one will findin different ways in Hume and Kant and so much of laterepistemology. And the paradoxicaland intriguing aspect of Descartes' view here is that he takes these steps in the contextof an epistemologythat is explicitly theocentricin so many ways. I should state forthe recordthat I do not think that any of this works. RationalistthatI am, I am, in general,no fan of the kind of incomprehensible and exceptionalstatusthatDescartes accords to God. But Descartes clearly is a fan of such things,and his sophisticated attemptto employ such a strathis metaphysicsand epistemologydeservesto be understood egy throughout and takenseriously.In the epistemological case in particular, while we may not findthe underpinnings of his anti-skeptical strategy very satisfying,his - if that's what it is- is nonethelessnot a mistake simple and irredeemable blunder(as it is on so many otherinterpretations of Descartes), but rather it is an intriguing and potentially to it articulate what veryilluminating attempt

reaches a similar conclusion (one perhapsin tensionwithhis views discussedin the "we can makesenseof Descartes' s doctrine of thecreationof the previous paragraph), eternal truths ofa strategy to divest claimsto knowledge of natural esbyseeingitas part sences from theimplication thatsuch claimspresuppose of God's creative knowledge and God in Descartes," power"("Reason,Nature, p. 275). To say,as I do, thatforDesto some extent, we can proceed almostas if God does notexistis notto say that cartes, Descartes' professions of religiousand theological beliefs are insincere(for such a of Descartes, see Caton,The Origin reading of Subjectivity, esp. pp. 10-20,66-73, 101forDescartes, whileGod does existand is indeedintimately that, 108). My viewis simply related to finite that in important cannot be comprehended. relation, beings, respects, Forquitedifferent Loeb ("Is ThereRadicalDissimulation in Descartes' Meditareasons, as developing, to some extent, a non-theological tionsT) also sees Descartes epistemology30 MICHAELDELLA ROCCA

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God. Andto see thisis to upendthe without wouldbe to do epistemology that we all know.50 aboutDescartes's traditional story epistemology BIBLIOGRAPHY A. Works byDescartes eds., Oeuvres de Descartes, 12 vols. Adam,Charles,and Paul Tannery, Paris:J.Vrin,1964-1976. AT.) (Abbreviated Robert and Dugald Murdoch, eds. and trans. John, Stoothoff, Cottingham, 2 vols. CamThe PhilosophicalWritings Descartes, of Cambridge: 1984-1985. Press, (Abbreviated CSM.) bridge University Robert andAnthony John, Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch, Kenny, Cottingham, trans.The PhilosophicalWritings of Descartes, vol. 3. Cambridge: Press,1991.(Abbreviated CSMK.) University Cambridge Elizabeth and G.R.T. trans. The S., Haldane, Ross, PhilosophicalWorks of Descartes,2 vols.Cambridge: Press,1911. Cambridge University B. OtherWorks in Descartes'Meditations. Jonathan. "Truth andStability Canadian Bennett, volume 16 75-108. Journal (1990): ofPhilosophy, supplementary La Philosophie Premiere Jean-Marie. de Descartes. Paris: FlamBeyssade, 1979. marion, in Descartes's Emile."The Creation of theEternal Truths Brehier, System." In Willis Doney,ed., Descartes:A Collectionof Critical Essays, pp. Dame: University ofNotre Notre Dame Press,1968. 192-208, Janet. Descartes's MethodofDoubt. Princeton: Princeton UniBroughton, 2002. Press, versity . "TheMethod ofDoubt."In DerkPereboom, ed., The Rationalists: Critical Essayson Descartes, Spinoza,and Leibniz,pp. 1-18,Lanham, Rowman andLittlefield, 1999. Maryland: . "Skepticism andtheCartesian Circle."Canadian Journal of Phi14 593-615. losophy (1984): An Essay on Descartes. New Caton, Hiram.The Origin of Subjectivity: Haven:Yale University Press,1973. John. Descartes.Oxford: Blackwell,1986. Cottingham,

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I wouldliketo thank themany who discussed(and critiandfriends students, colleagues, versions of thispaperin myDescartes' classes at Yale, at a faculty discized!) earlier cussiongroup at Yale, in correspondence, and at a memorable of the New Engmeeting in EarlyModernPhilosophy land Colloquium at Dartmouth. The feedback fromKeith and an anonymous referee DeRose, ShellyKagan,SukjaeLee, Martin Lin,Sam Rickless, forthis journalwas especially appreciated.
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