Cabbage à la Descartes

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This article offers an interpretation of Descartes’s method of doubt. It wields an examination of Descartes’s pedagogy—as exemplified by The Search for Truth as well as the Meditations—to make the case for the sincerity (as opposed to artificiality) of the doubts engendered by the First Meditation. Descartes was vigilant about balancing the need to use his method of doubt to achieve absolute certainty with the need to compensate for the various foibles of his scholastic and unschooled readers. Nevertheless, Descartes endeavored to instill willful, context-independent, universal doubt across his readership. If all goes well, readers of the Meditations are like method actors; the Meditator is the character they are meant to bring to life, via the method of meditating on reasons for doubt. The article concludes with the suggestion that Descartes was the same kind of skeptic as the early Academic skeptics Arcesilaus and Carneades.
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Archival date: 2017-10-17
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