Descartes’ God is a deceiver, and that’s OK

Synthese 202 (3):1-29 (2023)
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That Descartes’ God is not a deceiver is amongst the canonical claims of early modern philosophy. The significance of this (purported) fact to the coherence of Descartes’ system is likewise canonical, infused in how we teach and think about the _Meditations_. Though prevalent, both ends of this narrative are suspect. We argue that Descartes’ color eliminativism, when coupled with his analysis of the cognitive structure of our sensory systems, entails that God is a deceiver. It’s doubtful that Descartes recognized this, given his insistence that God is not a deceiver, and the role this plays in his system. But this is a concession Descartes can grant if we are careful about the kind of deception at play—a kind Descartes _does_ recognize, albeit not without some ambiguity. On our story, Descartes’ metaphysics and epistemology are not driven by concerns about deception _per se_, but by concerns about God’s _benevolence_.

Author Profiles

Joseph Gottlieb
Texas Tech University
Saja Parvizian
University of Illinois, Chicago (PhD)


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