The Moral Certainty of Immortality in Descartes

History of Philosophy Quarterly 28 (3):227-247 (2011)
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In the Dedicatory Letter of the Meditations, René Descartes claims that he will offer a proof of the soul’s immortality, to be accomplished by reason alone. This proof is also promised by the title page of the first edition of the Meditations, which includes the words “in which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated.” But in the Synopsis, and later in his replies to objections, Descartes gives a more nuanced account of the possibility of proving immortality and whether an attempt is even to be found in the Meditations. To confuse matters further, the title page of the second edition no longer mentions a demonstration of immortality but promises only to prove the distinction between body and soul. The question arises, therefore, whether the Meditations contains a purely philosophical demonstration of the immortality of the soul.

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Michael W. Hickson
Trent University


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