Squaring the Circle in Descartes’ Meditations The Strong Validation of Reason STEPHEN I. WAGNER Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014; xi + 244 pp.; $99.95 ISBN: 9781107072060 [Book Review]

Dialogue 54 (4):799-802 (2015)
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In Squaring the Circle in Descartes’ Meditations, Stephen Wagner aims to show that Descartes’ project in the Meditations is best understood as a ‘strong validation of reason’ i.e., as proving in a non-circular way that human reason is a reliable, truth-conducive faculty. For such an enterprise to qualify as a ‘strong’ validation, Wagner contends, skeptical doubt must be given its strongest force. The most stringent doubt available in the Meditations is the deceiving God. To rule out the possibility that an omnipotent God created humans so that their best functioning cognitive faculties provide misleading information about what the world is like, Descartes must prove that a non-deceiving God exists. Furthermore, only a non-circular proof will count as a ‘validation.’ Wagner spells out the requirements of non-circularity as involving a proof for God’s existence that is not deductive, does not simply achieve a clear and distinct perception of God’s existence, and proceeds on the basis of perceptions that remain true even when the reasons underlying them are not attended to any longer by the meditator.
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