Cartesian Clarity

Philosophers' Imprint 20 (19):1-28 (2020)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Clear and distinct perception is the centrepiece of Descartes’s philosophy — it is the source of all certainty — but what does he mean by ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’? According to the prevailing approach, what it means for a perception to be clear is that its content has a certain objective property, like truth. I argue instead that clarity is at least partly a subjective, phenomenal quality whereby a content is presented as true to the perceiving subject. Clarity comes in degrees. Any weak degree of clarity, available to the senses, can be merely subjective, since what it presents as true may not actually be true. But complete clarity, available to intellectual perception, has an objective dimension, since what it presents as true is always some truth, some bit of reality. Further, I argue that the other perceptual qualities that Descartes identifies — obscurity, confusion, and distinctness — are all defined in terms of clarity. Of particular note is the fact that distinctness is not a positive feature to be added to clarity: a distinct perception is just a completely clear perception.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Upload history
First archival date: 2020-07-16
Latest version: 2 (2020-07-16)
View other versions
Added to PP index

Total views
361 ( #17,545 of 2,446,301 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
95 ( #6,342 of 2,446,301 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.