I follow Van Cleve here. On my interpretation, Descartes seeks an even higher epistemic status scientia which he obtains by also clearly and distinctly perceiving to be true the epistemic principle behind his clear and distinct perceptions. But Is it Enough? But is it an absolute guarantee? Is it enough to satisfy the requirements of an absolute sceptic?
It seems not. But no one — not even Descartes — should endeavor to satisfy such an absolute sceptic, at least insofar as I understand the type of sceptic in question. She therefore will not accept any belief that does not live up to the requirement that the faculty from which it is derived has been proven to be reliable. No argument whose premises are not antecedently acceptable by the above requirement will so count. Interestingly, Reid, in one place at least, interprets Descartes as attempting to refute just such a sceptic Reid, b, p. Descartes was no fool.
He must have realized that he needed some facts which are available for legitimate use as premises before he could begin to prove anything. The certainty he seeks can only be attained for those facts which fit into the very restrictive class described above or which can be deductively proven on their basis. Continuing on this line of interpretation, then, one will naturally, like Van Cleve, interpret Descartes as thinking that his clear and distinct perceptions are, from the outset, already at the level of certainty Descartes ultimately seeks for his beliefs.
Descartes either retains the belief, putting it among his stock of certainties from which he can attempt to prove other things, or he throws it out unless and until it can be proven on the basis of those beliefs that do pass the initial test. A two-level reading avoids this dilemma by opening up a middle ground of initial epistemic appraisal.
On this two-level reading, Descartes does not have to drop his sights all the way down to the level of certainty afforded simply by clearly and distinctly perceiving a proposition to be true in order to avoid the quixotic task of trying to refute the absolute sceptic. Again, a middle ground is opened up.
The sceptic Descartes targets is not so impossibly demanding as the absolute sceptic, but neither is she as easily satisfied as the restrictive foundationalist sceptic. Simply clearly and distinctly perceiving a proposition to be true, although this affords a high degree of certainty, is not enough to satisfy her, because she will count the deceiving nature hypothesis as still providing her with a reason for doubting such propositions.
She is bothered by the fact that, as far as she can clearly and distinctly perceive, this undermining hypothesis may be true. As far as her clear and distinct perceptions go, she has nothing to say against it. But, unlike the absolute sceptic, she will allow as a proof of its falsity a n epistemically circular demonstration that it is false from particular clear and distinct intuitions.
We are left with two questions, which are really just two sides of the same coin. NOTES 1. When citing the Meditations , as well as the Objections and Replies, I will first give the page reference to Vol. VII of AT and then to the translation being used. Since Descartes feels he received his nature from God, this doubt often takes the form of a deceiving God hypothesis — the hypothesis that God or a god has given him such a radically defective nature. There are important differences among various two-level solutions, and, in particular, between the solution I present and various of its predecessors.
But I will not, for the most part, seek to explain or justify the departures I take from these predecessors — although I will in section F explain and justify one very important departure I take from the two-level solutions of Fred Feldman and Alan Gewirth. My neglect of most of my predecessors is not due to my thinking their work is not worth discussing. On the contrary, I believe the work done on the Cartesian Circle has been, for the most part, of high quality.
The neglect is rather due to the character of the present paper, which seeks to defend and explore the implications of a particular interpretation rather than to explain its relation to various other interpretations. Van Cleve, , p. Throughout this paper I will use capital P and Q to stand for the specific propositions identified in this quotation, leaving lower-case letters for use as variables over propositions or as dummy sentence letters. But Descartes immediately goes on to make it clear that he has a reason for doubting his clear and distinct perceptions — slight and metaphysical though it may be — even though he is psychologically incapable of doubting for that reason while in the grip of a clear and distinct perception.
And the presence of this reason, whether or not one is presently psychologically capable of doubting on its basis, is enough on my interpretation, to disqualify the belief from being a piece of scientia, even while one is clearly and distinctly perceiving it. Descartes certainly does consider this general principle to be doubtful, but as I read this passage, he also considers doubtful the particular clear and distinct perceptions. In fact, he takes the latter to be doubtful because he considers the former doubtful.
The reading I oppose is the one Van Cleve would have to give this passage: That doubt is cast only upon the general principle and that no epistemic shadow at all is thought to be thereby cast upon the particular clear and distinct perceptions. AT 21; CSM, vol. II, An additional refinement is suggested by a terminological remark Descartes makes in his Reply to Objections II. Willis Doney points out that Descartes does not consistently follow this proposal in the body of the Meditations , but that he, in any case, introduces the term perfectissima certitudo , which applies to first principles as well as to conclusions, later in his reply to his critics Doney, , p.
In this strict terminology, in order for S to have scientia of p, the following additional condition must be met: S must not have immediately intuited the truth of p, but must rather have come to clearly and distinctly perceive that p by means of a proof.
The Epistemology of Perception
This should not be construed as a psychological remark. As remarked in note 6, Descartes does hold that one is psychologically incapable of doubting what one clearly and distinctly perceives — at least while one is clearly and distinctly perceiving it. But one still has a reason for doubting these things — the metaphysical reason — and they are in this evaluative, rather than psychological, sense doubtful.
Here, the sceptic uses the history of actual error to show the falsity of the principle that The beliefs I form through the senses are all true. Thus, actual errors made under worse conditions do not undermine the judgments made under these better conditions. AT, ; HR, vol. AG does not contain this passage. II, , which seems too weak. Descartes certainly did think it a mark of a clear and distinct perceptions that they compel assent: While one is clearly and distinctly perceiving that p, one is unable to refrain from believing that p. But Descartes wisely did not want to define clear and distinct perceptions solely in terms of compelling assent.
One can imagine a creature who is compelled to believe certain propositions that it is in no position whatsoever to know. See Reid, a, p. Thanks to Robert M. In order to secure an absolute foundation for truth, Descartes must probe the reliability of his senses.
He realizes that his reliance upon the clarity of these senses also makes him prey to forces which could deceive him. After considering various factors which could possibly distort his perception, Descartes laments that he may forget about the insecurity of a sensory foundation. Furthermore, in this statement, Descartes condemns his ignorant reliance upon sensual data, yet acknowledges that this complacency arises from the very real dread of darkness, from the insecurity caused by the abyss of uncertainty.
A realization of human impotence develops from this insecurity. Ultimately, Descartes locates an unassailable position of retreat for himself which he can use to view outside ideas and phenomena. Descartes declares that he wants to establish an absolutely certain foundation by locating a firm and immovable Archimedian point of certainty.
This metaphor parallels the Albertinian notion of perspective, in which the entirety of the visual world converges on a point within the eye of the spectator. He locates his firm and unshakable point of view in the reflexive self-identity of thought. Although Descartes can always subject the reality external world to doubt, he affirms the absolute reality of his own existence.
Descartes thereby creates a detached, internal space from which he can present to himself not only external phenomena, but also his own internal space.
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Descartes thereby gains mastery over the external world and an internal subjectivity by positing both as objects for the philosophical spectator. Although Descartes decides upon the indubitability of this internal self-reflexive vision, he must verify whether his sight also correlates with external reality.
Just as a demon of the utmost power could utterly distort his vision, only an omnipotent God can lead him to the truth. Descartes deduces the existence of God by concluding that the idea of an infinite God must have been put in his mind by the power of God. However, even though he admits that God exists outside of his human horizons, Descartes can only approach God as an idea , as an object for human contemplation. Descartes effects a reduction ad hominem by referring even the Being of God back to the epistemological problem of human knowledge. Descartes distinguishes between two visual faculties which the mental eye employs: the power of imagination and the power of understanding.
Descartes privileges understanding because, through it, the mind reflects upon the mind, establishing an immediate relationship between a thought and the object of thought. Conversely, because imagination operates through the medium of the physical body, its vision always lies open to doubt. For if I lacked it, I should undoubtedly remain the same individual as I now am; from which it seems to follow that it depends on something distinct from me.
Following this logic, Descartes reasons that, because the imagination opens upon an uncertain visual field, the self does not require it. Descartes frequently laments that, although his mind may fix upon a true idea, his impulses may rupture his awareness. He explains that true ideas only provide a foundation for certainty during the time that the thinker contemplates them. Furthermore, Descartes seems to imply that the will can deceive the intellect because its perspective opens upon a larger visual field, a wider scope. By recommending the use of the intellect, Descartes in effect urges the thinker to narrow his viewpoint.
Throughout his work, Nietzsche opposes the spectatorial paradigm of rationalism which emphasizes clarity and certitude over passion and will. Rather than critiquing the primacy of sight, however, he suggests that men should use a new mode of productive, poetic vision to enrich their lives.
In Birth of Tragedy , Nietzsche condemns the spectatorial paradigm through his analysis of Euripides and Socrates, the Alexandrian tragedian and philosopher. In the end he had to admit to himself that he did not understand his great predecessors. Socrates believed it was his mission to correct this situation. Rather than celebrating the passionate intensity of life, they find themselves estranged from the irrationality of it.
To remedy this situation, these two writers establish a vision which eradicates these frightening contingencies. Just as Descartes emphasizes clarity and distinctness as criteria for truth, Socrates and Euripides replace passionate Athenian aesthetics with transparent knowledge and with the doctrine that everything beautiful must be sensible.
Very often it was a god who had to Again like Descartes, Euripides resolves his anxiety by imposing his spectatorial position upon aesthetic experience. The mirror, which previously had shown only the great and bold features, now took on the kind of accuracy that reflects also the paltry traits of nature. Euripides converts a dangerous, heroic social space into one which embodies the consciousness of the masses. Compare the doctrines of the infallibility of the mental—roughly, the doctrine that sincere introspective judgments are always true; the indubitability of the mental—roughly, that sincere introspective judgments are indefeasible; and omniscience with respect to the mental—roughly, that one has Knowledge of every true proposition about one's own present contents of consciousness.
There is some variation in the way these doctrines are formulated in the literature. Consider two key texts often cited by those who attribute such doctrines to Descartes:. Now as far as ideas are concerned, provided they are considered solely in themselves and I do not refer them to anything else, they cannot strictly speaking be false; for whether it is a goat or a chimera that I am imagining, it is just as true that I imagine the former as the latter.
As for the will and the emotions, here too one need not worry about falsity; for even if the things which I may desire are wicked or even non-existent, that does not make it any less true that I desire them.
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Thus the only remaining thoughts where I must be on my guard against making a mistake are judgements. On close inspection, these texts make no claim about the possibility of introspective judgment error, because these texts are not about formed judgments. In these passages Descartes is isolating the components of judgment. His two-faculty theory of judgment requires an interaction between the perceptions of the intellect and the will's assent a theory elaborated in the Fourth Meditation. A sine qua non of judgment error is that there be an act of judgment, but acts of judgment require both a perceptual act and a volitional act.
My merely seeming to see a speckled hen with two speckles could not, per se , involve judgment error, because it does not involve judgment. Further reading : On discussions of truth criteria in the 16th and 17th centuries, see Popkin On the defeasibility of clear and distinct perception including the cogito , see Newman and Nelson On contemporary treatments of infallibility, indubitability, and omniscience, see Alston and Audi In Section 5.
That passage makes clear that the Evil Genius Doubt undermines even clear and distinct perception.
In his Principles treatment, Descartes summarizes the broader problem:. How can we overcome this lingering hyperbolic doubt? The broader argument that unfolds has seemed to many readers to be viciously circular—the so-called Cartesian Circle. Descartes first argues from clearly and distinctly perceived premises to the conclusion that a non-deceiving God exists; he then argues from the premise that a non-deceiving God exists to the conclusion that what is clearly and distinctly perceived is true.
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I then turn to the Cartesian Circle. Descartes' broader argument unfolds in two main steps. The first step is to argue for the conclusion that an all-perfect God exists—a case he makes in the Third Meditation. The Fifth Meditation advances a further such argument. Though there is much of interest to say about his case for an all-perfect God, it will not be considered here, in the interests of space, and of focusing on epistemological issues.
It is this second main step of the broader argument that I want to develop here. It is tempting to suppose that the second main step is unneeded. This is too fast. In short, the most obvious upshot of an all-perfect creator would seem to be the following perfectly general rule for truth: If I form a judgment, then it is true. But quite clearly, this rule for truth doesn't hold. The implied reasoning makes this a special case of the tradition problem of evil—applied here to judgment error:.
This First Meditation passage helps set the stage for the further inquiry that will ensue. It anticipates Descartes' Fourth Meditation plans to offer a theodicy for error. Indeed, the Fourth Meditation opens by revisiting the problem, but this time having just proven that an all-perfect God exists—a scenario generating cognitive dissonance:.
There would be no further doubt on this issue were it not that what I have just said appears to imply that I am incapable of ever going wrong. For if everything that is in me comes from God, and he did not endow me with a faculty for making mistakes, it appears that I can never go wrong. In an effort to resolve the cognitive dissonance, the meditator begins an investigation into the causes of error—an inquiry that eventually results in a theodicy.
In the course of the discussion Descartes puts forward his theory of judgment, whereby judgment arises from the cooperation of the intellect and the will. The investigation concludes that the cause of error is an improper use of the will: error arises when the will gives assent to propositions of which the intellect lacks clear and distinct understanding.
It is therefore within our power to avoid error:. The theodicy that emerges is a version of the freewill defense. Accordingly, we should thank God for giving us freewill, but the cost of having freewill is the possibility of misusing it. Since judgment error results only when we misuse our freewill, we should not blame God for these errors. Not only is the theodicy used to explain the kinds of error God can allow, it is used to clarify the kinds of error God cannot allow.
God can allow errors that are my fault, though not errors that would be God's fault. When my perception is clear and distinct, giving assent is not a voluntary option—thus not explainable by the freewill defense. Since, on occasions of clarity and distinctness, my assent arises from the cognitive nature that God gave me, God would be blamable if those judgments resulted in error.
Therefore, they are not in error; indeed they could not be. That an evil genius might have given me my cognitive nature casts suspicion on these judgments. That an all-perfect God gave me my nature guarantees that these judgments are true. A clever strategy of argument thus unfolds—effectively inverting the usual reasoning in the problem of evil:. The first premise was argued in the Third Meditation.
The second premise arises out of the discussion of the Fourth Meditation. By the end of the Fourth Meditation, important pieces of Descartes' broader argument are in place. Whether further important pieces arise in the Fifth Meditation is a matter of interpretive dispute. Elsewhere, I argue that significant contributions are made. In any case, the Fifth Meditation comes to a close with Descartes asserting that indefeasible Knowledge has finally been achieved:. Students of philosophy can expect to be taught a longstanding interpretation according to which Descartes' broader argument is viciously circular.
Despite its prima facie plausibility, commentators generally resist that interpretation. The Third Meditation arguments for God define one arc:. That the broader argument unfolds in accord with these two steps is uncontroversial. The question of interest concerns whether, strictly speaking, these arcs form a circle.
The statement of Arc 1 admits of considerable ambiguity. How one resolves this ambiguity determines whether vicious circularity is the result. Let's begin by clarifying what Arc 1 would have to mean to generate vicious circularity, and then consider the two mains kinds of ways that commentators prefer instead to construe the first arc. Arc 1 : The conclusion that a non-deceiving God exists is derived from premises that are clearly and distinctly perceived— premises accepted because of the general veracity of propositions that are clearly and distinctly perceived.
Arc 2 : The general veracity of propositions that are clearly and distinctly perceived is derived from the conclusion that a non-deceiving God exists. Thus rendered, Descartes' broader argument is viciously circular. The italicized segment of Arc 1 marks a revision to the original statement of it. Some such revision is needed for the vicious circularity interpretation. Thus interpreted, Descartes does at the outset of the Third Meditation proofs of God presuppose the general veracity of clear and distinct perception.
Evidently, this way of reading Descartes' argument has pedagogical appeal, for it is ubiquitously taught outside of Descartes scholarship despite the absence of any textual merit. If there is one thing on which there is general agreement in the secondary literature, it is that the texts do not sustain this interpretation. How then should Arc 1 be understood? There are countless interpretations that avoid vicious circularity, along with numerous schemes for cataloguing them. For present purposes, I'll catalogue the various accounts according to two main kinds of non-circular strategies that commentators attribute to Descartes.
The secondary literature offers multiple variations of each these two main kinds of interpretations, though I won't here explore these variations. Arc 1 : The conclusion that a non-deceiving God exists is derived from premises that are clearly and distinctly perceived— premises that are accepted, despite being defeasible, because our cognitive nature compels us to assent to clearly and distinctly perceived propositions.
Again, the italicized segment marks a revision to the original statement of Arc 1. The Evil Genius Doubt is unbounded in the sense that it undermines all manner of judgments—even the cogito , even the premises of the Third Meditation proofs of God. It is the unboundedness of hyperbolic doubt that underwrites the No Atheistic Knowledge Thesis. But if doubt is unbounded, then there is no circularity. A question immediately arises for such Unbounded Doubt interpretations. Given that hyperbolic doubt is unbounded, why then are the arguments of God accepted?
Why does the meditator assent to them, given lingering hyperbolic doubts? The answer arises from our earlier discussion of the schizophrenic manner in which hyperbolic doubt operates Section 5. Lingering hyperbolic doubt can only take hold when we are no longer attending clearly and distinctly to the propositions in question. The other main kind of interpretation avoids circularity in a different kind of way.
Let's consider that alternative. Arc 1 : The conclusion that a non-deceiving God exists is derived from premises that are clearly and distinctly perceived— premises that are, however, taken from a special class of protected truths, in that the general veracity of clear and distinct perception remains in doubt. Once again, the italicized segment marks a revision to the original statement of Arc 1.
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The Evil Genius Doubt is bounded in the sense that its sceptical potency does not extend to all judgments: a special class of propositions is outside the bounds of doubt. Exemplary of this special class of propositions are the cogito and, importantly, the premises of the Third Meditation proofs of God. Propositions in this special class can be indefeasibly Known even by atheists.
Not all clearly and distinctly perceivable propositions are in the special class. Thus, the need for Arc 2 in the broader project, and thus the lack of circularity. Though both Bounded Doubt and Unbounded Doubt interpretations avoid vicious circularity, each must confront a host of further difficulties, both textual and philosophical. Avoiding the charge of vicious circularity marks the beginning of the interpreter's work, not the end. Charity minded interpreters must confront hard questions arising from their positions concerning the bounds of doubt.
Descartes on Seeing: Epistemology and Visual Perception
The Unbounded Doubt interpreter must explain why, in the final analysis , Descartes thinks the Evil Genius Doubt eventually loses it undermining potency. The Bounded Doubt interpreter must explain why, in the first place , Descartes thinks the Evil Genius Doubt's potency does not extend to propositions in the special class. Space does not permit us to develop these further difficulties here. The present essay surely paints a more sympathetic picture of the Unbounded Doubt strategy, for that strategy accords well with the more global interpretive account that I have been portraying.
Putting to the side my interpretive preferences, it must be said that both kinds of interpretations are developed very subtly and persuasively in the secondary literature. Further reading : For Descartes' response to the charges of circularity: see the Fourth Replies. For texts concerning his final solution to hyperbolic doubt: see Fifth Meditation; Second Replies; letter to Regius 24 May For an anthology devoted largely to the Cartesian Circle, see Doney Descartes' strategy has two main parts: first, he argues for the externality of the causes of sensation; second, he argues for the materiality of these external causes.
From these two steps it follows that there exists an external material world. Let's consider each phase of the argument. Descartes builds on a familiar argument in the history of philosophy, an appeal to the involuntariness of sensory ideas. The familiar argument is articulated back in the Third Meditation. Speaking of his apparently adventitious ideas putative sensations , the meditator remarks:.
At this Third Meditation juncture, the meditator remains in doubt about the existence of anything but himself—that is, himself insofar as he is a thinking thing, a mind. The familiar, involuntariness argument amounts to this:. Though some such involuntariness argument has convinced many philosophers, the inference from 1 to 2 does not hold up to methodic doubt, as the meditator explains:. Methodic doubt raises the problem of the existence of the external world.
I cannot with certainty rule out the hypothesis that my sensations are produced by a subconscious faculty of my mind, rather than by external objects. My inability to rule out this sceptical hypothesis explains why the familiar involuntariness argument fails. For the inference from 1 to 2 presupposes exactly what is at issue—that involuntarily ideas are not caused by a subconscious faculty of my mind. Many philosophers have assumed that we lack the epistemic resources to solve this sceptical problem. For example, Hume writes:. Interestingly, Descartes would agree that experiential resources cannot solve the problem.
By the Sixth Meditation, however, Descartes purports to have the innate resources he needs to solve it—namely, the innate ideas of mind and body. Among the metaphysical theses he develops is that mind and body have wholly distinct essences: the essence of thinking substance is pure thought; the essence of body is pure extension.
This result allows Descartes to supplement the involuntariness argument, thereby strengthening the inference from line 1 to line 2. For from the additional premise that nothing can be in my mind of which I am unaware , it follows that if sensation were being produced by activity in my mind, then I'd be aware of that activity on the occasion of its operation. Since I'm not thus aware, it follows that my sensations are produced by causes external to my mind. The cause, remarks the meditator,.
If follows that there exists an external world that causes my sensation. It remains to be shown that the external causes are material objects. That is, the cause is either an infinite substance God , or finite substance; and if finite, then either corporeal, or something else.
Descartes eliminates options a and c by appeal to God being no deceiver:. This is a highly problematic passage. The moves Descartes is here making raise difficult interpretive questions. According to the early position of the Meditations , we're to withhold judgment except when our perception is clear and distinct.
Yet here, Descartes appears to think we're licensed to form a judgment in a case where our perception is not clear and distinct. Why does Descartes think this inference is licensed? On one kind of interpretation, Descartes relaxes his epistemic standards in the Sixth Meditation. He no longer insists on indefeasible Knowledge, now settling for probabilistic arguments.
Though there are no decisive texts indicating that this is Descartes' intent, the interpretation does find some support. For instance, in the Synopsis Descartes writes of his Sixth Meditation arguments:. The remark can be read as a concession that the Sixth Meditation arguments are weaker than the earlier arguments about minds and God. Of course, one need not read the remark this way. And other texts are unfavorable to this interpretation.
For example, in the opening paragraphs of the Sixth Meditation Descartes considers a probabilistic argument for the existence of external bodies. This is a puzzling dismissal, assuming Descartes has relaxed his standards to probable inference. On another kind of interpretation, the troubling argument does not mark a relaxing of epistemic standards.
Instead, Descartes is extending the implications of his discussion of theodicy in the Fourth Meditation. I earlier argued Section 6. Suppose Descartes holds that there are other cases in which an all-perfect God cannot allow us to be in error; and suppose these other cases are circumstances like those instanced in the highly problematic passage—namely, the following circumstances: i I have a great propensity to believe, and ii God provided me no faculty by which to correct a false such belief.
Assuming Descartes could establish premise 2, he would be entitled to this more powerful rule, and without having relaxed his standards of indefeasibility. I believe that Descartes holds that premise 2 follows from his Fourth Meditation discussion. Prima facie, this may seem ad hoc. But I believe that Descartes takes the Fourth Meditation discussion to clarify a more general circumstance of error that an all-perfect God cannot allow, than merely the circumstance of clear and distinct perception. Assuming this interpretation is correct I defend it elsewhere , Descartes' moves in the problematic passage are not ad hoc.
And as will emerge, Descartes looks again to call on this same more expansive rule, in his effort to prove that he is not dreaming. A final observation. It is often unnoticed that the conclusion of Descartes' argument for the existence of an external material world leaves significant scepticism in place.
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Granting the success of the argument, there is an external material world causing my sensations. But for all the argument shows—for all the broader argument of the Meditations shows, up to this point—I might be a mind that is linked to a brain in a vat , rather than to a full human body.
This isn't an oversight on Descartes' part. It's all he thinks the argument can prove. For even at this late stage of the Meditations , the meditator does not yet Know himself to be awake. Further reading : For a variation of the Sixth Meditation argument for the existence of the external material world, see Descartes' Prin. See also Friedman , Garber , and Newman On the respects in which the Sixth Meditation inference draws on Fourth Meditation work, see Newman By design, the ambitious project of founding Knowledge unfolds all the while the meditator is in doubt about being awake.
This of course reinforces the ongoing theme that Knowledge does not properly include judgments of external sense. In the closing paragraph of the Meditations , Descartes revisits the issue of dreaming. He claims to show how, in principle—even if not easily in practice—it is possible to achieve Knowledge that one is awake. A casual reading of the passage might suggest that Descartes offers a naturalistic solution to the problem viz. Remarks taken from the final paragraph of the Sixth Meditation suggests this reading:. Mirroring our discussion in Section 7.
A problem for this interpretation is that it does not square with Descartes' reply to Hobbes' first objection. Taken at face value, this reply rules out that Descartes' intended solution involves relaxed standards—indeed, it rules out any naturalistic solution. On closer inspection, the Sixth Meditation passage does not put forward a naturalistic solution, but a theistic solution. How does the argument go? Recall, in the proof of the external material world, that Descartes invokes the following divinely guaranteed truth rule, namely:. I suggest that in the dreaming passage Descartes is again invoking this rule.
The passage opens with the meditator observing the following:. Referring to the worry that he's dreaming as exaggerated suggests that condition i is met—that is, suggests that he has a great propensity to believe that he is awake. As such, he needs only to establish condition ii , and he'll have a divine guarantee of being awake.
Notice that an important theme of this opening passage concerns the meditator's faculties for correcting sensory error —suggesting condition ii. In context, Descartes' appeal to the continuity test can indeed be understood in conjunction with condition ii. The meditator remarks speaking of apparently waking experience :. Central to the inference is the meditator's effort to check the correctness of his belief, by means of his various faculties. The cases like these to which Descartes refers look to be those where conditions i and ii are both satisfied.
On the reading that I am proposing, Descartes' theistic solution to the dreaming problem turns out continuous with his argument for the external material world. What about Hobbes' second objection—in effect, that one could dream both i and ii? No one denies the truism that the dreamer cannot really connect his dream with his waking past, which is one reading of this response.
If, therefore, the broader account is to be plausible, Descartes needs it that the continuity test cannot be performed in a dream—not with rigor, at any rate.