Cartesian Theodicy: Descartes’ Quest for Certitude by Z. Janowski

By Z. Janowski

Almost all interpreters of Cartesian philosophy have hitherto fascinated by the epistemological element of Descartes' proposal. In his Cartesian Theodicy, Janowski demonstrates that Descartes' epistemological difficulties are basically rearticulations of theological questions. for instance, Descartes' try and outline the position of God in man's cognitive fallibility is a reiteration of an previous argument that issues out the incongruity among the life of God and evil, and his pivotal query `whence error?' is proven the following to be a rephrasing of the query `whence evil?' the reply Descartes provides within the Meditations is admittedly a reformulation of the reply present in St. Augustine's De Libero Arbitrio and the Confessions. The impact of St. Augustine on Descartes is usually detected within the doctrine of everlasting truths which, in the context of the 17th-century debates over the query of the character of divine freedom, triggered Descartes to best friend himself with the Augustinian Oratorians opposed to the Jesuits. either in his Cartesian Theodicy in addition to his Index Augustino-Cartesian, Textes etCommentaire Janowski exhibits that the whole Cartesian metaphysics can - and may - be learn in the context of Augustinian thought.

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The starting point of Descartes' considerations in this paragraph is a "long-standing opinion," according to which there is an all-powerful God. The first two items from the list of what God can 6. J. 7. Mark Olson (1988, 427) in his excellent study of the First Meditation, "Descartes' First Meditation: Mathematics and the Laws of Logic," convincingly argues that in this passage Descartes, by criticizing 8t. " Can God Deceive Us? 53 effect - earth and sky - bring to mind, and almost certainly brought to the mind of Descartes' contemporaries, the words of the Creed -Credo in Deum Patrem Omnipotentem, Creatorem cre/i et terre, etc.

In working out the doctrine of divine freedom in 1630, he must also worked out a clear position on human freedom. To be sure, Descartes' account of human freedom in the Fourth Meditation remains one of the least elaborated upon and vague of all Descartes' official writings. 1° Although the remarks concerning the freedom of indifference do not go beyond these two points, the intellectual climate in 1641 was such that even the slightest criticism could be enough for the Molinists to consider it as an attack on their position.

70. Med. IV (AT VII, 58; CSMll, 41). The Meditations as Theodicy 45 'liberty of indifference,' which he could have easily avoided, Descartes here ranges himself with one of the parties to the bitterest of the contemporary theological controversies. "71 Descartes' account of freedom has been a matter of prolonged discussion among Cartesian scholars for several decades. , of 2 May 1644, and, especially of 9 February 1645, and also to some parts from the Principles of Philosophy, on the other. Some scholars have argued that the two letters indicate that Descartes changed his view on the nature of human freedom between 1641 and 1644-45.

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