Science And Religion In Descartes' Meditations

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SCIENCE AND RELIGION IN DESCARTES' MEDITATIONS1 Kenneth Dorter University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario, Canada I DESCARTES' WORK HAS always been among the most problematic in the history of philosophy, combining, as it does, genius and clarity with apparent inconsistency and circularity. Since these latter difficulties generally involve a tension between theological and rationalistic strains in his thought, they have occasioned such explanations as the " dual allegiance " theory, according to which Descartes was so strongly under the influence of his Catholic training, and took his religious beliefs so for granted, that he failed to perceive that they were challenged by his rationalist philosophy; and the " insincerity " theory, according to which he was aware that his religious statements conflicted with his rationalism, but maintained them for prudential reasons, such as to ingratiate himself with the powerful church. The former view may thus be said to give the benefit of the doubt to Descartes' honesty, the latter to his acuity. The latter view has never been the dominant one, though it has been advocated periodically, beginning with some of Descartes' contemporaries. Bernard Williams, in his article on Descartes in The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (New York and London: Macmillan, 1967), writes that Descartes' suppression of his early treatise, Le Monde, when he learned of Galileo's condemnation, reveals that spirit of caution and conciliation toward authority which was very marked in him (and which earned the disapproval of some, including Leibniz and Bossuet). The suppression also 1 For much in this article I am indebted to Richard Kennington and Stanley Rosen. [pic] page 314 affected the subsequent course of his publications, which were from then on strategically designed to recommend his less orthodox views in an oblique fashion. (p. 344) This is,
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