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Chapter Summary

An extension of the standard view of Descartes, so natural as to count as a part of it, is that the Meditations is not only an attempt to refute skepticism, but an obviously failed attempt. Descartes is supposed to have turned doubt against itself, most notably with the cogito. Descartes the would-be conqueror of skepticism slips into a circular argument and winds up a skeptic in spite of himself. This is the simple circle. There are two versions of the circularity charge, one the standard charge that Descartes relies on clarity and distinctness to prove the existence of God, and on God to establish clarity and distinctness, which is the simple circle, and the other, even more dramatic charge that the cogito itself involves a circular argument, the inner circle. The chapter investigates each, beginning with the first.

Keywords: circular argument; Descartes; skepticism



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