Silencing the Demon's AdvocateThe Strategy of Descartes' Meditations

Silencing the Demon's AdvocateThe Strategy of Descartes' Meditations

Ronald Rubin

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780804758161

Publisher: Stanford University Press

Abstract

This book attempts to explain The Meditations (1641), a classic of Western philosophy in which Descartes tries to reach a predetermined end (“perfect certainty”) by means of a definite method (“the method of doubt”). The author argues that many problems of interpretation—including notorious problems of circularity—arise from a failure to recognize that Descartes' strategy for attaining certainty is not to add support for his beliefs, but to subtract grounds for doubt. To explain this strategy, he views Descartes as playing the role of a fictional character—The Demon's Advocate—whose beliefs are, in some respects, mirror images of Descartes' own. The purpose of The Meditations, the author contends, is to silence The Demon's Advocate.