The Cartesian Circle Essay

900 Words Apr 20th, 2008 4 Pages
Descartes’ Cartesian Circle

Descartes’ “Cartesian Circle” has come under fire from countless philosophers because it supposedly commits a logical fallacy with its circular reasoning. In his second Meditation, Descartes attempts to prove the existence of God. He states that clear and distinct perception leads to knowledge, and that God’s existence is apparent and obvious because of things we have come to perceive as knowledge. Furthermore, he asserts that we cannot turn these perceptions into knowledge without the assurance that God exists. Essentially, Descartes claims that God is a necessary condition for knowledge, which in turn requires the existence of God. This circular logic presents a problematic scenario similar to the “chicken
…show more content…
According to Van Cleve, having metaphysical certainty is not necessary for the first premise to be true (that perceptions lead to knowledge) (58). Therefore, it is not necessary to have clear and distinct perceptions in order to prove the existence of God, which makes these perceptions achievable without proving that existence. By denying the second premise and conditional, “God’s existence can only be proven if and only if we have clear and distinct perceptions,” from his logical proof, metaphysical certainty regarding perceptions can be obtained without ever proving God’s existence and Descartes’ circular logic is once again made into a legitimate argument. While it is easy to criticize and point out flaws in the Cartesian Circle, the more difficult task is to improve upon his argument. Descartes’ proof begs the same question as the “chicken and the egg” situation: which came first? It is difficult to determine which premise should be established first, but if that can be done, accusations of circular reasoning would be faulty. For example, if it were established that we can turn our perceptions into knowledge, then it would follow that we are able assume God’s existence. Another solution would be to further specify what the terms “clear perception” and “knowledge” mean. Because of the ambiguity in these terms, some have jumped to the conclusion that

Related Documents