Event Detail

Mon Nov 25, 2013
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Graduate Research Colloquium
Zachary Bruce (UC-Berkeley)
Another Possibility for Descartes

Descartes holds that God freely wills and creates the eternal truths (e.g., necessary truths of mathematics and logic). I contend that this Creation Doctrine plays an integral role in Descartes’s philosophical program. The significance of this doctrine has been undermined by the fact that it seems to lead to paradox: Descartes’s claim that God freely wills necessary truths seems to entail that these truths are both necessary (since God willed them to be necessary) and non-necessary (since God could have refrained from willing them). In this paper, I will consider the most common interpretive strategies regarding Descartes’s Creation Doctrine and will argue that each of them faces serious difficulties in making sense of Descartes’s commitments. I will subsequently argue for a distinction between two kinds of possibility and will demonstrate that the sense in which the eternal truths could have been otherwise in no way threatens our certainty and knowledge of that which we clearly and distinctly perceive to be necessarily true. After showing that the Creation Doctrine can resist the threat of paradox, I will briefly outline the significance of saving this view by sketching its role in Descartes’s program to achieve systematic understanding of the world.