“Doubting ‘Descartes' Self-Doubt’”, Philosophy Research Archives, v. 6 (1980), pp. 1-23 


In the second Meditation Descartes claims to establish beyond a doubt that he exists.  In the third Meditation, however, he seems to question this claim.  There he maintains that until he has proven that there is a non-deceiving God, he cannot remove the demon hypothesis and, hence, cannot “be certain of anything.”  In his “Descartes’ Self-Doubt" Donald Sievert proposes a reading of the text which would allow Descartes to make both claims without contradiction.  According to Sievert, Descartes advances two distinct claims for self-knowledge.  That is, Descartes claims self-knowledge of an occurrent self and self-knowledge of a substantial self.  While the latter is subject to doubt until the demon is dismissed, the former is never doubted.  The author finds Sievert’s interpretation enticing but incorrect.  The distinction which he sees clearly in the Meditations is one which, the author believes, Descartes was working toward, but one which he did not have clearly in mind.  

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