HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 16 no. 1 (2015)

Descartes and Epistemology With or Without God

Edwin Etieyibo

Discipline: Philosophy



The conventional understanding takes God to play a pivotal philosophical role in Descartes’s epistemological project. Michael Della Rocca disagrees with this interpretation. In a recent article, “Descartes, the Cartesian Circle, and epistemology without God,” he forcefully argues for the view that takes God to be peripheral and at the fringe of Descartes’s account of knowledge. He argues that Descartes renders God less important in his epistemology simply in virtue of having normative certainty of occurent clear and distinct ideas or perceptions prior to his theological argument. This paper generally argues that although it could be said that Descartes has normative certainty of some claims before his arguments for God’s existence, it is misleading to claim that God plays no pivotal philosophical role in Descartes’s epistemological project. In particular, it argues that since the relevant conditions for scientia for Descartes include normative certainty of clear and distinct perceptions and understanding of the metaphysical foundations of cognition it is mistaken to suppose that God takes on a less than central role in Descartes’s epistemology.