ArnauldI have one further worry, namely how Descartes avoids reasoning in a circle when he says that it’s only because we know that God exists that we are sure that whatever we vividly and clearly perceive is true.But we can be sure that God exists only because we vividly and clearly perceive this; so before we can be sure that God exists we need to be able to be sure that whatever we perceive clearly and evidently is true.
Descartes clearly argues for the Epistemic Principle (everything I clearly and distinctly perceive is true), which is not to be confusedwith the Conceivability Principle (everything I clearly and distinctly conceive is possible). Arnauld’s argument is that he cannotuse the existence of God to prove the EP, since he must rely on the EP to prove ______.
Descartes Lastly, as to my not being guilty of circularity when I said that our only reason for being sure that what we vividly and clearly perceive is true is the fact that we know for sure that God exists, and that we are sure that God exists only because we perceive this clearly: I have already given an adequate explanation of this point [in the Second Reply], where I distinguished perceiving something clearly from remembering having perceived it clearly at an earlier time. At first we are sure that God exists because we are attending to the arguments that prove this; but afterwards all we need to be certain that God exists is our memory that we did earlier perceive this clearly. This memory wouldn’t be sufficient if we didn’t know that God exists and isn’t a deceiver.
1. One of the most controversial areas of Descartes scholarship concerns this ‘Cartesian circle’. What exactly do youthink Descartes is saying in his reply to Arnauld? Why does Descartes think he is not guilty of committing himself to avicious circle?