Descartes on Theological Knowledge
Sievert, Donald Edward, 1942-
Arnauld charged Descartes with circularity in his theological proof. I argue that Arnauld was correct. I also make suggestions about why Descartes fails to see the circularity. Both points are important. Many are uncomfortable with the view that Descartes' system is circular. They do not see how Descartes could make such a mistake. I think one should not presume either that his system is or is not circular. If, as I do, one argues that the system is circular, then I think it is also important to try to explain how Descartes could lapse into such an error. The theological proofs of the third and fifth meditations appear to be quite different. Yet there is a structural similarity between them: both aim to establish a correspondence between the idea of God and God Himself. Establishing that some of our ideas accurately represent things outside the mind is a major point of the Meditations. Establishing such correspondence in the theological case is both an instance of this point and, as Descartes orders the situation, a prerequisite for establishing it in other instances.
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43 (2):201-219.