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The Birth of Modern Belief$
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Ethan H. Shagan

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174747

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174747.001.0001

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Enlightened Belief

Enlightened Belief

Chapter:
(p.207) Chapter Six Enlightened Belief
Source:
The Birth of Modern Belief
Author(s):

Ethan H. Shagan

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691174747.003.0007

This chapter investigates how Descartes' decision to submit the Church's dogma to the judgment of his own mind was not contingent but absolutely central. His argument for God's existence was not simply one example from a list of things he could prove rationally, but rather was the wellspring of all argument, the fundamental theorem that allowed him to establish secure knowledge in other fields. The whole ground of judgment, for Descartes, was the mind's capacity to discover a truth external to itself; only after independently proving that God exists could he believe anything else. Moreover, for Descartes, complex acts of ratiocination must necessarily precede belief, and the individual reasoning person must believe for themselves if belief is to have any meaning.

Keywords:   Descartes, Church, dogma, God, existence, knowledge, belief, ratiocination

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