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Philosophical Review

Dreams and Deceivers in Meditation One Author(s): Peter J. Markie Reviewed work(s): Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 90, No. 2 (Apr., 1981), pp. 185-209 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2184439 . Accessed: 10/12/2012 12:42
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ThePhilosophical Review, XC, No. 2 (April 1981)

DREAMS

AND DECEIVERS

IN MEDITATION

ONE

PeterJ. Markie

he Dream and Deceiver Arguments fromMeditationOne have receivedthe close scrutiny Cartesianclassicsdeserve. Critics have raisedobjections, and friends ofDescarteshave tried to answerthem.At present, his friends seem to be in the lead.' Yet G. E. Moore's objection to the Dream Argumentis still raised an widelyaccepted,and MargaretWilson has recently Each objectionstrikes objectionto the DeceiverArgument.2 at the heartof Descartes'procedure in the FirstMeditation.After I presentthe objectionsand discusssome unsuccessful replies, I shall give what I thinkis a successful Cartesianresponse. My reply will attempt to clarify theroleoftheDream and Deceiver in Descartes'strategy of generaldoubt. Arguments
I

Let us begin by considering the Dream Argument:


At this momentit does indeed seem to me that it is with eyes awake thatI am looking at thispaper; thatthishead whichI move is notasleep,thatit is deliberately and ofsetpurposethatI extend my hand and perceiveit; what happensin sleep does not appear so clear nor so distinct as does all this.But in thinking over this I remindmyself that on many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by similarillusions, on this and in dwellingcarefully I see so manifestly reflection thatthereare no certainindications
1 Most oftheattention Two recent has been givento theDream Argument. and Jean BeerBlumenfeld, discussions ofobjections to it are David Blumenfeld "Can I Know That I Am Not Dreaming?"and George Nakhnikian,"DesEssays, both in Descartes: Critical and Interpretative cartes'Dream Argument," Press,1978). ed. Michael Hooker (Baltimore:The JohnsHopkinsUniversity in Descartes: objectionsto the Deceiver Argument Anthony Kenny considers I use A Studyof His Philosophy (New York: Random House, 1968). Hereafter, 'H' to refer to Hooker'santhology. 2 George Edward Moore, "Certainty," in PhilosophicalPapers (New York: Macmillan,1959).MargaretWilson,Descartes(London: Routledgeand Kegan to I use 'M' to refer to Moore's workand 'W' to refer Paul, 1978). Hereafter, Wilson's.

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DREAMS AND DECEIVERS

fromsleep that by whichwe may clearlydistinguish wakefulness I am lostin astonishment. And myastonishment is such thatit is almostcapable of persuading me thatI now dream. [HR I, 146; MeditationOne]3 Descartes wants to show that some of his sensorially evidenced beliefs are uncertain. He opens with: (1) My present experience is qualitatively indistinguishable fromdreams I have had. With the aid of premises I shall not spell out, he inferswhat I call 'the Dream Uncertainty Principle': (2) I am uncertain that I am not now dreaming. Descartes then uses (2) and other premises to get: (3) I am uncertain of particular propositions evidenced by my senses.4 Moore thinksthe argument is in trouble even beforethe details are filled in: [T]here is a veryseriousobjectionto the procedureof using it [(1)] as a premisein favorof the derivedconclusion[(2)]. For a in fact philosopher who does use it [(1)] as a premise, is, I think, implying,thoughhe does not expressly say, that he himself knows it to be true.He is implying that he himself knowsthat therefore dreamshave occurred. And, of course,I thinkhe would be right. All thephilosophers I have evermetor heardofcertainly did know we all knowthatdreamshave occurred. thatdreams have occurred: But can he consistently that he knows combine thisproposition withhis conclusionthat he does not thatdreamshave occurred,
3

4 Descartes distinguishes between particular and general propositions and restricts the Dream Argument to the former.His examples of particular propositions include these: I open my eyes, I shake my head, I extend my hands. His examples of general ones include these: thereis an earth, there is a heaven, there is an extended body. (HR I, 146-47)

G. R. T. Ross (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 1973).

'HR' refersto The Philosophical Worksof Descartes,tr. E. S. Haldane and

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PHIL OSOPHICAL RE VIE W,XC, 2

knowthat he is not dreaming? Can anybodypossiblyknow that dreamshave occurred, if,at the time,he does not himself know that he is not dreaming? If he is dreaming, it may be that he is onlydreaming thatdreamshave occurred; and ifhe does notknow knowthat he is notonly thathe is not dreaming, can he possibly Can he possibly knowtheredreaming thatdreamshave occurred? I do not thinkhe can; and thereforethatdreamshaveoccurred? I think thatanyonewho usesthispremise fore and also asserts the conclusionthat nobody ever knowsthat he is not dreaming,is guiltyof an inconsistency. [M, 248-49] Moore writes of knowledge while Descartes writes of certainty, but his point is clear.5 When Descartes uses (1) in his argument, he presumably commits himselfto the claim that (1) is certain; that is, to: (4) I am certain that (1) my presentexperience is qualitatively indistinguishable from dreams I have had. Moore thinksthat (4) is inconsistent with the Dream Uncertainty Principle (2). Just as the Dream Uncertainty Principle implies that Descartes is not certain of particular beliefs evidenced by his senses,it also implies that Descartes is not certain that he has had dreams qualitatively indistinguishable from his present
experience.

Other commentators agree with Moore. David Blumenfeld and Jean Beer Blumenfeld announce that "Moore is correct," in their recent examination of the Dream Argument (H, 240). W. H. Walsh gives a different account of the Dream Argument than Moore, but he gives substantially the same objection. Walsh thinksDescartes argues from: (5) I sometimes take objects to exist in reality when they only exist in my dreams.
That Moore refersto knowledge and Descartes to certainty is unimportant, since Moore makes it clear that by 'knowledge' he means 'knowledge with certainty' (M, pp. 236-37).
r)

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DREAMS AND DECEIVERS

to the intermediate conclusion: (6) I am uncertain that I am not always dreaming. Walsh objects as follows: Supposethatit wereindeedthecase thatnotone ofour perceptual as reliable:we shouldneverbe in could be warranted experiences deceived in our sensea positionto say that we are sometimes
judgments.

the experience occasionwe need to be able to contrast particular if no whichwe take to be nondeceptive; we had thenwithothers can be takenas beingin orderthecontrast cannot sense-experience be made. [Walsh,91]6

. .

. In order to decide that we were mistaken on a

Walsh's point is similar to Moore's: if (6) is true, then Descartes is not certain of (5). This also seems to be Walsh's point when he says that the argument suffersfrom a "fundamental incoherence . . . springing from the fact that if the conclusion is true the premises cannot be set up" (Walsh, 91). Now that we have Moore's objection beforeus, let us consider Margaret Wilson's objection to the Deceiver Argument. Descartes wheels out the Deceiver Argument to show that general propositionsabout the external world and mathematical propositionsare uncertain: I have long had fixedin mymind the beliefthatan Nevertheless God existedby whom I have been createdsuch as I all-powerful itto pass thatthere am. Buthowdo I knowthatHe has notbrought no place, body,no magnitude, no heaven,no extended is no earth, and thatnevertheless of all thesethings [I possessthe perceptions and that]theyseemto me to exist just exactlyas I now see them? deceivethemselves imaginethatothers as I sometimes And,besides, howdo I knowthatI knowbest, in thethings think they whichthey or countthe am notdeceivedevery timethatI add twoand three, ifanything sidesofa square,orjudge ofthings simpler yetsimpler, can be imagined?[HR I, 147; MeditationOne]
6 W. H. Walsh, Metaphysics (London: Hutchinson University Library, 1963), p. 91. Hereafter, 'Walsh' refersto this work.

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PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW, XC, 2

Descartes argues from the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle: (7) I am uncertain that God does not deceive me. with the aid of other premises to the conclusion: (8) I am uncertain of general propositionsabout the external world and of mathematical propositions. Wilson thinksDescartes' argument is open to a serious objection, which she makes in a round-about fashion. She notes that Descartes' later attempts to make the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle (7) false by proving that God does not deceive him are problematic: He willultimately to [prove]... thathe is in thehandsof attempt himto be an omnipotent, benevolent whowouldnotpermit being, deceivedin what seemsto him mostcertain. But accordingto the mostcommonform objection, one cannotknow of thecircularity are true, thepremises ofsucha proof unlessone alreadyknowsthat one is not subjectto systematic deception.[W, 35] According to Wilson, the Deceiver UncertaintyPrinciple implies that Descartes is uncertain of the premisesin his attempt to prove that God does not deceive him. She relates this observation to the Deceiver Argument: Since the This line ofreasoning leads to an interesting conclusion. it is in a certainsense DeceiverArgument itself involves premises, self-annihilating. [W, 35] Wilson describes her point as an objection (W, 36), but it is not obvious what the objection is. She says that the Deceiver Argument is "self-annihilating";by this she means that the Deceiver UncertaintyPrinciple (7) implies, not only that Descartes lacks certaintyabout general propositions and mathematical truths, but also that Descartes lacks certaintyof (7) itself.She puts her point in a sentence:

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to pose [that [T]he veryquestiontheDeceiverArgument attempts is undermined God maybe deceptive] bythatargument. [W, 36] Yet this is not an objection to Descartes; it is just the observation that if the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle is true, Descartes cannot be certain of it. What is the objection behind Wilson's observation? I thinkshe wants to make an objection similar to Moore's. The Deceiver Uncertainty Principle (7) implies that Descartes is not certain of (7) and, when Descartes gives the Deceiver Argument, he commitshimselfto the claim that he is certain of the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle (7): (9) I am certain that (7) I am uncertain that God does not deceive me. Wilson does not explicitlysay that Descartes is committed to (9). Nevertheless, unless she interpretsDescartes in this way, her claim that the Deceiver Argument is "self-annihilating" is just an interesting observation, rather than the objection she says it
is.

Moore's and Wilson's objections need to be tightened slightly.Moore says that Descartes is committed to these presumably inconsistentclaims: (2) I am uncertain that I am not now dreaming. (4) I am certain that (1) my presentexperience is qualitatively indistinguishable from dreams I have had. Wilson is concerned with these presumably inconsistentclaims: (7) I am uncertain that God does not deceive me. (9) I am certain that (7) I am uncertain that God does not deceive me. Descartes is clearly committed to (2) and (7). They are premises in his arguments.It is not obvious that he is committed to (4) and
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PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW, XC, 2

(9). They are not premises in his arguments but claims to certaintyof some of his premises. Neither Moore nor Wilson argues forthis aspect of his/her objection. It is not hard to fill this gap in their objections. Moore and Wilson might appeal to the text. When Descartes begins the he adopts the Cartesian imperative to believe only Meditations, what is true and certain: to [R]eason already persuadesme that I ought no less carefully and certain matters whichare notentirely myassent from withhold to be than from thosewhichappear to me manifestly indubitable false. . .. [HR I, 145] onMethod, He also adopts the Cartesian imperativein the Discourse when he outlines his procedure from the Meditations: to thesearch entirely [B]ecausein thiscase I wishedto givemyself forme to take an apafter Truth,I thought thatit was necessary as absolutely falseeverything and toreject opposite course, parently as to whichI could imaginetheleastgroundofdoubt .... [HR I, 100-01] Since Descartes accepts the Cartesian imperative and goes on to give the Dream and Deceiver Arguments,he is committed to the claim that the premisesof his argumentsare certain and true. He to (4) and (9) in particular. is committed, therefore, Moore and Wilson might also defend their interpretationsof Descartes' commitments by giving us a choice: either interpret Descartes as presentingthe Dream and Deceiver Arguments in an attempt to derive conclusions with certainty from premises that are certain, or decide that those arguments have no important epistemic function in the First Meditation. The second choose the first alternative is unacceptable. We must, therefore, and commit Descartes to (4) and (9). I do not claim that these argumentsare sound. My point at this stage is simply that they give Moore and Wilson a plausible way of Descartes' commitments and, to defend their interpretations so, to tighten their objections. Once theyare tightenedin thisway, the objections strikeat the heart of Descartes' procedure in Meditation One. Descartes
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wants to show that his beliefsin the natural sciences and mathematics are not evidenced in a way that makes them certain. His strategyis to present the Dream Uncertainty Principle (2) and the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle (7). These propositions and otherpremises about his evidence are supposed to imply that his beliefsare uncertain. Yet, according to Moore and Wilson, the Dream and Deceiver UncertaintyPrinciples have the bad taste to imply the falsityof the very claims to certaintythat are part of Descartes' procedure, viz., (4) and (9). How might Descartes respond to Moore and Wilson? Before I give my own answer,I want to considersome unsuccessfulreplies. II David and Jean Blumenfeld reply to Moore. They admit that he is correctbut suggest that we revise the Dream Argument to avoid his objection, replacing its firstpremise by: (la) It is logically possible that my experience should have just the qualitative character that it does have, and yet that I be dreaming. Accordingto the Blumenfelds,Descartes will be committed to the claim that (la) is certain, but that claim is consistent with the Dream Uncertainty Principle (2). Descartes' uncertainty of whether he is dreaming does not keep him from being certain of what is logically possible (H, 240-41). This reply to Moore has several drawbacks. It requires that we make a significant change in Descartes' argument, since Descartes presents (1), not (la): [O]n many occasions I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions.... [HR I, 146] The replyleaves Descartes in serious trouble. Since (1 a) is a claim about what is logically possible, Descartes' evidence for it is similar to his evidence forhis mathematical beliefs. The revised version of his argument will be open to a hybrid of the Moore and Wilson objections: Descartes is committed to the claim that
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PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW, XC, 2

(la) is certain, which is inconsistentwith the Deceiver UncertaintyPrinciple. His lack of certaintyabout God's nondeceptive nature keeps Descartes frombeing certain of (la). Finally, there is no way to parlay thisreply to Moore into an adequate response to Wilson. Wilson suggestsa similar response to Moore. She replaces the firstpremise of the Dream Argument by: (1 b) It seems to me that I have been deceived in the past by dreams. Wilson thinksthat Descartes can claim to be certain of (1 b) without contradicting the Dream Uncertainty Principle (2). Descartes' uncertaintywhether he is dreaming does not keep him frombeing certain of what seems to be the case (W, 26). This replyis open to two of the objections I have made against the Blumenfelds' position. It requires a substantial change in Descartes' argument; he presents (1), not (lb). There is no way to extend this reply to Wilson's own objection to the Deceiver
Argument.7

Harry Frankfurtalso responds to Moore's objection. He considers Walsh's statement of the objection and writes: of the conclusionwiththe premisses discredits [T]he incoherence in the but thepremisses. Far from nottheargument beinga defect thiswouldmean thattheargument is a successful one of argument, its premisses the reductio by showing type.It servesto undermine thattheyentail theirown unacceptability. [F, 5118 gives a verydifferent reply than As I understand him, Frankfurt the Blumenfelds and Wilson. He thinks that, in the Dream Argument, Descartes is out to discredit the premises that lead
I find with the Blumenfelds' 'Wilson's reply may avoid the other difficulty proposal. Since, before he has made the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle false, Descartes claims to be certain of what seems to him to be the case (HR I, 153), he would presumably argue that he is certain of (lb) despite the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle. I, for one, am unsure whether he would be successful in his argument. 8 Harry Frankfurt,Demons, Dreamersand Madmen: The Defense of Reason in Descartes'sMeditations(New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1970), p. 51. Hereafter, 'F' refersto this work. 193

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to the Dream Uncertainty Principle (2). Descartes presumably wants to discredit those premises,not by showing that they are false,but by showing that whoever adopts them is committed to (2) and, through it, to the claim that he is uncertain of the premises themselves. Since this is Descartes' purpose, he would accept Moore's point that (2) implies that he is uncertain of his first premise (1). Moore's point turnsout to be part of Descartes' position. Why does Descartes want to discredit the initial premises of says that it is all part the Dream Argumentin thisway? Frankfurt to refute the "common-sense" view that his of Descartes' attempt senses can provide him with certainty: Now it is in factDescartes'sintention to show that the commonis formulated in terms ofwhichthedreamargument senseposition of a in a self-destructive way. The development turnsupon itself a most appropriateprocedureforhim to is accordingly reduchio follow.[F, 51] Descartes' strategyis to show that the common-sense view implies the initial premises of the Dream Argument,which in turn imply that he is uncertain whether he is dreaming and, ultimately, that he is uncertain of the initial premises themselves. In this way, the view that his senses provide him with certainty way" (F, 51). "turns upon itselfin a self-destructive Frankfurtattributes a very complicated, even convoluted, strategyto Descartes; he has no textual basis for doing so. If is correct,thereshould be a passage in which Descartes Frankfurt says that the common-sense view implies the initial premises of the Dream Argument. There should be one in which Descartes whetherhe is dreaming makes Moore's point that his uncertainty keeps him frombeing certain of the initial premises of the Dream Argument. There are no such passages. Similar problems arise if we extend Frankfurt'sposition to cover Wilson's objection. Wilson objects that Descartes is committedto the claim that he is certain of the Deceiver Uncertainty Principle (7), when (7) implies that he lacks such certainty.The Frankfurt-inspired reply is that Wilson has not found a flaw in Descartes' position; she has stumbled upon part of Descartes'
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strategy.That strategyis to refutethe view that his senses can provide him with certaintyby showing that it implies (7), when (7) implies that he is uncertain of (7). This reply to Wilson is without textual support. Descartes never says that the commonsense view implies (7); he never makes Wilson's point that (7) implies that he is uncertain of (7). I have considered three inadequate responses to Moore and Wilson. I shall now give what I take to be an adequate one. Moore and Wilson object that Descartes is committed to inconsistent claims. The terms'uncertain' and 'certain' are ambiguous in the four claims they cite; once we eliminate the ambiguity, Descartes' position is clearly consistent.

III Descartes employs a distinction between two degrees of certainty in the Discourseon Method: persuaded If there any persons who are not sufficiently are finally ofGod and oftheir whichI have soulbythereasons oftheexistence I wishthatthey things shouldknowthatall other brought forward, more assured (such as of which they perhaps thinkthemselves are starsand an earthand so on) a body,and thatthere possessing are lesscertain. For,althoughwe have a moralassuranceof these in whichis such thatit seemsthatit would be extravagant things us to doubt them,at the same timeno one, unlesshe is devoid of is in question, certainty reason,can deny,when a metaphysical ournothavingcomplete assurance, cause for thatthere is sufficient imagine the factthatwhenasleep we may similarly by observing stars and another thatwe have another body,and thatwe seeother of the kind. [HR I, 104] earth,withouttherebeing anything Descartes says that he is more certain that he has a soul and that God exists than he is that there are stars and an earth. He has or complete assurance, about God and his metaphysicalcertainty, soul; he has only moral certaintyabout the stars and the earth. Moral certainty is a lower grade of epistemic appraisal than but it stillhas some punch to it; Descartes metaphysicalcertainty, says that it is extravagant for him to doubt moral certainties.
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The distinctionbetween metaphysical and moral certaintyalso comes into play in the First Meditation. After he presents the Dream and Deceiver Arguments,Descartes says that the beliefs he has considered are: in somemeasure opinions doubtful, as I havejust shown, and at the same timehighlyprobable,so thatthereis much morereasonto believein themthanto denythem. [HR I, 148; MeditationOne] Descartes mighthave put his point in slightly different terms.The beliefs he has considered are not metaphysical certainties (they lack complete assurance), but they are moral certainties. The supposedly inconsistent claims cited by Moore and Wilson are ambiguous. The term 'certain' in each may referto moral or to metaphysicalcertainty;'uncertain' to moral or to metaphysical uncertainty.We need only explore the concepts of moral and metaphysical certainty to see that Descartes' position is consistent. Let us concentrate on moral certaintyfirst.Descartes thinks our moral certainties have three important characteristics.It is "extravagant forus to doubt them" (HR I, 104), we have "more reason to believe in them than to deny them" (HR I, 148), and they are "highly probable, so that there is much more reason to believe in them than to deny them" (HR I, 148; my emphasis). The firsttwo traitsare fairlyeasy to appreciate. We may adopt any of three epistemic attitudes toward a proposition: we may believe it, deny it, or doubt it (neitherbelieve it nor deny it). The first traitof our moral certaintiesis that it is more reasonable for us to believe them than to doubt them. The second trait is that it is more reasonable forus to believe them than to deny them. The thirdtrait(that thereis "much more reason" to believe moral certaintiesthan to deny them) is more difficultto appreciate. Descartes does not say how much is much. I think the best interpretation of his view is that moral certainties are so reasonable to believe that the only things,ifany, more reasonable to believe are metaphysical certainties. Yet, what is the end or goal in termsofwhich moral certainties are more reasonable to believe than to doubt or deny and so reasonable to believe that only metaphysical certaintiesmight be
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more reasonable to believe? Descartes does not say, but it surely is not the end of believing only what is both true and metaphysically certain, which he seems to adopt in the Meditations. I think that moral certaintiesare defined by the end set by the standard epistemic imperative: believe all and only what is true. When Descartes says that it is more reasonable to believe a moral certaintythan to doubt it, he means that, from the perspective of believing all and only what is true,believing it is more reasonable than doubting it. When he says that it is more reasonable to believe a moral certaintythan to deny it, he means that from the perspective of believing all and only what is true, it is more reasonable to believe it than to deny it. When he says that it is much more reasonable to believe a moral certaintythan to deny it, he means that, fromthe perspective of believing all and only what is true, metaphysical certaintiesare the only things,if any, more reasonable to believe than it. What I am suggestingis this: (DI) p is a moral certaintyforS = df (1) believing p is more reasonable for S from the standard perspective than denyingp or doubting p; (2) believing some proposition, q, is more reasonable forS fromthe standard perspective than believing p only if q is a metaphysical certainty for S.

A few points should be noted about the definiens. First, to say that adopting epistemic attitude A to proposition p is more reasonable for S from the standard perspective than adopting attitude B to proposition q (q may or may not be p) is, roughly, to say that adopting A to p is a betterstrategyforS forattaining the goal set by the standard epistemic imperative than adopting B to q. The evidence possessed by S regarding the truth values of the propositions determines which strategyis better. If Descartes has a lot of evidence in favorofp and none in favorof -p, forhim to followthan either denybelievingp is a betterstrategy ingp or doubting p. If Descartes then gradually loses his evidence forp, believing p will cease to be a better strategyforhim than doubting p and then cease to be a better strategyfor him than denyingp. The truthvalues of the propositionsdo not determine
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which strategyis betterforDescartes. When p is false, believing p is a betterstrategyforDescartes than denyingp, if he has evidence forp and none for -p. Descartes' degree of belief in the propositionsdoes not determinewhich strategyis betterforhim. Descartes may be convinced that p is false, but believing p is a betterstrategyforhim than doubting or denying p, if he has a p and none for-p. A second point to note about lot ofevidence for the definiens is that one attitude can be more reasonable than another from the standard perspective for a person, even if he does not actually adopt the standard epistemic imperative. This allows propositions to be morally certain for people who guide theirepistemic attitudes by imperatives other than the standard one. 9 What about metaphysical certainty?According to Descartes, metaphysical certaintyis a higher grade of epistemic appraisal than moral certainty; metaphysical certainty is "complete assurance" (HR I, 104). His point is again fairlyclear. When a propositionis a metaphysical certaintyforus, believing it is more reasonable forus fromthe standard perspectivethan doubting it or denying it; indeed, believing it is as reasonable as belief ever can be from that perspective. Metaphysical certaintymay be defined by: (D2) p is a metaphysical certainty for S = df (1) believing p is more reasonable forS fromthe standard perspective than denyingp or doubting p; (2) it could never be more reasonable fromthe standard perspectiveforS to believe some proposition,q, than it presentlyis forS to believe P. Descartes' metaphysical certainties are his best bets from the perspectiveof believing all and only what is true. As in the case a propositioncan be a metaphysical certainty of moral certainty, for Descartes-can be one of his best bets from the standard I I also take the relation of being-more-reasonable-than from the standard

and asymmetrical. It is also such that perspective to be transitive, irreflexive, if doubt is not more reasonable from the standard perspective than belief, then belief is more reasonable from that perspective than denial. Given these clause of (D 1) is redundant, the phrase "than denyingp" in the first restrictions, but I include it for the sake of clarity. 198

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perspective-even if he does not adopt the standard epistemic imperative." My definitions capture Descartes' more obvious views on moral and metaphysicalcertainty.They account forhis view that metaphysical certaintyis a higher grade of epistemic appraisal than moral certainty,by implyingthat all metaphysical certaintiesare moral ones, but not all moral certaintiesare metaphysical ones. (D1) captures Descartes' view that it is "unreasonable" and "extravagant" to doubt or deny a moral certainty;(D2) that metaphysical certaintyamounts to "complete assurance." My definitionsalso capture a less obvious aspect of Descartes' position. Descartes does not think of moral and metaphysical kinds of certaintydefined by their objects. certaintyas different He does not think of moral certainty as the kind of certainty possessed by propositions on practical or "moral" matters and metaphysicalcertaintyas the kind ofcertaintypossessed by propositions on nonpractical "metaphysical" matters. In Meditation One, he takes the propositionthat he has a body and some mathematical truthsall to be moral certainties;as he puts it, theyare: highly probable so that thereis much more reason to believe in themthan to deny them.[HR I, 148] 1 In Meditations Five and Six, Descartes includes the same propositions in his list of metaphysical certainties (HR I, 185; I, 191). My definitions capture his view. (D1) lets the proposition that he has a body and the mathematical ones be moral certainties,so long as he has enough evidence to make belief in them more reasonable fromthe standard perspectivethan denial or doubt and such that the only things,if any, more reasonable to believe are metaphysicalcertainties.(D2) lets the same propositionsbe metaphysical certainties,so long as his evidence is strong enough to make belief maximally reasonable from the standard perspective.12
10 I rely heavily in (DI) and (D2) on the insights of Roderick Chisholm. See his Theory of Knowledge,2nd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1977), 7-16. 11Cf. The Discourseon Method (HR I, 104). 12 I do not deny, however, that Descartes findsan important relation between

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DREAMS AND DECEIVERS

Now that I have defined moral and metaphysical certainty,I mustconsider one more point that will help me answer the objections of Moore and Wilson: Descartes' criterionfor distinguishing metaphysical certainties from mere moral ones: that we have no reason to doubt is so strong [I]f thisconviction of the which we have persuadedourselves, that truth of concerning we have hereall the cermore to enquire about; there is nothing [HR II, 41; Reply to that can be reasonably desired. tainty Mersenne] kindof doubt which, [T]he questionwas about onlythatsupreme is metaphysical, I have insisted, and not to be transhyperbolical, to thesphereof thepracticalneedsof lifeby any means.It ferred leastgroundofsuspicion was ofthisdoubtalso thatI said thevery was a sufficient reason forcausing it. [HR II, 266; Reply to Bourdin] Descartes thinkshis metaphysical certaintiesare just those moral certaintieshe has no reason to doubt. Descartes does not explicate his concept of a reason fordoubt, to appreciate what he has in mind. A proposibut it is not difficult tion gives him a reason to doubt his beliefjust when that proposition is one he has not ruled out as false,and the fact that he has not ruled it out detractsfromthe reasonableness of his belief from the standard perspective,preventinghis belief frombeing maximally reasonable. The concepts I have defined provide two ways to understand how a reason fordoubt has not been "ruted out." One option is that reasons fordoubt are all moral possibilities (their negations are not moral certainties);to rule out a reason fordoubt is to make it a moral impossibility(become morally certain of its negation). The other option is that reasons for doubt need only be metamoral certainty and practical affairs and between metaphysical certainty and science. Consider, forinstance, his remark to Gassendi (HR II, 206). I think his position has two parts. In practical affairs,we should simply adopt the standard imperative and, so, believe moral certainties. When we are constructing a scientific theory, we should restrict the standard imperative to make room for a commitment to include in our scientific theory only what is both true and metaphysically certain. 200

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physical possibilities (their negations are not metaphysical certainties); to rule out a reason fordoubt is to make it a metaphysical impossibility(become metaphysicallycertain of its negation). The second option makes it easier for a proposition to qualify as a reason fordoubt, since metaphysical possibilityis a weaker requirement than moral possibility. The second option also makes it more difficultforus to rule out a reason fordoubt: we must become metaphysically, not just morally, certain that it is false. Descartes suggeststhe second option by saying that "even the least ground of suspicion" can be a reason for doubt (HR II, 266).13 Philosophical considerations also favor the second one. The first option commits Descartes to the view that, once every past reason for doubting his belief is a moral impossibility,his belief is as reasonable as a belief can be fromthe standard perspective. This is clearly false. Descartes can still gather more evidence against the past reasons fordoubt and make them metaphysical impossibilities; by gathering this evidence, he will furtherincrease the reasonableness of his belief. The second option commits Descartes to the view that once everypast reason fordoubting his belief is a metaphysical impossibility,his belief is as reasonable as a belief can be fromthe standard perspective. This is plausible. Once Descartes has gathered so much evidence against everypast reason fordoubt that his belief in the negation of each is as reasonable as a beliefcan be, thereseems to be nothing more that he can do to increase the reasonableness of his original belief. His original belief is as reasonable as a belief can be. 14 A reason fordoubt, then,is a metaphysicallypossible proposition, which in being metaphysically possible for Descartes
13 ofthesecond forthetextualsuperiority I givea moredevelopedargument Studies, option in my "Fred Feldman and the CartesianCircle," Philosphical 31 (1977). See also James Van Cleve's "Foundationalism,Epistemic Prin88 (1979), 61-63. Review, ciples,and the CartesianCircle," The Philosophical Descartesto a moreplausible view than the 14 The secondoptioncommits Some may ask first, but it does not commithim to one thatis clearlycorrect. past reasonfor ofthenegationofevery certainty whyDescartes'metaphysical can be. To impliesthathis beliefis as reasonableas a belief his belief doubting we mustclarify Descartes'conceptofa reasonfordoubt answerthisquestion, here.My onlyclaim at thisstageis thanI shall do formypurposes morefully a moreplausibleview to Descartesthan the thatthesecondoptionattributes to it. preferable first and, so, is philosophically

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DREAMS AND DECEIVERS

detracts from the reasonableness of his belief, keeping it from being as reasonable as it can be fromthe standard perspective.'5 My explanation of moral and metaphysical certaintyis complete. I have defined each degree of certainty;I have considered Descartes' criterionfordistinguishingbetween moral and metaphysical certainty.This is all the informationI need to give an adequate Cartesian response to Moore and Wilson.

IV
It is time to reconsider Descartes' presumably inconsistent commitments.Moore cites: (2) I am uncertain that I am not now dreaming. (4) I am certain that (1) my present experience is qualitatively indistinguishable from dreams I have had. Wilson presents: (7) I am uncertain that God does not deceive me. (9) I am certain that (7) I am uncertain that God does not deceive me. We can quickly clear away part of the ambiguity involved. (2) and (7) are premises of the Dream and Deceiver Arguments, respectively.They say that two reasons fordoubt have not been
1 Some may wonder why I do not simplify matters and, instead of having both a definition of metaphysical certainty and a criterion for it in terms of reasons for doubt, just interpretDescartes as defining metaphysical certainty by:

(D3)

p is a metaphysical certainty for S a reason to doubt p.

df

no proposition q gives S

I do not adopt (D3) because I know of no way to explain its definiens adequately without using the concept of metaphysical certainty and, so, falling into circularity. I have considered two ways to explain the concept of a reason for doubt. The firstoption uses the concept of moral certainty, which in (DI) is defined in terms of metaphysical certainty; the second option uses the concept of metaphysical certainty. 202

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ruled out. Since reasons of doubt need only be metaphysical possibilities,the term 'uncertain' in (2) and (7) refersto metaphysical uncertainty.We may restate them as: (2a) It is a metaphysical possibility for me that I am now dreaming. (7a) It is a metaphysical possibilityforme that God deceives me. What about (4) and (9)? We have two choices with regard to (4): (4a) I am metaphysicallycertain that (1) my presentexperience is qualitatively indistinguishable from dreams I have had. (4b) I am morally certain that (1) my present experience is qualitatively indistinguishable from dreams I have had. We have similar choices with regard to (9): (9a) I am metaphysicallycertain that (7a) it is a metaphysical possibility for me that God deceives me. (9b) I am morally certain that (7a) it is a metaphysical possibilityfor me that God deceives me. Descartes is in trouble ifhe is claiming metaphysical certainty, viz., (4a) and (9a). According to (2a), Descartes has not ruled out the hypothesisthat his presentexperience, including his recollection of having had dreams like his presentexperience, is all part of a dream. If Descartes has not ruled out this hypothesis,his belief that he has had dreams like his present experience is not maximally reasonable from the standard perspective. He lacks the metaphysical certaintyclaimed in (4a). According to (7a), Descartes has not ruled out the hypothesisthat God deceives him, or more precisely,that God deceives him in at least some (un203

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DREAMS AND DECEIVERS

specified) propositions among his beliefs. Since Descartes has not ruled out this hypothesisand has not ruled out the further hypothesisthat God's chosen objects of deception include all his beliefsabout what is metaphysically possible forhim, his belief that it is metaphysicallypossible forhim that God deceives him in at least some (unspecified) propositions among his beliefs is not maximally reasonable from the standard perspective. He lacks the metaphysical certaintyclaimed in (9a). 16 The contradictions Moore and Wilson are after do not arise if Descartes is claiming only moral certainty,viz., (4b) and (9b). Descartes can be morally certain of a proposition even though he has a reason to doubt it. The metaphysical possibility that he is dreaming does not imply that he is morally uncertain that he has had dreams similar to his present experience. The metaphysical possibility that God deceives him does not imply that he is morally uncertain that it is metaphysically possible that God deceives him. Moore and Wilson do not tryto show that Descartes is committed to the claims to metaphysical certainty, (4a) and (9a), rather than those to moral certainty,(4b) and (9b). I have suggested two arguments on their behalf. The first argument appeals to the text.When Descartes begins the Meditations, he exchanges the standard epistemic imperative, believe all and only what is true, for the Cartesian imperative, believe only what is true and metaphysically certain. Since Descartes accepts the Cartesian imperative and goes on to give the Dream and Deceiver Arguments, he is committed to the claim that the premises of his arguments are metaphysically certain and true. He is, therefore, committed to (4a) and (9a).
16 I have two reasons for taking Descartes' hypothesis that God deceives him to be that God deceives him in some (unspecified) propositions among his beliefs rather than that God deceives him in everything he believes. Descartes' arguments in the Meditationsrequire only the former hypothesis. The formerhypothesis is in keeping with Descartes' view that he must become metaphysically certain of God's existence and nondeceptive nature (HR I, 159) to rule out his deceiver hypothesis; the latter is not. Descartes can deduce the falsity of the latter hypothesis from two premises that he thinks are metaphysicallycertain forhim prior to his proofof God's existence and nondeceptive nature: that he exists (HR I, 150) and that he believes he exists (HR I, 153). These premises entail that he is not deceived in all his beliefs. Since Wilson also favors the formerhypothesis over the latter (W, 35-36), I think she would accept my explanation of the conflict between (7a) and (9a).

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This otherwise persuasive argument has one flaw. Descartes does not simply replace the standard epistemic imperative by the one to believe only what is true and metaphysicallycertain. in his scientific theory all His new Cartesian imperative is to include and only what is metaphysicallycertain and true. Descartes does not give up the standard imperative, he just restrictsits range of application to areas other than science. His investigation in the Meditations is governed by two imperatives: to accept, under the heading of 'nonscience', all and only what is true; to include under the heading of'science' all and only what is metaphysically certain and true. Since the Dream and Deceiver Arguments are not part of his scientifictheory,his acceptance of their premises and conclusion is governedby the standard epistemic imperative. He is committed to the claim that theirpremisesand conclusions are true and reasonable forhim to adopt fromthe standard perspective(morally certain). Yet, none ofthisamounts to a commitmentto (4a) and (9a) with theirclaims to metaphysical certainty. The text supports my view that Descartes restrictshis new imperative to his scientifictheory.He never says he adopts the new imperative without restriction.While he does not directly say that he limits the new imperative to the sciences, several passages indirectlysupport my view that he does so. When he presents the new imperative in Meditation One, he prefaces his statement of it with a biographical account that shows the sciences are his concern: howmanywerethefalsebeliefs It is nowsomeyears sinceI detected thatI had from as true, and howdoubtadmitted myearliest youth I had sinceconstructed fulwas everything on thisbasis; and from thattimeI was convinced thatI mustonce forall seriously undertaketo ridmyself ofall theopinions whichI had formerly accepted, and commenceto build anew fromthe foundation, ifI wanted in thesciences. to establish and permanent structure [HR any firm I, 144] Descartes also makes explicit referenceto the sciences when he cites his new imperative in the Synopsis of the Meditations: In the first MeditationI set forth the reasonsforwhichwe may, generally speaking,doubt about all thingsand especiallyabout
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materialthings, at least so long as we have no otherfoundations forthesciences than thosewhichwe have hitherto possessed. [HR 1, 140] In the Dedication to the Meditations, he says the method he builds around his new imperative is one to be used in the sciences. He writes,with regard to establishing God's existence and the distinctnessof the human soul and body, that: [I]t was desiredthat I should undertake thistask by many who wereaware thatI had cultivated a certainMethod forthe resolutionof difficulties of everykindin the Sciences.... [HR I, 13435] There is also textual support formy view that Descartes does not include the Dream and Deceiver Argumentsin his scientific theory.Descartes' scientifictheoryincludes some philosophical principlesthat provide the basis formathematicsand the physical sciences: But having noticed that the knowledgeof these difficulties [in mathematics and othersciences] on principles mustbe dependent derivedfrom in whichI yetfoundnothingto be cerPhilosophy tain,I thoughtthat it was requisite above all to tryto establish in it. [HR I, 94; Discourse certainty onMethod] Descartes presents these metaphysically certain philosophical principles in the Meditations and the Principles, and he does not list the premises and conclusions of the Dream and Deceiver Arguments among them. In the Meditations,he presents the Dream and Deceiver Arguments in Meditation One but does not claim to find a metaphysicallycertain proposition until he considers his existence in Meditation Two. In the Principles, two sections after he gives the Dream and Deceiver Arguments, he writes that: I think, and mostcertain [T]his conclusion therefore I am is thefirst toonewho occurs ofall that inan orderly philosophies way.[HR I, 221; my emphasis]
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Descartes fills out his scientifictheoryin both works by adding claims about his own nature and God's to the one that he thinks exists. He then decides that these philosophical and, therefore, claims provide the basis for mathematics and the physical sciences: And it seemsto me thatI now have before me a road whichwill lead us from thecontemplation of the trueGod (in whomall the ofthe treasures ofscience and wisdomare contained)to knowledge otherobjectsof the universe. [HR I, 172; MeditationFour] And now thatI knowHim I have themeansofacquiringa perfect ofan infinitude knowledge ofthings, notonlyofthosewhichrelate to God Himselfand otherintellectual but also of those matters, whichpertain to corporeal naturein so faras it is theobjectofpure withwhether mathematics (whichhave no concern itexists or not). [HR I, 185; MeditationFive] Descartes never includes the Dream and Deceiver Arguments among his scientificdiscoveries. The second argument I suggested on behalf of Moore and Wilson gives us a choice. Either decide that Descartes presents the Dream and Deceiver Arguments in an attempt to derive metaphysicallycertain conclusions frommetaphysically certain premises, or decide that those arguments have no important epistemic role in the First Meditation. Since the second choice is unacceptable, we are stuck with the first. The problem with this argument is that the Dream and Deceiver Arguments have an important epistemic influence on Descartes consistent with their having only morally certain premisesand conclusions. Since, we may assume, their premises are moral certainties, the arguments make Descartes morally certain that propositions he has previously accepted in the natural sciences and mathematics are metaphysically uncertain. The attainment of this epistemic state is very important to him. Once it is reasonable forhim to believe, fromthe standard perspective, that those previously accepted propositions are metaphysicallyuncertain,it is also reasonable forhim to believe, from that perspective,that those propositionsdo not meet the require-

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mentset by the Cartesian imperativeforinclusion in his scientific theory.This makes it reasonable for him to exclude those previouslyaccepted propositionsfromhis scientifictheory,which is just what he does at the end of the First Meditation. Descartes comes veryclose to describingthisepistemic function of his arguments: to confess that thereis nothingin [A]t the end I feelconstrained believedto be true,of whichI cannotin some all thatI formerly or want of thought through measuredoubt,and that not merely throughlevity,but for reasons which are very powerfuland I oughtnot the lesscareso thathenceforth considered; maturely from to theseopinionsthanto that to refrain giving credence fully [in false,if I desireto arriveat any certainty whichis manifestly [HR I, 148] the sciences]. I think Descartes has in mind that his moral certaintythat his past beliefs are metaphysically uncertain ("I feel constrained believed to to confessthat there is nothing in all that I formerly be true,of which I cannot in some measure doubt") plus his decision to include in his scientifictheoryonly what is metaphysically certain ("if I desire to arrive at any certainty in the sciences") makes it reasonable for him to exclude his past beliefs fromhis scientific theory("I ought not the less carefullyto refrain from giving credence to these opinions than to that which is false"). He later includes some of these past beliefs in manifestly his scientifictheory,but he only does so once he is able to derive them fromhis presumably metaphysicallycertain philosophical claims about his own nature and God's.17 I have given a Cartesian response to Moore and Wilson. Once we appreciate Descartes' distinction between moral and metaphysical certainty,we can interpretthe Dream and Deceiver Argumentsso that they do not commit Descartes to inconsistent claims. We can do this in a way that provides those arguments with an important function in Descartes' strategy of general doubt. They give him the morally certain informationthat some
17 Descartesalso thinks have an imthe Dream and Deceiver Arguments in the on him. Considerhis openingremarks influence psychological portant (HR I, 140). Synopsisof the Meditations

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ofhis past beliefsare metaphysicallyuncertain. This information makes his exclusion of those beliefs from his scientific theory under his new Cartesian imperative reasonable.'8 University ofMissouri-Columbia
An earlier version ofthispaperwas read at the 1980meeting oftheAmerican PhilosophicalAssociationPacific Division. Several participants at that meeting made helpfulcriticisms. Richard Feldman and Donald SievertgenI am grateful ofthisjournal and erously criticized earlierdrafts. to theeditors theirreferee forseveralhelpfulsuggestions.
18

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