Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cartesian Assent

A proto-Pascalian passage from Descartes (Second Replies):

As far as the conduct of life is concerned, I am very far from thinking that we should assent only to what is clearly perceived. On the contrary, I do not think that we should always wait even for probable truths; from time to time we will have to choose one of many alternatives about which we have no knowledge, and once we have made our choice, so long as no reasons against it can be produced, we must stick to it as firmly as if it had been chosen for transparently clear reasons.

Later Descartes notes that his position that we should only assent to what we clearly and distinctly perceive to be true, is a position about what is justifiable in seeking the contemplation of truth, not about what is justifiable in everyday life.

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