Theses Doctoral

Descartes' Slight and Metaphysical Doubt

Layman, Chloe

The goal of my dissertation is to argue that Descartes arrives at his account of self-knowledge by grappling with skepticism about introspection. As I interpret him, Descartes has his meditator attempt to undermine introspection so that he can replace his former beliefs about his mind's nature and activities with an account of self-knowledge that is immune from doubt. Just as he must show that reason and sense perception are sources of knowledge because they can withstand his skeptical challenges, he must also show that introspection is equally indubitable.

To this end, he constructs the strongest arguments he can from the perspective of a skeptic who maintains that we can be ignorant of or in error about our thought. Then he attempts to show that none of the skeptic's premises can undermine his conclusion that we have infallible knowledge of our mind's nature and activities. My dissertation reconstructs these skeptical arguments in order to clarify the role they play in motivating (and ultimately grounding) Descartes' account of self-knowledge.


  • thumnail for Layman_columbia_0054D_11679.pdf Layman_columbia_0054D_11679.pdf application/pdf 678 KB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kitcher, Patricia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 20, 2013