Originally published in 1983.
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Broughton first contrasts Descartes's doubts with those of the ancient skeptics, arguing that Cartesian doubt has a novel structure and a distinctive relation to the commonsense outlook of everyday life. She then argues that Descartes pursues absolute certainty by uncovering the conditions that make his radical doubt possible. She gives a unified account of how Descartes uses this strategy, first to find certainty about his own existence and then to argue that God exists. Drawing on this analysis, Broughton provides a new way to understand Descartes's insistence that he hasn't argued in a circle, and she measures his ambitions against those of contemporary philosophers who use transcendental arguments in their efforts to defeat skepticism. The book is a powerful contribution both to the history of philosophy and to current debates in epistemology.
The main purpose of this book is to elucidate, in a new and original way, this whole question of the logical behaviour of ‘know’; but its further and no less important purpose is to show how, once we have grasped the way in which certain key ‘know’-statements function, a number of philosophical disputes may be discussed more fruitfully and settled more expeditiously. Some of the analyses offered will be regarded as controversial and will undoubtedly provoke discussion. The style is lucid and economical and technical terms are reduced to a minimum. This work is intended not only for the professional philosopher and the university student, but also for the general reader who is interested in the methods of modern philosophical analysis.