cartesian dreaming

It would be nice if it were possible to re-write Descartes’ Meditations from an atheist viewpoint, starting from the ideal of presuppositionless Platonic knowledge, identifying some set of truths compatible with this ideal (e.g. ‘I think therefore I am’), and then proceeding on this basis to construct an argument against the possible existence of God (i.e. against necessary existence or absolute perfection, the former impossibility entailing the latter).

This blog constitutes a series of reflections on a project of this sort. The idea is to read philosophy, or at any rate ‘first philosophy’ (metaphysics), as in its core or essential nature atheological. That is, we should reject both theism of any sort, and the view that metaphysics is or ought to be merely indifferent to the question of whether God exists.

As a slogan: metaphysics is atheology. The object of metaphysics is the absence of God, whose nature, long covered in a deep cloud from human curiosity, it finally reveals as impossible. Again, metaphysics studies the universal, structural consequences of subtracting God from being. Now, it is sometimes thought to be a confusion to associate purportedly universal structure with particular or singular existence (e.g. when we say that eternal truths are ideas in the mind of God). However, from my vantage point this association is commendable, at least when inverted and understood atheologically. The absence of God affects the modal structure of reality at the bedrock level: this is part of what makes this absence so fascinating.

Finally, on this view, the end of philosophy as such (as opposed to its wondrous, Aristotelian beginning) is absolution, albeit of a strange sort. However, this is not something I’m likely to explore in any depth here.

* Note: framing things in broadly Cartesian terms is not just a dramatic device, as it seems to me that there is something important about first-person methodology, particularly centred around the concepts of reflexivity, relativity, certainty and hyperbolic doubt, in relation to the sort of scepticism for which Cartesian doubt, if it stops short of questioning the certainty of everything (including my own present existence), is insufficiently thorough or rigorous, i.e. in relation to Pyrrhonism.

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