Peacocke Review

Here’s a very early draft of my review of Christopher Peacocke’s The Realm of Reason. Comments, criticism, etc welcomed!

The Realm of Reason review

UPDATES: Three things I didn’t mention in the first pass through this note.

  • This is for the Times Literary Supplement, which might explain some of the stylistic and content choices. (Or might not.)
  • Much of the material on moral beliefs at the end is due to conversations with Sarah McGrath and Ralph Wedgwood. In a different format those would have been credited, but I don’t think the TLS does ‘thanks’ footnotes!
  • Gilbert Harman also has a review of Peacocke’s book online. It is available here.

SECOND UPDATE: As Martin Lin pointed out in comments, I got Descartes all wrong in the first draft of this. I’ve now updated the draft to make the suggestions Martin suggested. (If his comments don’t look like they match the draft currently online, this is why – the version he commented on really made the mistake he said it did.)

2 Replies to “Peacocke Review”

  1. Brian,

    Interesting review. But there is an important mistake in your discussion of Descartes. Descartes doesn’t offer an ontological argument for the existence of God until the fifth Meditation. By that time, he takes himself to already have established the existence of a non-deceiving God by means of a causal argument (there must be at least as much perfection in the cause as in the effect…) and so, I guess, a cosmological argument in the third Meditation. On the basis of that he infers the criterion of clarity and distinctness in the fourth Meditation. But I think you can still make your point. The argument in the third Meditation is arguably a priori. It goes like this: (1) I have an idea of an absolutely perfect being. (2) There must be at least as much reality in the cause as in the effect or as is represented by the effect. (3) The cause of my idea of a perfect being is absolutely perfect. (4) An absolutely perfect being exists. Is premise (1) a priori? I guess it is known by introspection. Introspection is neither clearly a modality of sense perception nor of reason, so it’s a hard case. But, putting aside those worries, you could just replace every occurrence of ‘ontological’ with ‘a priori’ and your point would be preserved, I think.


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