Descartes: The Probable and the Certain

M. Glouberman. Descartes: The Probable and the Certain. Rodopi. 1986. 374pp.

From the publisher:

Glouberman presents Descartes as trying to establish the distinction between probable and certain knowledge primarily in the wax example. Descartes assumes that there is a necessary connection between the type of cognitive faculty a substance has, and thus between that substance and the type of knowledge that faculty makes attainable. Thus possession of certain rational knowledge is taken to indicate the existence of a spiritual mind. Possession of probable sensible knowledge indicates the presence of a material body. The relation of sensible knowledge to the body is established, but Glouberman argues that Descartes never establishes exactly what pure ideational knowledge of real substances is, nor that having such knowledge necessarily implies that the mind is an autonomous immaterial thinking substance. In the end he finds Cartesian dualism unintelligible. The key problem is that Descartes confuses the contrast of matter and mind with the contrast of the probable and certain because he fails to distinguish common-sense rationality (nonideational, sensible, nonsubstantial) from scientific rationality (ideational, nonsensible, substantial).