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Philosophy Speakers: Clarity and Justification

Date & Time:
March 8, 2019 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
SS 1253
Elliot Samuel Paul, Queen's University

About the Talk:

This paper has two parts. In Part 1, I offer a new interpretation of what Descartes means by “clear and distinct perception.” On my reading, clarity is a phenomenal quality: to perceive a content clearly is to perceive it in a phenomenally distinctive way. Distinctness is not an additional quality: a distinct perception is just a completely clear perception. Further, clarity is what provides a reason for judgement. The more clearly you perceive a content, the stronger the reason you have for believing it. And how clear a perception needs to be (i.e. how strong a reason needs to be) in order to justify belief may depend in part on what is at stake practically speaking. In Part 2, I suggest that Descartes was right about this. Talk of “clear and distinct perception” has fallen out of favor in philosophy, but perhaps we need to bring it back to account for reasons and justification for belief,.

About the Speaker:

Elliot Paul (B.A. Toronto, Ph.D. Yale) works mainly in early modern philosophy and epistemology. He also has interests in philosophy of mind and cognitive science, with a particular focus on philosophical issues surrounding creativity. Before moving to Queen’s, he held faculty positions in the philosophy departments of New York University and Barnard College of Columbia University. He is co-editor of The Philosophy of Creativity: New Essays (Oxford University Press, 2014). His new book, Clarity First: Rethinking Descartes’s Epistemology, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

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