When the brain-in-a-vat has a visual sensation as of a flower in his hand, is this a thin illusion of a flower or a thick illusion of a flower? Why did you give the answer you gave?4 attachmentsSlide 1 of 4

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Philosophical Review Descartes’ Evil Genius Author(s): O. K. Bouwsma Source: The Philosophical Review, Vol. 58, No. 2 (Mar., 1949), pp. 141-151 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2181388 Accessed: 26-01-2017 22:20 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://about.jstor.org/terms Philosophical Review, Duke University Press are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Philosophical Review This content downloaded from on Thu, 26 Jan 2017 22:20:33 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms DESCARTES’ EVIL GENIUS T HERE WAS ONCE an evil genius who promised the mother of us all that if she ate of the fruit of the tree, she would be like God, knowing good and evil. He promised knowledge. She did eat and she learned, but she was disappointed, for to know good and evil and not to be God is awful. Many an Eve later, there was rumor of another evil genius. This evil genius promised no good, promised no knowledge. He made a boast, a boast so wild and so deep and so dark that those who heard it cringed in hearing it. And what was that boast? Well, that apart from a few, four or five, clear and distinct ideas, he could deceive any son of Adam about anything. So he boasted. And with some result? Some indeed! Men going about in the brightest noonday would look and exclaim: “How obscure !” and if some careless merchant counting his apples was heard to say: “Two and three are five,” a hearer of the boast would rub his eyes and run away. This evil genius still whispers, thundering, among the leaves of books, frightening people, whispering: “I can. Maybe I will. Maybe so, maybe not.” The tantalizer! In what follows I should like to examine the boast of this evil genius. I am referring, of course, to that evil genius of whom Descartes writes: I shall then suppose, not that God who is supremely good and the fountain of truth, but some evil genius not less powerful than deceitful, has employed his whole energies in deceiving me; I shall consider that the heavens, the earth, the colors, figures, sound, and all other external things are nought but illusions and dreams of which this evil genius has availed himself, in order to lay traps for my credulity; I shall consider myself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, nor any senses, yet falsely believing myself to possess all these things.’ This then is the evil genius whom I have represented as boasting that he can deceive us about all these things. I intend now to examine this boast, and to understand how this deceiving and being deceived osothical Works of Descartes, I, I47. ‘4’ This content downloaded from on Thu, 26 Jan 2017 22:20:33 UTC All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW are to take place. I expect to discover that the evil genius may very well deceive us, but that if we are wary, we need not be deceived. He will deceive us, if he does, by bathing the word “illusion” in a fog. This then will be the word to keep our minds on. In order to accomplish all this, I intend to describe the evil genius carrying out his boast in two adventures. The first of these I shall consider a thoroughly transparent case of deception. The word “illusion” will find a clear and familiar application. Nevertheless in this instance the evil genius will not have exhausted “his whole energies in deceiving us.” Hence we must aim to imagine a further trial of the boast, in which the “whole energies” of the evil genius are exhausted. In this instance I intend to show that the evil genius is himself befuddled, and that if we too exhaust some of our energies in sleuthing after the peculiarities in his diction, then we need not be deceived either. Let us imagine the evil genius then at his ease meditating that very bad is good enough for him, and that he would let bad enough alone. All the old pseudos, pseudo names and pseudo statements, are doing very well. But today it was different. He took no delight in common lies, everyday fibs, little ones, old ones. He wanted something new and something big. He scratched his genius; he uncovered an idea. And he scribbled on the inside of his tattered halo,

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