The Curious Sensations of Pain, Hunger and Thirst. Reliabilism in the Second Part of Descartes’ Sixth Meditation

Keywords: bodily sensations, errors of nature, nature’s teachings, reliabilism, the empirical space of causes, the logical space of reasons


This paper discusses the epistemic status of bodily sensations—especially the sensations of pain, hunger and thirst—in the second part of Descartes’ Sixth Meditation. It is argued that this part is an integral component of Descartes overall purely epistemological project in the Meditations. Surprisingly perhaps, in contrast with his standardly taken infallible, internalist and foundationalist position, Descartes adopts a fallibilist, externalist and reliabilist position as regards the knowledge and beliefs based on bodily sensations. The argument for this conclusion is justified by an analysis of both the criterion of nature’s teachings and the concept of true errors of nature in terms of Wilfrid Sellars’ distinction between the logical space of reasons and the empirical space of causes.

Author Biography

Stefaan E. Cuypers, University of Leuven (KU Leuven)

Stefaan E. Cuypers is full professor at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven). He is the head of the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science at the KU Leuven Institute of Philosophy


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