Volume 61, Issue 2, June 2021
Jamie Anne Spiering
Interpreting Descartes Algebraically
The Case of Divine Freedom
Descartes’s description of his method for discovering truth provides a helpful tool for interpreting his writings. In this article I offer a sample of how to interpret Descartes by understanding his algebraic method. My test case is the Cartesian teaching on divine freedom, which is well known to be inconsistent and often considered unfounded. I reconstruct the equations that led to these doctrines, arguing that Descartes held that the divine act of creation was both necessary and arbitrary because of the equations that resulted when he applied his method to the natural world.