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Journal of Early Modern Studies

Volume 7, Issue 2, Fall 2018

Samuel A. Stoner
Pages 9-29
DOI: 10.5840/jems20187211

Who Is Descartes’ Evil Genius?

This essay examines René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy. It argues that the evil genius is the meditator who narrates Meditations and that Descartes’ goal in Meditation One is to transform his readers into evil geniuses. This account of the evil genius is significant because it explains why the evil genius must be finite and why it cannot call mathematics or logic into doubt. Further, it highlights the need to read the Meditations on two levels—one examining the meditator’s line of thinking on its own terms and the other exploring Descartes’ reasons for depicting the meditator’s progress in the way that he does.