Descartes's account of indifference



This article considers Descartes's statements on the ‘liberty of indifference’, where indifference is understood as there being, at any one moment, alternative paths that one might take in life. I suggest that Descartes is hugely preoccupied with how we can hold onto more than one idea at the same time, and I pay close literary attention to the ways in which Descartes's stated goals of clarity and firmness interact with this philosophical interest in indifference and vacillation. I contend that we need to identify in Descartes a fascination with the complexity of mental states, and to rethink the account generally given of Descartes's thoughts on indifference.