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There's an alternative form of the argument that brackets the question of the success of the representation, and appeals instead to its perfection (or wonderfulness, as Dennett puts it). Dennett says some things that suggest your reading, but I wonder if the alternative reading might not be what he has in mind? It would certainly make the innovation you attribute to Descartes, of appealing to an idea rather than a thing, more striking.

Eric Schliesser

I think the two versions of the argument are to be found both in Cicero and both in Descartes. The perfection argument is the official one of Meditations 3 (and is already familiar prior to Dennett's paper--of course Dennett's paper explains why it would have been somewhat plausible to Descartes and this turns out to be quite fascinating in its own right). Indeed, I think the appeal to perfection is a recurring theme throughout the tradition of arguments to design.
Having said that, what I call the transcendental version of the Posidonian argument is much less familiar and I think one reason for this is that it undercuts the now common idea of science as a kind of neutral mechanism/instrument in establishing the existence of any entity (in this case god).

Alan Nelson

Dennett's allusion to Descartes seems stretched. Any large, but merely potentially infinite amount of objective intricacy (or being) can be attributed to a sufficiently developed finite intellect. The argument for God's existence requires an actual, completed infinity of objective reality.
Descartes uses intricacy as an example to motivate the question of the source of the objective being/intricacy.

Eric Schliesser

Alan, Dennett's argument in the Jphil is, while speculative, quite elaborate. So don't be mislead by my terse presentation.

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