Philosophers since Arnauld have often found the doctrine of clear and distinct ideas, as it figures in works such as the Meditations, distinctly odd and implausible. My aim in this paper is to show that the original version of the doctrine, which Descartes held up to 1628, is very different from the doctrine that is defended in the Meditations. I shall argue that the earlier doctrine is both more plausible than, and more restricted than, the later metaphysical doctrine. It is not a doctrine that derives from considerations about our cognitive relation to the external world, but one that is concerned rather with the evidential quality of images. Nor is it one which concerns itself so much with absolute certainly, as with conviction. And the mental images it works with are not the highly abstract ideas of the later writings but vivid pictorial representations. Nevertheless, it is this earlier doctrine that develops into the later doctrine of clear and distinct ideas, and I believe that a number of the severe problems that the later doctrine was subject to derive from the somewhat anomalous nature of its origins. Although I shall not concern myself with the development and transformation of the doctrine after the abandonment of the Regulae in 1628, I hope that what I shall have to say on the early version will give a strong indication that the later one is a doomed attempt to convert a good but limited rhetorical-psychological criterion of what compelling evidence amounts to into a criterion purporting to guarantee our cognitive grasp against hyperbolic doubt. Moreover, the pictorial nature of the images to which the early doctrine is directed militates directly against the view, encouraged by Descartes himself and still widely accepted by commentators, that the doctrine of clear and distinct ideas derives from reflection upon mathematics. In fact, as I shall show, in so far as the early doctrine has a specific bearing upon mathematics, it is actually in conflict with it. But even if it were in agreement with it, the source of the doctrine certainly does not he in mathematics. The source, as I shall show, is ultimately rhetorical-psychological.