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Evaluate Descartes Method of Doubt

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Introduction

Evaluate Descartes Method of Doubt' Descartes stated aim in the Meditations is to find something 'firm and constant in the senses'. His only interest is finding out what we can know, and as this is his sole aim he has a clear definition of knowledge-knowledge is that which is indubitable. This clearly sets the Meditations as a prime example f first philosophy- philosophy, which deals with the most central and essential questions of epistemology. If knowledge is that which is indubitable, Descartes reasons that the way to find anything which you cannot doubt is to abandon all those ideas and beliefs which he has had throughout his life which he can find reason to doubt. Descartes properly sets out his method of doubt in his book 'Discourse on the Method', but it is essential to clarify what his method is before we can move onto Meditation 1 in full and the possible criticisms of it. Descartes chosen method is 'foundationalism', where he systematically attacks the sources of our knowledge rather than just the individual examples of it. Descartes logic in this is sound-if he tested every individual belief that he had, it would a huge amount of time. ...read more.

Middle

He states that even in a dream we cannot make up entirely new things, merely composites of other things. So while it is legitimate through the use of the dream argument to doubt complex things like science or philosophy, we cannot doubt the simplest concepts like mathematics and geometry. These simple building blocks are adventitious-they come from outside and are put into our 'dream world'. In dream or reality, Descartes admits, two plus three will always equal five. This leads Descartes on to his third and final wave of doubt. Descartes begins by asserting his belief in an all powerful, all loving deity who would not allow us to be deceived about our beliefs about the external world. However, it is surely against his all loving nature for Descartes to be deceived some of the time, and yet he allows this. Resolving that he must take his scepticism to some may say implausible lengths, Descartes supposes that there is 'some evil demon, no less cunning and deceiving than powerful, who has used all his artifice to deceive me.' This demon, Descartes things could be using his cunning to make Descartes believe that two plus three equals five when really it equals six. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the Importance of these two waves can be overestimated. Descartes merely uses these as a warm up to get the reader into his methods and involved in the process of doubt. It is the example of the evil demon which is really important, as this throws absolutely all of our knowledge into doubt. And unlike the other two waves, it is very difficult to logically object to this wave. Undoubtedly, it is extremely unlikely, but this is not the point-it is possible. The argument used is not self-refuting, and as with the more modern iteration of us all being brains in a jar being poked and prodded into the appropriate sensory experience, it is impossible to prove that it is not the case. In conclusion therefore, I would argue that while it is an exaggeration to claim that Descartes is a global sceptic, and his method of doubt is far from perfect, in the most important area, the third wave of doubt, Descartes is successful, and we are forced to accept that just like Descartes, there is nothing which we could not for certain claim was not a falsity caused by a manipulating evil demon. In what Descartes set out to do, he is successful. ...read more.

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