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The Sniper

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Analyse and discuss Descartes' cogito Descartes was brought up to believe in many of the certainties of the medieval world and the bible. Over time, however, many of these certainties he was being taught were being questioned and replaced by science or reason - rationalism. Descartes was a famous scientist and philosopher in his day; who was the origin of his sceptical nature. He grew to become uncertain about all his existing beliefs, and was motivated to search for secure certainties upon which to ground science. Descartes hoped to find some true belief amongst the false ones, which stem from our everyday belief system - na�ve or common-sense realism. This was Descartes' quest, which was achieved only after he employed his famous 'method of doubt', a radical kind of global scepticism. This method of doubt tried to suspend judgment about all the things he previously took for granted. In effect, everything that could possibly be doubted was treated as false for the sake of argument. If after following this method he arrived at some thing which could not be doubted, i.e. something which was indubitable, then he would have reached a point of absolute certainty. Descartes therefore writes that; "if I can find any grounds for doubt at all, this will be enough to justify my rejecting the whole edifice". This argument appeared in Descartes first meditation, and was the basis, along with rationalism, of his epistemology (theory of knowledge). ...read more.


Hence Descartes rejects his second wave of doubt, as he does not believe that it allows him to doubt all that can be doubted. The third wave of doubt is the most radical. Descartes believes that God exists, and that He is good. However, Descartes put the question of an 'evil demon' before us. He states that although God would not deceive us, this evil demon is very capable and likely of doing so. This demon is proficient at deceiving us, even about those things which reason find certain; the things which remain as certain in dreams, like geometry. Descartes insists that he could even bring it about that 'there is no earth, no sky, no intended thing, no shape, no size, no place' - but he could still warrant that us mortals on earth would believe that these things do in fact exist. A more modern version of Descartes theory is the 'brain in a vat' concept. Imagine that you have no body at all and are only a brain kept separate from your body. All your organs of sense perception have been removed and you kept alive in a vat, through medical procedures. All your thoughts and feelings are the mere result of an evil scientist feeding information into your brain, and controlling all your functions. In this case you are nothing more than an elaborate mechanism which is capable of realistic action and emotion. ...read more.


This is why Descartes says the wax is 'perceived by the mind alone'. Now if we look at the way mathematics and geometry depict things, we find continuity and permanence rather than change. We find the perfect triangle which is what we work from, not impressions of triangles. So, in the case of the wax, we find that the wax has certain necessary truths or a priori truths. If we use the same reasoning about our mind we come to a rather different conclusion than we did with matter. The mind intuits the stability of matter or the continuity of things by reason alone. That an object can change over time does not spoil our knowledge of the object, it simply means that the object has certain necessary or a priori features and it also has certain accidental or a posteriori features. It is plain to see that Descartes has made a phenomenal distinction between mind and body. The conclusion he has come to is that everything that is empirically observed, or in other words, everything which is perceived by the senses is false, but everything which is separate from the body and perceived in the mind is true, i.e. it is not subject to the senses' weakness. It is also through the mind that you recognise your existence and not through the senses. As Descartes argues, so long as you think you exist, you really do exist, "I think, therefore I am". Anam Khan Theory of knowledge ...read more.

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