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The Search for Certainty - Descartes, Meditations.

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The Search for Certainty Descartes, during Meditations, aimed to rid himself of all knowledge that could be doubted. He used the analogy of a rotten apple in a barrel, in which all apples must be removed and checked in order to determine which apples should be kept. Descartes stated that, like the rotten apple, one might also, at times, acquire erroneous information. This error in information can therefore lead to incorrect knowledge. According to Descartes' way of reason, if a fact can be doubted then it cannot be held as certain truth, therefore may be disregarded. Since Descartes aimed to find true knowledge, he wanted to make sure that he had a strong foundation onto which he could build up certain truths. This is known as foundationalism. The argument that all human animals are born with a tableaux la raza (blank slate) onto which information is built or 'inscribed', is the metaphor for the accumulation of knowledge. The inscription is thought to be a posteriori since knowledge seems to be largely based on one's experiences. Descartes argued that this inscription can sometimes be faulty and therefore what one accepts as being knowledge may be questioned. In Meditations Descartes tried to ensure that his tableaux contained certain truths, he therefore used doubt, as a sieve, to achieve this. ...read more.


Many psychologists have refuted Malcolm's statement for the simple fact that those who can experience lucid dreams would be able to question the state of their consciousness. Hitherto no one has been able give a good enough argument to successfully disprove Descartes' argument. The evil demon argument was Descartes' most extreme argument. He posed the concept of a malicious deity. This malicious deity was proposed as being responsible for sensual deception. Since deception occurs it is logical to presume that ideas about the world can be questioned. Therefore, all things being equal, it is even possible to question one's very existence (later Descartes argued against this with his 'Cogito ergo sum' statement). Descartes suggested that even a posteriori knowledge may be a result of implanted deceptions carefully manipulated and controlled by a evil deity. He suggested that this deity was evil because it is associated with lies, whereas a benevolent deity would not be. Wittingstein tried to refute Descartes' concept of doubt as a means to certainty. Wittingstein believed that language is a subjective rather than objective experience. He therefore argued that Descartes had incorrectly made use of the word doubt. Descartes used the word doubt to described that of which cannot be brought into light through adequate evidence. ...read more.


Descartes aimed to acquire knowledge that was not polluted with probability or observation of patterns from a sample. Descartes believed that knowledge such as maths, physics and astronomy were sources of true knowledge this is because they are associated with concepts that are not under influence from other factors. For example 2 + 2 must be 4, the 'mustness' is logical and independent of all other factors. The realm of numbers cannot be easily affected by any other factors, for Descartes', subjects that are influenced by this realm seem to be the best sources of true knowledge. At the end of Meditations 1 Descartes is still seeking for certainty. Hitherto it is yet unclear whether such level of comprehension can be achieved. Descartes does successfully make one question every aspect of one's beliefs. It may be that one lives out one's life according to facts that are untrue. Whether Descartes was right or wrong is beside the point, it does not affect the way one carries out one's existence. If a whole species, for example, accepts a fact as being true surely it must have some truth because of that species' perception of the fact. One can compare it to the blind leading the blind. The majority usually prevails, if no one knows otherwise the fact will remain true. ...read more.

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