How should we respond to Descartes sceptical arguments?
I was watching the matrix again with this question in the back of my mind and stopped at the scene where Morpheus says: “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief.” This was when I realized that even the fact that you doubt might as well be an illusion created by a greater power.
The philosophical project Descartes undertakes in the meditations has the aim of finding something fundamentally true and based upon that building a belief system that is indubitable. Descartes starts by overturning all his beliefs by attacking them with sceptical arguments. He compares his beliefs to a basket of apples in the following analogy: “Suppose [a person] had a basket full of apples and, being worried that some of the apples were rotten, wanted to take out the rotten ones to prevent the rot spreading. How would he proceed? Would he not begin by tipping the whole lot out of the basket? And would not the next step be to cast his eye over each apple in turn, and pick up and put back in the basket only those he saw to be sound, leaving the others?” I think there can be no doubt that such a method would result in finding a foundational belief. After having tipped over the whole basket, Descartes’ way of finding the sound apples is to discard every belief that can be doubted and whatever remains he puts back in the basket. However, I believe his method of doubt goes too far and he cannot escape from total scepticism. I will try to argue that the demon hypothesis, which is Descartes’ strongest form of doubt, is too radical. It doubts everything in such a fundamental way that there will be no apple left or that that apple cannot be found.