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Decartes Method Essay, Research Paper
Descartes’ Method of Doubt
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Born in La Haye, a small town in Touraine, France.
Educated at the Jesuit college
Descartes is extremely important to Western intellectual history
Contributions in physiology, psychology, optics, and especially mathematics
Introduced analytic geometry
Influential in modern scientific approach (can’t just say it’s true, show it’s true)
The Cartesian Method
Descartes is very concerned with skeptical questions
Though he was not actually a skeptic, he used skepticism as a method of achieving
“I will doubt everything that can possibly be doubted, and if anything is left, then it will be absolutely certain. Then I will consider what it is about this certainty (if there is
one) that places it beyond doubt, and that will provide me with a criterion of truth and knowledge, a yardstick against which I can measure all other purported truths to see if they, too, are beyond doubt.”
In order to doubt everything he could, Descartes used two conjectures
Evil demon conjecture
Descartes was just as aware of how bizarre these ideas are as we are….that was his point,
to doubt anything that had even the tiniest possibility to be false
Cogito Ergo Sum
Descartes realized that he could, in fact, doubt “absolutely everything, save one
indubitable truth: I think, therefore I am”
The self that doubts it’s own existence must exist to be able to doubt
Moreover, a self that doubts must not only exist, but must exist rationally (being a thing
Once Descartes established that he doubted everything except that which cannot be
doubted (his doubting)—he wanted a yardstick that he could measure all other
things by to see if they are true beyond all doubt.
This yardstick is clarity and distinctness
Those things that are clear and distinct are true.
What is clear and distinct?
There is no perfect circle in nature, but we know what a perfect circle is
Descartes, armed with his clear and distinct test discovers that he has certain knowledge
that God exists
1) The idea of God must come from a reality that is at least as perfect as the idea
2) -I exist as a thing that has an idea of God
-Everything that exists has a cause that brought it into existence and that
sustains it in existence
-The only thing adequate to cause and sustain me, a thing that has an idea of
God, is God
-Therefore God exists
A thing needs a cause to be sustained
God is invoked by Descartes as the cause of him
3)-My conception of God is the conception of a being that posses all perfections
-Existence is perfection
-Therefore I cannon conceive of God as not existing
-Therefore God exists
Once Descartes was able to prove God exists he felt he could believe what he first doubted
If God is supreme good, he/she is incapable of deceit
If God is incapable of deceit, the reality of the world can be accepted because God would not have us perceive a world that did not, in fact, exist.
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