In the Meditations, Descartes embarks upon what Bernard Williams has called "the project of 'Pure Enquiry' to discover certain, indubitable foundations for knowledge." Although Descartes' views relied mainly on skepticism, he did make an attempt to 'remove' himself from this doubt. By subjecting everything to doubt Descartes hoped to discover whatever was immune to it. In order to best understand how and why Descartes builds his epistemological system up from his foundations in the way that he does, it is helpful to gain an understanding of the intellectual background of the 17th century that provided the motivation for his work.
We can discern three distinct influences on Descartes, three conflicting world-views that fought for prominence in his day. The first was what remained of the mediaeval scholastic philosophy, largely based on Aristotelian science and Christian theology. Descartes had been taught according to this outlook during his time at Jesuit college, and this had an important influence on his work, as we shall see later. The second was the skepticism that had made a sudden impact on the intellectual world, mainly as a reaction to the scholastic outlook. This skepticism was strongly influenced by the work of the Pyrrhonians as handed down from antiquity by Sextus
Empiricus, which claimed that, "as there is never a reason to believe 'p' that is better than a reason not to believe 'p', we should forget about trying to discover the nature of reality and live by appearance alone." This attitude was best exemplified in the work of Michel de Montaigne, who mockingly dismissed the attempts of theologians and scientists to understand the nature of God and the universe respectively. Descartes felt the force of skeptical arguments and, while not being skeptically disposed himself, came to believe that skepticism towards knowledge was the best way to discover what is certain: "by applying skeptical doubt to all our beliefs,... [continues]
Cite This Essay
(2001, 05). Descartes and How He Tried to Remove Himself from His Skeptical Point. StudyMode.com. Retrieved 05, 2001, from http://www.studymode.com/essays/Descartes-He-Tried-Remove-Himself-His-32477.html
"Descartes and How He Tried to Remove Himself from His Skeptical Point" StudyMode.com. 05 2001. 05 2001 <http://www.studymode.com/essays/Descartes-He-Tried-Remove-Himself-His-32477.html>.
"Descartes and How He Tried to Remove Himself from His Skeptical Point." StudyMode.com. 05, 2001. Accessed 05, 2001. http://www.studymode.com/essays/Descartes-He-Tried-Remove-Himself-His-32477.html.