Doubt, Dualism, and Decartes

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Doubt, Dualism, and Descartes

Rene Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy” was written during a time of new ideas and those radical ideas’ subsequent scrutiny and rejection by the Vatican, Descartes’ idea on philosophy forever changed western philosophy by challenging the accepted ideas of Classical Greek Philosophers and Greek revivalists. With the revival of Greek and Roman art and architecture came also a renewed interest in science, knowledge, and philosophy. In this new revivalism in philosophy Rene Descartes and his ideas on metaphysics and logic have forever reshaped the world we live in. Descartes approaches philosophy in an entirely different fashion, believing that the best way to understand the truth is to strip down everything he thought he knew to the core basics, not of what he knew but rather what he knew he couldn’t contest.

At the time Descartes wrote Meditations on First Philosophy, Western philosophical ideas on knowledge and perception still mainly followed the Classical Greek schools of thought that had not changed much since the time of Socrates. According to classic Aristotelian ideas on philosophy we must start with what we see, feel, or perceive with our senses, claiming that the basis of knowledge and learning is our interpretation of the world we perceive. Knowledge was based upon the belief that any truth must have some relative connection with some form of reality. Even in the years before Descartes, though often viewed as blank pages in the philosophical timeline, the theorems and postulates proposed were merely revisions or interpretations of the ideas presented by the ancient Greeks.

Scholasticism was the key idea on learning and knowledge during Descartes life was the main group that Descartes wished to persuade to his style of thinking, hoping it would be accepted as a new standard philosophic approach for the church. (Wordpress) Scholasticism is an interpretation of Aristotle’s teachings blended with Christian ideology which formed around 1000 A.D. which dominated the schools of Europe until the 17th century. (Bart.) Scholasticism was a school of thought that can be viewed as the traditional ignorant Christian movement in which there is a great deal of opinion to not change anything and make every interesting philosophical argument as exciting as an IRS audit committee. Under St. Thomas Aquintas scholasticism adopted ideas that hinted toward the future thoughts of deism, suggesting that through a system of mutual respect God allows us to live our lives outside of his influence more or less leaving creation to its own devises. There are two good pieces of evidence that this bothered Descartes: first, in the opening of meditation one Descartes speaks of the many false beliefs he once accepted during his childhood (Descartes 17), second, the fact that the manuscript was originally made in Latin meant that it was specifically directed toward the educated people of his time, which would be mostly priests and students at the catholic churches, though this is slightly less likely as all major publications were written in Latin.

A key component to classical thought on the acquisition of knowledge was the Correspondence Theory, which essentially stated that truth is tied to some part of reality. Descartes’ ideas do not directly contest this theory, in some manners he applies this theory in his own search for truth, but uses it in a slightly different fashion from Aristotle’s ideas. Aristotle used his theory to prove his own previously held opinions, while Descartes used a similar approach to find truth by tying it to another previously proven truth, especially in his Trademark Argument for the existence of God. However, one must distinguish between object-based and fact-based variants of the correspondence theories. (Stanford) Descartes would not have any issues following the fact-based variant, and in fact uses it often throughout meditations two through six. Descartes would,...
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