The Evil Genius Argument
University of British Columbia
Descartes introduced his evil genius doubt in his first meditations. His hypothesis consists of the belief that a supreme being, labeled the “evil genius” or “evil demon” could be maliciously controlling and creating in our minds an illusion of the world as we know it. A complete fabrication that would negate the simplest truths as well as our sense data. His initial goal is to find a way to question the unquestionable; what we view as absolute truths like a simple addition or substraction, what seems to be true and tested could be false because of this powerful and cunning genius. Descartes uses his evil demon argument on his quest to find truths that are unshakably true; that is, that have absolutely no doubt to them. His conclusion is that the only statement that can be unshakably and undeniably true is “I am, I exist”. Which is to say that if we are capable of having thoughts about our existence then we must exist in some way. Even if an evil genius is maliciously pumping information and illusions about the physical world that we live in, if I can think about my existence then I must exist in some way, wether it be in this world or in the evil genius’s world.
I believe that Descartes’s evil genius argument is successful at its goal is to isolate what is absolutely and undoubtedly true.
Descartes felt that during his lifetime many things he thought to be true turned out false over the years. Therefore he felt that he needed to use every kind of skepticism to bring any possible doubt to what we believe about reality. If there was even an ounce of doubt the statement had to be treated as false and so started his mission to find absolute truths. This argument still holds to this day, things we though we knew for certain 100 years ago, we now know to be false. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to bring to light any possible doubts or...