Understanding the Self- a Comparison of Descartes and Augustine

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Descartes and Augustine, in their respective examinations of the mind and God, come to the conclusion that the true understanding of all things derives from the withdrawal of the self from foreign influence and the necessity to look inward. Although each thinker’s journey or course of understanding was different, and at times rather contrasting, their ultimate realizations about knowledge are very coherent. Doubt is one of the primary focuses and a central aspect in examining the self for both Descartes and Augustine that stems from mistrust in the senses. The difference between these philosophers is the extent to which they believe removal from the senses is necessary. Descartes is more of a radical in this aspect as he feels that all things should be doubted until proven to be reliable and true. This rejection of all things leads Descartes to only trust in the knowledge obtained through looking at the self and his individual mind. In the second part of Descartes Discourse on Method, he states, “I could not do better than to reject them (the opinions which I had been receiving since my birth), completely for once in my lifetime, and to resume them afterwards, or perhaps accept better ones in their place, when I had determined how they fitted into a rational scheme.” (Pg. 12) He rejects all outside influence so that the only answers he obtains are from his personal rational. With that being said, he understands that there are things that he might have been taught that are actually reliable, but until proven rationally by himself, they are false. This thought process is designed to put reason and rational of the self above any other source of knowledge. Augustine would agree that inward rational and personal reasoning is the main source of knowledge, but in contrast to Descartes, he would argue that personal experiences do play a role in understanding the world. Augustine believes that knowledge does not stem directly from the senses, but rather the senses...
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