Essay 3: Descartes on the Method of Doubt
In the Meditations on First Philosophy, we find Descartes at a point trying to suspend all beliefs that he held from his youth by destroying his unstable house of knowledge to build a more concrete foundation of certainty. In an attempt to rid himself of skepticism of his own beliefs, Descartes devises the method of doubt to eliminate all his current beliefs that could not possibly be true, leaving him only with the things in which he could be certain of. In this, Descartes doubts all and formulates skeptical hypothesis in pursuit of certainty. In each faculty, there is a set of beliefs one might claim to have knowledge on. Everything that can be doubted is discarded; everything that remains goes through a more powerful skeptical hypothesis until only the truth remains. In this, he examines all aspects of the question and proceeds in an orderly manner to be certain that nothing has been omitted. He uses the argument of deceptions in our perceptions, the proposal that all our experiences may be dreams, and that God or an evil demon may be attempting to deceive us.
Descartes states, “I have noticed that the senses are sometimes deceptive; and it is a mark of prudence never to place our complete trust in those who have deceived us even once.” (Meditations on First Philosophy 18) Descartes’ first argument of skepticism states that the faculty of senses can deceive us at a distance. Descartes feels that since things may appear, sound, or feel differently than they truly are, without our knowledge we may be infinitely misled by our senses. In this skeptical hypothesis, he states that while small things at a distance can deceive us, such as the size of the sun and stars or the shapes of tall towers or the colors of mountains, there are things which by the same senses could not deceive us; things which are close at hand. He goes on to state that doubting what is close at hand would liken him to a mad man.
Descartes is not...
Cited: Descartes, René. “Discourse on Method.” Trans. Donald A. Cress. Discourse on Method
and Meditations on First Philosophy. 4th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1998. Print.
Descartes, René. “Meditations on First Philosophy.” Trans. Donald A. Cress. Discourse
on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. 4th ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1998. Print.
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