In this paper, I will be examining René Descartes’ reasons for doubting all of his beliefs. I will begin with Descartes’ first meditation, showing how he argues his reasons of doubt. Followed with Descartes’ second meditation, presenting the one piece of knowledge that Descartes finds irrefutable and explaining why he believes it to be so.
Descartes formulates three different skepticisms while reflecting on a number of falsehoods he was led to believe throughout his life. Upon reflection, Descartes decides that he must establish a new foundation of beliefs, he declares, “I must once for all seriously undertake to rid myself of all the opinions which I formally accepted” (Descartes, p.17). Descartes decides that if there is any reason to doubt one of his present beliefs, then the belief as a whole must be rejected. Descartes starts with his beliefs, which he has come to through his own senses. It is hard to doubt one’s own senses but Descartes acknowledges that even the most trusted senses have the ability to be deceitful. For example, when I look up at the sun it appears to be relatively small, but in reality the sun is much larger then I perceive it to be. Therefore, my sense of sight is not completely accurate, which then causes me to doubt my sense of sight. Unless the object in view is close at hand, then how could I possibly doubt that the object exists? Descartes finds reason for doubt even with objects up close. To argue this claim he formulates his dream hypothesis to prove that our senses can still be misleading even in cases like this, he states “I have in sleep deceived by similar illusions, and in dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep” (Descartes, p. 18). When Descartes’ senses fail in separating the two states, his trust in his senses are doubted because his senses cannot differentiate dreams from reality. It is this doubt that...
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