Skepticism & Contextualism in Epistemology

Topics: Epistemology, Knowledge, René Descartes Pages: 6 (1847 words) Published: April 14, 2014

Skepticism & Contextualism in Epistemology

Epistemology, is generally understood as the study of knowledge. The word Epistemology was coined by Scottish philosopher James F. Ferrier, it is a word derived from Greek – Episteme meaning knowledge and logos meaning study. The study of knowledge or Epistemology covers not only basic day to day conceptualizations and realizations, but it is a field of study in itself that covers wide array of topics and almost everything one have learnt throughout his or her life. However more specifically epistemology deals with the understanding of what is knowledge, what are its sources, structure, limits, & beliefs. (Steup). In this paper we summarize and analyze two basic ways of studying and approaching knowledge – Skepticism and Contextualism.


Since the dawn of human evolution or creation, we humans have been chosen as the superior beings. This sense of superiority or zealousness can only be attributed to one thing the power of human mind. Our mind surely has given us abilities to achieve impossible, crack upon unrelenting mysteries of science, math or be it any other field, but the question still remains how much of our mind to do we actually know or do we know what is mind? The problem in studying knowledge arises here if we don’t know what is mind, can we trust anything that is learnt of it, or in essence we can basically say that we don’t know anything. This skeptical approach to knowledge is pursued by a French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes.

Skepticism in general according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary is defined as, an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object. (Webster). But what exactly is Skepticism in the field of philosophy and more specifically in the context of this paper, to answer this let us first analyze and consider Rene Descartes argument. Rene Descartes in his paper Meditation on first philosophy argues that since he had found himself wrong on many occasions in respect to the supposed knowledge he had gained over the years, he feels the need to re-build this bank of knowledge by analyzing things and accepting only those things that he can absolutely be certain about. To analyze all the facts and knowledge would take too long, so Rene targets the most basic source through which we take in knowledge – our senses. He argues that senses are many a times deceiving and it is not sane to trust something that deceives you so often, by the end of this argument Rene completely shatters the notion which claimed we humans have knowledge. After rejecting the basic source of absorption of knowledge (senses), he then begins to doubt his existence he says all of what he see could be a dream, but he quickly arrives to conclusion that even the things that he sees in the dream have to had been derived from real world or waking experiences, and therefore Rene Descartes says that he can only doubt complex things which are build up from result of compiling or mixing simple things or facts. In essence he says that simple things cannot be doubted and with this thinking he then rejects complex sciences such physics, medicine and astronomy whereas he says simple things such as arithmetic and geometry are true. He then argues that even simple things can be doubted, he says an all powerful being, God, could deceive him and says that we can argue God to be loving and not deceiving but the fact that Rene cannot trust his own senses is in itself is dangerous and if we were to believe there is no God the chances of us being deceived are more higher, and he argues that the concept of God is too perfect to be doubted he then attributed his random thoughts that keeps popping up to evil being that’s trying to deceive him, because he is now certain that he can allot these thoughts to evil being he can say that he can be safe as he can reject all of these thoughts.

Rene Descartes then begins his...

References: "Dictionary and Thesaurus - Merriam-Webster Online." Web. 6 Mar. 2013.
SparkNotes LLC. n.d.. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.
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