A Method of Doubt and Descartes Essay

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A Method of Doubt and Descartes

In his first meditation, Descartes sets out with amazing clarity and persistence to clear himself of every false idea that he has acquired previous to this, and determine what he truly knows. To rid him of these "rotten apples" he has developed a method of doubt with a goal to construct a set of beliefs on foundations which are indubitable. On these foundations, Descartes applies three levels of skepticism, which in turn, generate three levels at which our thoughts may be deceived by error. Descartes states quite explicitly in the synopsis, that we can doubt all things which are material as long as "we have no foundations for the sciences other than those which we have had up till now"(synopsis:12). This
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3. It is wise not to trust anything that has been deceiving in the past 4. Therefore, it is possible to be mistaken about everything. In premise one his beliefs are derived from the senses, such as he sees that he has a paper in his hand and concludes that it is a paper, and what is meant by through the senses, is that his beliefs may have been based on others sense experience. All Descartes requires for the second premise is the possibility that he may have been deceived, for if he cannot decide which is wrong, than he must not have any knowledge. This leads to the third premise where it seems at least reasonable to assume, that if one has been deceived previously, there is no absolute assurance that it is presently correct. Therefore, there is a chance of being deceived about everything. But many critics will argue that several of these false percepts can be corrected by means of alternative senses, such as he bent stick in water example. Although our sight may be tricked into thinking that the mirage exists, by using the sense of touch we can correct this falseness, and uncover what truly exists. Descartes does retreat, and assess the damage from his first level by saying, "there are many other beliefs about which doubt is quite impossible, even though they are derived from the senses-for example, that I am here, sitting by the fire, wearing a winter dressing gown.." (1:18[12]). Here even he objects to the validity of his