Descartes' Evil Demon Argument

1996 Words Oct 14th, 2012 8 Pages
Essay Choice 1
In the First Meditation, Descartes gives us the Evil Demon Hypothesis which serves to give him reason to doubt the existence of everything he perceives and believes. He describes a ‘malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning’ that has the sole purpose of deceiving Descartes (Descartes, 2010: 17). I will argue that his hypothesis has proven to be a strong one because only the cogito provides a way for us to frustrate or trick the evil demon.
The Evil Demon Hypothesis is an important component of the Method of Doubt. Descartes used the Method of Doubt to find what is true by withholding assent from all beliefs that are dubitable. However, if Descartes was to scrutinise everything he believed, he would be left with an
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The Method of Doubt is destructive, not constructive, and aims to destroy and rebuild our knowledge on firm foundations. Once Descartes used the Evil Demon Hypothesis, he was able to remove all prior beliefs which left him with a starting point from where he could rebuild all true knowledge. The hypothesis doesn’t try to prove the existence of the Evil Demon, but rather to prove scepticism of our senses and even our understanding of the simplest concepts like maths and science is correctly placed (SparkNotes Editors, n.d.). Some critics described the hypothesis as a counterweight our ‘habitual beliefs’ (Cottingham, 1976:261). The argument is such a hyperbolic assumption that it puts even our strongest beliefs into doubt. Professor Harry Frankfurt gave an alternative view on the function of the demon. According to him, one role of the demon is to raise the possibility that we make errors in mathematical judgement. More significantly he believed the Evil Demon Hypothesis tried to falsify mathematical knowledge by ‘casting doubt on the objects of mathematics’ (Cottingham, 1976:263). However I believe that the demon’s importance on mathematics is more of a side track from the First Meditations main idea and the main role of the demon is to raise doubts about the external world. By the end of the First Meditation, Descartes had reached a point of total deception. He cannot be sure of what he experiences
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