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DescartesArgument For Skepticism

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In Descartes’ first meditation, he proposes an argument for skepticism about the external world based on the possibility of dreaming. I will argue that Descartes’ argument for skepticism is flawed. In this essay I will explain Descartes’ argument, explain why Descartes’ argument is flawed, and consider an objection to my own argument.

1. Descartes’ Argument

In order for Descartes to doubt the existence of the external world, he has to establish that he could be dreaming. In Descartes’ first meditation, he points out that our senses sometimes deceive us, and that we should not trust something that has already been proven unreliable. He recalls that he has been deceived by his senses before in dreams where he was so convinced that he was
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Since every alligator we encounter is grey/black, we say we know alligators are grey/black. This can be applied to every time we wake up from a dream. Every time we wake up we can’t be one-hundred percent certain that we are not dreaming. However, all evidences points in the direction that we are not dreaming. Therefore, we can say that we know something about the external without the need to be one-hundred percent certain that we are not dreaming. If we accept that knowledge of the external world does not require one-hundred percent certainty that we are not dreaming, then we can say that we do know something about the external world.

But why should we buy the second premise? Descartes uses this as his reason to support the second premise. “there exist no certain marks by which the state of waking can ever be distinguished from sleep” (2).

Descartes argues that we don’t know that we are dreaming (P2) because we can’t distinguish between dreaming and waking experience. However, there are ways to distinguish between dreaming and waking experiences. As mentioned by Moore, we can distinguish between dreaming and waking experiences because:

“our memories of the immediate past in conjunction with our current sensory experiences is sufficient enough to enable us to know that we aren’t dreaming” (5).

Since there are
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