Rene Descartes and Blaise Pascal were philosophers with a common goal – bringing others to the truth of the existence of God. They both had a desire to help others scale the heights of religion, using the path of reason, and bring them to the other side with a firm perception and knowledge of the reality of, not just a god, but the one, true God. Though their goal and method was similar, that of using doubt as a vehicle to traverse the oppositional arguments of unbelievers, they arrive at different ends of logical belief. In this essay I will seek to analyze each philosopher’s method and conclusion and determine its implications for the concept of Idealism.
The philosophy of Idealism is a system of thought that, in a nut shell, claims that knowledge and reason are dependent upon the mind. This idea is in contradiction to Descartes and Pascal’s belief in dualism. The concept of dualism sets a distinction between mind and body, whereas idealism believes they are one and the same, that thought is a direct consequence of the mind/body system.
In his book, Meditations, Rene Descartes covers this idea beginning with doubt and stripping away all elements of the physical world. He begins by stripping the doubter, himself, of all possible influences. Eliminating prompts and effects, Descartes begins to understand this doubt that he has based upon the realities he is still left with – that despite the absence of any sensory input, he is still thinking and therefore, he knows he
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There are three forms of doubt presented are sense doubt, defective nature doubt and dream doubt. Sense doubt refers everything observed by the five senses: taste, touch, smell, sound and sight. For example, in Meditation Two, when Descartes is examining a piece of wax, he determines that his senses have deceived him and therefore he cannot trust them in the future. He also determines that he cannot believe the principles and ideas that his senses have implanted inside of his mind. In defective nature doubt one assumes that everything that he or she had been taught from the beginning is immoral. Therefore,
Have you ever been driving in a car with a child who asked a million questions starting with “why”? Regardless of how well you think you answered their question, they will ask why the answer to that question is what it is, and so on and so forth. This is characteristic of all human beings; children just are not as restrained and willing to ask whatever questions comes to their minds, while adults are more inclined to accept the first level answer and question it no further. However in the back of our minds we all want to know the truth, and we will eventually conjure up a reason why what we accept as truth, in fact, the truth. Two very prominent philosophers, René Descartes, and William James were concerned with truth and how people come to believe and accept something as true or false. They believed that there is a very definite truth, but they mapped out different routes in order to get to the place where truth could be found.
Dualism is defined as the view that hold what exist is either physical or mental. (pg.98). Also dubbed the “two-realms view” by Plato, identifies some things as having both components, it is the most accepted idea since most believe that there has to be a mental connection with physical items. Materialism is the view that only the physical exist (pg.98). There is no connection mentally to the physical material; I believe this is stating that we did not have a real idea towards the material. Idealism is the view that only the mental exist. (pg.99). this is the most farfetched one of them all, that everything we know is a perception not a
Descartes aim throughout the first segment of his Meditations to overthrow existing foundations of knowledge and encourages readers to remove prior knowledge and prejudices in order to fully accept the new foundations which he aims to establish. The method of doubt is used to find beliefs that can serve as a new foundation for knowledge. Only beliefs that are certain, immune from doubt, can perform this function. Descartes argued that what we believe on the basis of the senses cannot meet the standard. Consequently, he concluded, we do not know anything on the basis of our senses and the dream argument is formed.
At the beginning of Meditation three, Descartes has made substantial progress towards defeating skepticism. Using his methods of Doubt and Analysis he has systematically examined all his beliefs and set aside those which he could call into doubt until he reached three beliefs which he could not possibly doubt. First, that the evil genius seeking to deceive him could not deceive him into thinking that he did not exist when in fact he did exist. Second, that his essence is to be a thinking thing. Third, the essence of matter is to be flexible, changeable and extended.
In this paper I will contrast the ways that Blaise Pascal and Saint Anselm of Canterbury attempted to convince people to believe in God. Before getting into the two arguments I should first clarify a few key terms. Firstly, the difference between ordinary and religious beliefs. An ordinary belief is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a typical belief based on adequate evidence. An example would be “I believe the sky is blue because I’ve observed it as blue countless times”. Religious beliefs on the other hand, are not based on reasoning, but instead “Sola Fide”, or faith alone suffices, meaning that these beliefs are based only on trust that the proposition is true. A basic example of a religious belief would be “God exists” despite a lack of evidence for the claim. The major conflict between the two different types of beliefs is that in ordinary belief its considered shame worthy to belief something without have reasons to support it while belief without evidence is the core of religious belief. Another key term that must be understood to understand the arguments is “faith seeking understanding”. This idea was championed by Anselm and is crucial to understanding his argument. In short, he means that if someone begins with just faith in God then through that God will help them attain understanding.
The Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences is one of the most influential works in the history of modern philosophy, and important to the evolution of natural sciences. In this work, Descartes tackles the problem of skepticism. Descartes modified it to account for a truth he found to be incontrovertible. Descartes started his line of reasoning by doubting everything, so as to assess the world from a fresh perspective, clear of any preconceived notions. Whereas Francis Bacon’s Scientific Method wanted to replace the deductive reasoning by inductive reasoning. The important concept in this reformed
Recalling his previous thoughts in Meditation Two, the Meditator supposes that what he sees does not exist, that his memory is faulty, that he has no senses and no body, and that extension, movement and place are mistaken notions. Perhaps, he remarks, the only certain thing remaining is that there is no certainty. Although this argument often seems logical and fully-developed, Descartes uses this meditation to as inspiration prove that perhaps there is one thing that is absolutely certain in the universe: his existence.
In order to accomplish this, the meditator doubts away his body, the universe, and every other preconceived belief he had “…because undermining the foundations will cause whatever has been built upon them to crumble of its own accord, I will attack straightaway those principles which supported everything I once believed” (Descartes, 18).This allows him to seek sturdier foundations for his knowledge, one that he knows he to be true, as they cannot be doubted away if Cartesian skepticism is employed correctly. Crucial to the use of this method is trying to find doubt in one’s beliefs, as if there is any doubt whatsoever then that belief or opinion could be false. With that in mind, the meditator acknowledges that his senses can be deceived. Although most of the time his sensory knowledge is true, he notes that while dreaming, he is often convinced that what he senses is real. As he reflects on this, he remarks, “I see so plainly that there are no definitive signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep” (Descartes, 19). The sensations he feels and the images he sees in dreams are all derived from real life experiences. The narrator links this to art; the composite image consists of numerous real things. He concludes that although he can doubt complex, composite ideas, such as
In the First Meditation, Descartes invites us to think skeptically. He entices us with familiar occasions of error, such as how the size of a distant tower can be mistaken. Next, an even more profound reflection on how dreams and reality are indistinguishable provides suitable justification to abandon all that he previously perceived as being truth. (18, 19) By discarding all familiarity and assumptions, Descartes hopes to eliminate all possible errors in locating new foundations of knowledge. An inescapable consequence of doubting senses and prior beliefs
Descartes' meditations are created in pursuit of certainty, or true knowledge. He cannot assume that what he has learned is necessarily true, because he is unsure of the accuracy of its initial source. In order to purge himself of all information that is possibly wrong, he subjects his knowledge to methodic doubt. This results in a (theoretical) doubt of everything he knows. Anything, he reasons, that can sustain such serious doubt must be unquestionable truth, and knowledge can then be built from that base. Eventually, Descartes doubts everything. But by doubting, he must exist, hence his "Cogito ergo sum".
Human Nature and society are two very controversial subjects. People can never seem to agree on what is human nature or how society should work. Why you may ask? It is because no one truly knows because everyone has different ideas. Sir Thomas More and Michel de Montaigne are prime examples of how they may seem to have totally different ideas, but they do indeed have some similarities. Although Sir Thomas More and Michel de Montaigne both believe human nature is best in a simpler form; More argues in order to have a simpler life they must be governed through a utopian society, where Montaigne argues the barbaric lifestyle is superior.
In his work Meditations on First Philosophy, published in 1641, René Descartes sets out to establish a set of indubitable truths for the sciences. He begins by discarding all of his beliefs, then works to rebuild his beliefs based on careful thought. Descartes clearly states this goal, saying in the First Meditation, “I will work my way up… I will accomplish this by putting aside everything that admits of the least doubt” (I, 17). He is able to establish his own existence, but struggles to move beyond his internal thoughts to discuss external objects. Descartes decides that the Christian God is the bridge he needs to escape the confines of his own mind, and argues for the existence of God in the Third Meditation in order to move on to discussing the physical world. In this paper I will argue that Descartes’ rationalistic project would have been improved without an appeal to the Christian God, although I will also argue that Descartes thinks this appeal is necessary.
Descartes believes that knowledge comes from within the mind. This is a single indisputable fact to build on that can be gained through individual reflection. While seeking true knowledge, Descartes writes his Six Meditations. In these meditations, Descartes tries to develop a strong foundation, which all knowledge can be built upon. In the First Meditation, Descartes begins developing this foundation through the method of doubt. He casts doubt upon all his previous beliefs, including “matters which are not entirely certain and indubitable [and] those which appear to be manifestly false.” (Descartes, p.75, par.3) Once Descartes clears away all beliefs that can be called into doubt, he can then build a strong base for all true
This paper will attempt to explain Descartes’ first argument for the distinction that exists between mind and body. Dualism is a necessary aspect of Descartes’ metaphysics and epistemology. This distinction is important within the larger framework of Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) because after doubting everything (body, extension, senses, etc.), Descartes comes to the conclusion that because he doubts, he must be a thinking thing and therefore exist (p.43). This means that the mind must be separate and independent from the body. One can doubt that the body exists while leaving the mind intact. To doubt that the mind exists, however, is contradictory. For if the mind does not exist, how, or with what, is that doubt being accomplished.