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Essay on Descartes' Ideas on The Existence of God

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Descartes begins his Meditations by doubting everyone, “beating the Pyrrhic skeptics at their own game”. He begins his journey by declaring that we can only have knowledge if we are completely certain of that knowledge. Further, that the only way to have certain knowledge of something is if we can know it using something completely reliable. So he begins with what most of us assume – the senses reliably tell us reality. I see the rain because rain exists; I can sit on this chair because the chair exists; my coffee is hot because there is hot coffee in front of me, and so on. Then he considers that he has been deceived by his senses before, most notably when dreaming. Therefore he dismisses the senses as a reliable source of knowledge.
He uses the wax example to further show the distinction between the fallibility of knowledge acquired by the senses and knowledge acquired by the mind. He picks up a piece of wax and his senses take note of its size, texture, and so on. Then he holds the wax nearer to the fire and his senses inform him that this thing in his hand now has a soft texture, an odor, a different size from what was there previously. If he is only using his senses to provide knowledge about what this thing is, he wouldn't be able to say that the piece of melted wax is the same thing it was before it was melted. And yet he is confident that the wax is the same piece of wax. He concludes that the wax example is an example of his senses not being able to afford him of this knowledge, therefore he must be using something other than the senses to acquire knowledge (something not coincidentally more reliable than the senses) and this he refers to as the intellect.
So, reason and intuition are the only reliable sources of trut...


... middle of paper ...


...lear and distinct” criteria isn't necessarily faulty in itself. It is faulty, however, if one takes the path he did: assume nothing, find one truth, assume many things, then claim a conclusion not based on assumptions. Descartes fault is in establishing such a high level of skepticism then abandoning it in favor of a much weaker level of skepticism when he needs to. He is not entitled to doubtful conclusions if he claims they are not doubtful. His philosophy begins with a false promise of radical doubt because he ends with “do I grasp this clearly and distinctly” and therefore his entire philosophy has a doubtful foundation. He claims to set out to build a new foundation, but in reality he has merely replaced one faulty foundation with another. He's taken his old foundation based on assumptions, inserted the gem of the Cogito, and claimed it's a brand new foundation.


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