Essay about Descartes: A Paradigm Shift in Philosophical Thinking

Essay about Descartes: A Paradigm Shift in Philosophical Thinking

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Descartes, often referred to as the “father of modern philosophy,” solidified his foundational role in abstract thinking with his work “Meditations on First Philosophy.” This piece sought to prove the existence of God, as well as provide a criticism of our epistemic standards and values. By undergoing a thought experiment that involved a form of methodological skepticism, Descartes attempted to analyze his beliefs from a clean surface, to see how many of his typical thoughts and beliefs he would be able to keep. Any form of doubt about a belief or topic would warrant its removal from Descartes’ metaphorical table, and unsurprisingly, that table was quite empty. The persistence of Descartes’ work is not due to a lack of refutation, but rather the generation of standards and ideals that reflect a paradigm shift in philosophical thinking.
Descartes’ overall thesis is likely his proof that god exists. However, this larger thesis is composed of several smaller ones that are necessary for him to claim that God exists a priori. Due to the class reading focusing mostly on the mind-body and existence portions of this thesis, I will focus on explaining those preliminary arguments. Before the arguments however, it is important to address how Descartes actually presents the meditations. The information within is revealed to us through a first person perspective, and under the presumption that a single flaw in a belief is enough to discount it completely. Rather than move in a systematic fashion, Descartes chose for pragmatic purposes to ascribe to the analogy that his beliefs were like a building, “when the foundation is cut out from under it,” the “building collapses.” (Descartes 136) Descartes is encouraging an individual pe...


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...ery hard to deny what he has to say, and thus the way to wrestle with his themes logically involves attacking the foundations of the principles he describes.
The importance of Descartes’ work is exemplified through its persistence. In pursuit of his goal to provide an argument for god’s existence, he also laid down a foundation for the study of modern philosophy, and heighten the epistemic standard for philosophers at the time and today. Challenging Descartes’ principles is especially difficult to his unique form of first person reflection, and he provides a certain foundation by denying that we have any a posteiori knowledge. Despite the contemporary inefficiency of arguing for the existence of god through ontological means, it is notable that Descartes is more remembered for the advancements he made in generating arguments from an individual perspective.


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