Analysis Of Descartes Foundationalism

analytical Essay
1378 words
1378 words

Rachel Reed
PHIL 389
10 February 2014
Question #7: Descartes’ Foundationalism
In this paper I will describe the foundationalist structure of Descartes’ arguments in his work Meditations on First Philosophy. Foundationalism is the view that there are some beliefs are epistemologically basic and can be known without knowing anything else is true (Loeb, Lecture 1-14). For example, philosophers such as Descartes would acknowledge that geometric truths, such as 2 + 2 = 4, are so fundamental that they don’t need to be proven through argumentation. Thus, these truths can provide the basic foundation for further arguments. In my paper, I will show that two foundational claims of Descartes are first, the existence of the mind, and second, the existence of God. From these claims Descartes derives many others, including the argument for material objects and souls. As I lay out Descartes’ case, I will examine the philosophical soundness and validity of his foundationalist account, as well as its merits and potential weaknesses. In the end, I will conclude that Descartes’ foundationalism, while alluring in its simplicity, does not survive deeper investigation.
Descartes’ first foundational argument asserts that one can have knowledge of one’s own existence. The claim is essential to many arguments that follow because it survives his “Deceiver Hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that “there may be a powerful deceiver of supreme power who is deliberately and constantly deceiving me” (Med III, p. 17). This demonstrates that we cannot know, or be sure of, anything based on sensory experience alone. However, Descartes supports the idea that some things can be known entirely outside of sensory experience; through the use of logic and re...

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...undational premises, such as the existence of God and the mind, do not provide indisputable groundwork for Descartes’ argument. First begging the question to prove the existence of the mind via dualism, and then conflating logic with cultural and personal ideals, these two tenets cannot stand on their own. In the case of Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, foundationalism does not endure close scrutiny.

Grade: B-
General comments: Your paper doesn't really address the prompt. It does not discuss arguments that might be offered in favor of Foundationalism or discuss how effective such arguments might be, nor does it address the question of what arguments Descartes does offer. There's also little in the way of focused discussion of what you take to be the problem with the position. It seems like you started on a different prompt and switched part-way through.

In this essay, the author

  • Describes the foundationalist structure of descartes' arguments in his work meditations on first philosophy.
  • Explains that descartes' first foundational argument asserts that one can have knowledge of one's own existence.
  • Analyzes how descartes' cogito holds up against the deceiver hypothesis, arguing that in order to be "deceived", we must first exist as minds. few philosophers would think it worthwhile to argue against this conclusion.
  • Argues that the argument sacrifices something for the sake of simplicity. it assumes that there must be an immaterial and separate mind that is acting out these processes.
  • Analyzes how descartes's claims aren't structurally sound, and if true, may invalidate the rest of his arguments.
  • Analyzes how descartes' counterargument would be similar to what he wrote in response to the sixth objection. he defends the cogito by stating that the mind is separate from the body.
  • Explains descartes' ontological argument, which is based on epistemic knowledge or logic, and builds up the argument to prove that the material world exists.
  • Argues that descartes' claim that existence is a perfection is at best questionable. he believes perfection can be objectively and logically determined based on cultural norms and ideals.
  • Argues that descartes' idea of god is infallible, as the concept of a perfect being varies from culture to culture. once we doubt the objectivity of perfection, the argument falls apart.
  • Argues that descartes may argue against my objection by stating that it is only that which we clearly and distinctly perceive that can be known.
  • Analyzes how cartesian foundationalism is an attractive structure of argumentation, declaring basic tenets and building on these to construct a line of reasoning based on deduction from previous conclusions.
  • Analyzes how the paper doesn't address the prompt. it does not discuss arguments in favor of foundationalism or descartes' arguments. there's little focused discussion of what you take to be the problem with the position.
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