Comparing Descartes and Peirce's Opinions On Knowledge

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Knowledge according to Merriam- Webster’s dictionary is “acts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education.” Rene Descartes saw knowledge being attained through deductive logic and would disagree with this definition. Charles Peirce’s pragmatic approach on the other hand is the reason we have that definition. Rene Descartes believed that by ridding himself of all prejudice & prejudgments and doubting everything including his senses, body, and all his previous experiences based on a mathematical approach was how humans can know about the natural world. Rather than going out into the world to find knowledge, Descartes wants us to think and go deeper within ourselves. He states, “It is only once we have denied all falsehoods resulting from the outside world that we can begin a new structure of logic based strictly on definite truths. In order for our foundation to be firm, we must find a point which is certain and this point is within ourselves.” (Design) Descartes wants us to question everything, except God, because knowledge we gain from others is not certain since we did not acquire it firsthand. Descartes argued we can trust God, because God gives us clear and distinct ideas and since God can be trusted, then so can these thoughts. Therefore, God must exist for this to be true. Descartes believes God exists because he is perfect and if he were not perfect then he would not exist. In short, Descartes thought that doubt will move the inquirer toward the elimination of error and, accordingly, certainty will be given to knowledge. Charles Peirce believed “only through the way of linguistic, logical and pragmatic signs considered as tools and objects can humans know about the natural world.” (Kremer... ... middle of paper ... ...n for his thinking. Peirce wants his thoughts to make sense on their own, without having to be applicable in all cases. Peirce is concerned with what is practical, not the theoretical, because what is theoretical is not real to Peirce.” (Design) In conclusion, neither view on knowledge is improbable. Both philosophers believed that doubt and belief played a role in how we attain knowledge, the only difference being that whereas Descartes was looking for absolute certainty, Peirce saw it as is impossible, because there are only beliefs. We can never know absolutely what truth is, but we can believe something is true once we stop doubting it. I feel we see more of Peirce's ideas today because they do not need a foundation to be successful, whereas an atheist for example would have some problems with Descartes theories because they are based on the existence of God.
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