Problems with Descartes' Philosophy

2740 Words11 Pages
Problems with Descartes' Philosophy It is from the views of Descartes that most of the metaphysical systems of the last three centuries begin, trying to improve upon them, or to overcome what they regard as difficulties in the Cartesian system. René Descartes is responsible for the predominance of the problem of human knowledge in modern philosophy. Many of the systems of philosophy and theories of knowledge which have arisen in the last three centuries can trace their lineage directly to the influence of the questions Descartes raised and the method he employed in answering them. He promulgated the principle of "science without presuppositions" and thereby introduced a new epoch in science and philosophy. It will, therefore, not be amiss to analyze his fundamental ideas and evaluate his method. As his starting point Descartes begins with the contention that we rely entirely too much on traditional doctrines and spontaneous convictions, so that our supposed knowledge of truth rest mostly on unproved presuppositions. This makes it difficult for us to distinguish between truth and error, since we do not know what is true knowledge and what is unwarranted belief. Hence, he would tear down the whole edifice of knowledge and rebuilt it from the foundation, and he would not begin to build until he had reached the one and ultimate truth which the bedrock of human knowledge. Methodic Doubt Being a mathematician, Descartes felt convinced that he could deduce all truth from a single fundamental principle. As the instrument of his search for truth he used a universal methodic doubt. His own words will best reveal his line of thought. I. In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life, to doubt, as far as ... ... middle of paper ... ...omplete doubt, we can no more reach a solution of the problem of human knowledge than a bird can fly with amputated wings. Another important conclusion is this: Any theory of knowledge which leads logically to universal skepticism is intrinsically false. Nothing could be plainer. There must be an essential flaw in a theory which, if consistently carried out to its logical conclusions, ends in the absurdity of skepticism. Bibliography: References: 1. Taken from: "The Principles of Philosophy"; "Meditations on First Philosophy"; "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason." 2. Meditations, I. 3. Discourse, IV. 4. Meditations, I, toward the close. 5. Loc. cit., II, beginning. 6. Loc. cit., II, beginning. 7. Principles of Philosophy, Part I, XVIII. 8. Ibid., Part I, XVIII. 9. Ibid., Part I, XX. 10. Ibid., Part I, XXIX, and XXX.
Open Document