The Exploration of the Possibility of Global Scepticism

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The Exploration of the Possibility of Global Scepticism

Global scepticism puts all of our attempts at seeking true knowledge

into doubt; it makes all traditional ways of finding out about the

world unreliable. One of the most famous sceptics is the philosopher

Rene Descartes. In his first meditation, Descartes regards the 'many

false things' that he had once believed as a child and acknowledges

that all his beliefs were built on things that can be doubted.

Descartes believed that he would have to start again on more solid

foundations than those more doubtful ones his knowledge was previously

built on. It is through Descartes' acceptance that all his current

knowledge is doubtful that makes him a sceptic, however even Descartes

hold the view that he will still be able to rebuild his knowledge once

he gains more solid foundations. Descartes put forward three waves of

doubt, the argument from illusion, the evil demon argument and the

argument from dreaming. Descartes believed that each of these 'waves

of doubt' forced him to question all the beliefs that he held.

Descartes believes, in his argument from illusion, that our senses

sometimes deceive us; for instance, when I look at a drinking straw in

a glass it appears bent, yet when I remove the straw from the glass it

is straight. Descartes argues that if our senses have been proven to

mislead us in the past, then we cannot be certain that they are not

deceiving us now. This argument challenges our everyday beliefs;

everything around us could simply be a result of our senses deceiving

us. Other philosophers criticising Descartes have argued that there

are degrees of certainty. There are many things which can be doubted,

but there are also things which cannot be seriously doubted, like the

fact that I am currently in England. These degrees of certainty allow

us to function normally, and discard any irrational doubt (i.e. if I

get out of my bed this morning, will the floor still hold my weight or

will I go through the ceiling?).
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