In the rationalist camp, philosopher Rene Descartes sought to refute skepticism by doubting all of which he had formerly believed to be true. While this methodology might strike some as counterintuitive it appears to work for Descartes. Descartes’ six meditations provide a compelling account of what lengths a person can go to in questioning everything, including one’s existence. In his quest for knowledge Descartes begins in a secluded place, presumably to contemplate and begin writing. The opening statements key in on what will be the main focus of mediations one and two. Descartes says, “And thus I realized that once in my life I had to raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences” (Descartes 40). Here, Descartes is talking about doubting those things which he formerly took for granted. This is a question of philosophy that determines whether or not Descartes really did establish anything firm and lasting. To do this, one must study Descartes’s metaphysics and epistemology to get at the heart of the issue. That is what this essay attempts to do. After examining Descartes’s views in the six meditations I will attempt to show why most of what he arrives at to be true is perhaps a bit doubtful.
Descartes begins his method of doubt by criticizing the senses. His argument is based around the idea that the senses have deceived us before, and therefore one should not trust them. For example, when one looks at a distant object, it appears to be much smaller than when it is viewed from up close. However as Descartes testifies, these same senses are also the ones that, when used pr...
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...tion, one suspects that this idea of God might be just a part of the hallucination. In addition there’s some degree of circularity in this argument because Descartes has to presuppose that God exists in order to confirm his other knowledge.
In conclusion, while Descartes may have successfully proved that he exists, the other parts of his meditations assume too much. For instance, even if there were a perfect God he cannot know that such a being wouldn’t allow him to be deceived for reasons unbeknownst to him. A far more challenging issue is that posed by the question of the mind-body problem. He assumes far too much when he claims that an immaterial soul can interact with a material body. Finally, one can doubt that Descartes’s idea of God came from a being which possesses that formal reality since there is a possibility that Descartes’s idea is a human construct.
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