PHI 209: Logic and Knowledge Learner’s Guide Immaculata University Module materials copyrighted by Immaculata University, all rights reserved. Descartes’ Deductions In his search for certainty, Descartes found that none of the senses, individually or jointly, provides experience so “clear and distinct” that it is beyond all doubt. Descartes implies that if he could find only one thing that was unquestionably true about his experience, it alone might serve as a foundation for all the other less certain elements of knowledge. With his background it is only natural that he would turn to the intangible precision of mathematics. Still, with his farfetched example of the Evil Genie he shows that it is possible that we could be wrong in our assumptions about mathematics. Perhaps the reason we think we are right in our calculations is simply that we have all learned the wrong way, and continue to teach the wrong way (just as everyone once knew, and taught that the earth was flat, or at the center of the solar system). After all, any hypnotist can make an entire group of people swear a pink elephant is in the room, so why not accept the possibility that mathematics is equally suspect? While mathematics is more reliable and produces more consistent results than sensory knowledge, mathematical knowledge still has that shadow of a doubt. What can we trust in then? What is always true, even if your thoughts may be controlled by another being? The evil demi-god may make us doubt the existence of our personal belongings, your friends and even our sanity, but he can never make our doubt our own existence. Oh, sure, we might doubt whether we exist in this room, or in this dream, but we cannot doubt that we exist somehow, in some way. The irony is that even if we
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