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Descartes_1x2_handout - Descartes: Meditations on First...

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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy Descartes’s project was to gently challenge Aristotelian philosophy (empiricism) which had pretty much reigned throughout the Medieval and Renaissance periods of history. One of his most famous exercises in challenging the established paradigm was with his Meditations on First Philosophy . In it, he argues that much of philosophy (and knowledge in general) has been based on unjustified empirical assumptions. However, he thought that knowledge claims need to be built on a firmer basis or foundation. In epistemology, the view that in order to be justified (count as knowledge) our beliefs must be based on a set of basic, self-evident (self-justifying) beliefs is known as foundationalism . Meditation One De omnibus dubitandum Skepticism: A school of philosophy that espouses the doctrine that true knowledge is uncertain or impossible; the problem with skeptics is that they are dogmatic about their central doctrine… and they can’t assert that it is true that we cannot attain true knowledge Radical Skepticism: nothing can be known -or- we should suspend our judgment in all matters Modified Skepticism: some things are known; however we should deny or suspend judgment on the possibility of knowledge about particular things The first meditation begins by bringing into doubt everything that we have so far considered as known. The argument runs as follows: 1. I know that p if and only if I cannot doubt that p. 2. If I can doubt that p, then I do not know that p. Descartes induces radical skepticism with the aid of the following scenarios: Previous Deceit In the past, my senses have deceived me, so what evidence do I have now that they aren’t deceiving me? This scenario is strong enough to get rid of any claims of knowledge concerning the external world—however it is not the strongest argument to be had. There is still reason to believe that sense perception is reliable…otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to navigate and survive our environment. Dreaming Imagine that I could be dreaming, in which all sense perception could be a dream and anything could seem to be the case. We can realize that there is no test that he can think of that would prove that any given moment we are awake. This presents us with a hypothesis in which we believe that the external world exists, we
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course PHIL 10 at San Jose State.

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Descartes_1x2_handout - Descartes: Meditations on First...

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