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Descartesnotes - PHIL 100 Sections 0203 0204,0207 Notes for...

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1 PHIL 100 Sections 0203, 0204,0207 TA: Kallfelz, W. Notes for March 10 Renee Descartes 1596-1650 You might be wondering why you finished a previous reading by David Hume, who lived nearly a century after Renee Descartes. It turns out, however, Hume is a good segue into Descartes. Why? Short answers: Both Hume and Descartes were profoundly skeptical philosophers. You saw the consequences of Hume’s skepticism, how it informed his subtle ‘psychologism’ (i.e., that all we have direct access to is our sense-data and our beliefs we form thereon) towards religion and science, as mostly explicitly revealed in his remarks concerning religion in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. It scarcely needs mentioning how momentous Descartes was, as his skepticism initiated the ‘epistemological turn’ in Western philosophy . 1 So instead of a long historical narrative (as literature on Descartes’ impact is virtually boundless – simply “google” his name!) we move straight into the Meditations. The comparisons between Hume and Descartes “stop at the start,” however, so to speak. That is to say, though Hume (lawyer, diplomat) and Descartes (mathematician, soldier- of-fortune) begin from a deeply skeptical position, they take off in radically opposite directions: SKEPTICISM Descartes: Hume Begin with ‘clear and Start from ‘atoms’ distinct ideas’ aprirori of sense data aposteriori This makes Descartes’ skepticism far more radical, and disturbing. By grounding epistemic certainty the way he does, seeking to conform to the apriori deductive certainty of geometry, Descartes established a rationalist program, i.e., a program arguing for reason alone as the foundation of all knowledge. Hume, on the other hand, sought to 1 Recall footnote 2 in the previous notes on Hume. The epistemological turn represented a philosophical position which puts epistemology as its central enterprise, displacing metaphysics. In other words, questions concerning the ‘ultimate nature of reality’ were subsumed under questions concerning how we come to know reality.
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2 “base” most knowledge-claims through aposteririori induction by establishing an empirical program.
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