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
Short answers: Both Hume and Descartes were profoundly
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
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 .
So instead of a long historical
narrative (as literature on Descartes’ impact is virtually boundless – simply “google” his
name!) we move straight into the
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
Begin with ‘clear and
Start from ‘atoms’
of sense data
This makes Descartes’ skepticism far more radical, and disturbing.
epistemic certainty the way he does, seeking to conform to the
of geometry, Descartes established a
program, i.e., a program arguing for
as the foundation of all knowledge.
Hume, on the other hand, sought to
Recall footnote 2 in the previous notes on Hume. The
position which puts
as its central enterprise, displacing metaphysics.
In other words,
questions concerning the ‘ultimate nature of reality’ were subsumed under questions concerning
come to know reality.