Cartesian_Rationalism_slides

Cartesian_Rationalism_slides - Cartesian Rationalism •...

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Unformatted text preview: Cartesian Rationalism • Descartes had the disturbing experience of finding out that everything he learned at school was wrong! From 1604-1612 he was educated at a Jesuit school, where he learned the standard medieval (scholastic, Aristotelian) philosophy. In 1619 he had some disturbing dreams, and embarked on his life’s work of rebuilding the whole universe, since the Aristotelian universe was doomed. (Descartes didn’t suffer from lack of ambition!) • “ Some years ago I was struck by how many false things I had believed, and by how doubtful was the structure of beliefs that I had based on them. I realized that if I wanted to establish anything in the sciences that was stable and likely to last, I needed—just once in my life—to demolish everything completely and start again from the foundations .” (p. 49) “… I will devote myself, sincerely and without holding back, to demolishing my opinions .” How can you demolish your opinions? Can you type “FORMAT C: /S” ? • So I shall suppose that some malicious, powerful, cunning demon has done all he can to deceive me— rather than this being done by God, who is supremely good and the source of truth. I shall think that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds and all external things are merely dreams that the demon has contrived as traps for my judgment. I shall consider myself as having no hands or eyes, or flesh, or blood or senses, but as having falsely believed that I had all these things. (p. 52, end of Med 1) • Note that Descartes doesn’t believe that this demon scenario is true. It’s rather a technique , to “erase his hard drive”, i.e. demolish all his existing beliefs, so he can start over. • An important insight of Descartes, concerning the demon scenario, is that one’s physical body might be an illusion. This extended, geometrical object, with arms, legs, hair, and so on, might not exist. One’s real body might be quite different; perhaps one is really four-legged, feathered, or completely bald? Or perhaps one has no physical body at all! Isn’t it possible that one’s self is a purely thinking “substance” (object) with no geometrical properties like volume and shape? One might be a disembodied soul, receiving fictitious sense experiences from the demon. • Having demolished his old beliefs, Descartes is ready to build again....
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This note was uploaded on 11/30/2010 for the course PHIL 1101 taught by Professor Johns during the Fall '10 term at Langara.

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Cartesian_Rationalism_slides - Cartesian Rationalism •...

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