PH 310 Notes - Webb PH 310 Descartes - Axiom: self evident...

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Webb PH 310 Descartes - Axiom: self evident truths - Geometric proofs - Descartian term: Method of Doubt “Swipe your mind clean of everything that admits of any doubt, then build up your knowledge deductively on what’s left - Optics; Theory of Vision - Descartes discovers law of refraction; light lines are straight; & retinal images & postulated optic nerves - “What winds up in the visual chamber no more resembles the object responsible for it than the word dog resembles a dog.” Mind interprets. - Main thesis: It is the mind which perceives things, not the body or brain. - Descartes believes the senses have deceived us on the geocentric hypothesis - A good outline of his meditations is in Descartes preface - To do what the Greeks did for all philosophy, Descartes wants to do geometry 1. The senses can easily deceive me, especially concerning “very small and distant things” 2. I can also be deceived by dreams into thinking they are real . And though: a. Some waking states may seem “too distinct” for one whom is asleep. b. Nevertheless “I see so plainly that there are no definite signs to distinguish being awake from being asleep” How then can I distinguish them? (find answer) 3. Arithmetic and Geometry are beyond any doubt (since they are indifferent to the concoctions of my dreams . But a. I also believe in an omnipotent God who created me. So how do I know that He has not deceived me into believing in the existence of the Earth and heavens extended all around me (in a fixed configuration) and outside me? In short, perhaps it all may be a dream. (!?) b. We could, of course, deny the existence of such a God (as atheists do), but how then can we ever “suppose that I came to be what I am either by fate or by chance or by a continuous (gradual) series of events?” i. Creation or Evolution: Not E, therefore C (200 years before Darwin) ii. Reason: There’s not enough TIME (6,000 years +/-) 4. “Old beliefs die hard ” … “They keep coming back to me almost against my will” 1. Reflections on these matters persuades me that the only way to certainty and “peace of mind” is to a. Swipe one’s mind clear of everything one ever believed (however probable) and build up one’s knowledge on the indubitable foundation that is left deductively (a la Euclid). Buti
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b. Old beliefs die hard : they keep coming back to me, “almost against my will” (pg. 16) The method of doubt presupposes that we can believe what we will to believe. (i.e. You can believe what you want (freedom)) c. I cannot easily ‘kick the habit’ of believing what seems probable . This raises d. The Problem of the Ethics of Belief: Am I responsible for what I believe? Can an atheist plead in defense of his heresy that the existence of God just did not seem probable to him, that all of the evidence pointed against his existence? Why: because of all the evil in the world. i.
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PH 310 Notes - Webb PH 310 Descartes - Axiom: self evident...

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