Cartesian Skepticism: Descartes' Meditation I

Cartesian Skepticism: Descartes' Meditation I -...

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Introduction to Philosophy / Prof. Pruim’s Notes     Cartesian Skepticism / p. 1 IS THERE ANY DOUBT ABOUT WHAT MY SENSES TELL ME? Notes on Meditation I and II of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) I. The Issue: does my sense experience give me knowledge? My perceptual experience obviously causes me to form certain beliefs. E.g., my current experience causes me to believe there is a brown, flat, rectangular table in front of me. Does my belief in that case have the status of knowledge ? Do I know, on the basis of the observation, that there is such a table before me? II. Descartes’ Method of Doubt (for telling whether or not something is a piece of knowledge). THE METHOD IN GENERAL: Descartes maintains: I know only if it is not possible to have a reason to doubt my belief. That is, I know only if my evidence is conclusive. That is, I know only if my evidence makes it impossible for my belief to be false. APPLYING IT TO SENSE PERCEPTION: So, to find out whether perceptually generated beliefs count as knowledge, Descartes asks, “Is there any reason to doubt the beliefs which are caused by my sense experience?” “Is my experience of seeing a table conclusive evidence that a table is there?” “Does my experience of seeing a table mean that it is impossible for there to be no table there?” III. Descartes’ Arguments for Doubting the Senses. First Argument: Illusions . 1. Descartes points out that sometimes my senses have actually fooled me. They have caused me to adopt a false belief. I know that is so because sometimes my experiences clashed with each other, as in the illusion of a stick in water which looks bent but feels straight. The clash means that one of the beliefs is false (even if I can not yet know which one). 2. So, Descartes tries this argument: Sometimes my senses did fool me. So, every time my senses could be fooling me.
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Introduction to Philosophy / Prof. Pruim’s Notes     Cartesian Skepticism / p. 2 3. Is it a good argument? Criticism : although the premise of the argument is true, it is not obvious that the conclusion validly follows --since it is about every experience. Why think that just because in some cases I am fooled, that in every case my senses could be fooling me?
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