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Doubt Lecture

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Stefan Rodde

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Philosophy Lecture – Oct. 22 Doubt (I) Descartes and Epistemology - Hellenistic Philosophy o The aim of philosophy: ataraxia  (state of well-being, freedom from disturbance) - Hellenistic Skepticism o Skepticism as a means to ataraxia  Freedom from disturbance with respect to matters of belief o Epoche: withholding assent  Strategy: “for every argument another argument of equal [weight] is opposed” o Eg. The claim that “the tomato is quite red” is either  Decidable (there is a fact of the matter) or  Undecidable (there is not fact of the matter) o If it is undecidable, then we suspend judgment, o If it is decidable (if there is a fact of the matter…), then it is decidable in virtue of some principle (criterion)  But: we can only appeal to a criterion to resolve this problem if we already know that it is a true/good one - Agrippa’s Trilemma o How can we justify a claim? o I) Regress of reasons  We give reasons for it, and reasons for our reasons, and reasons for our reasons for our reasons, ad infinitum o II) Circular reasoning  This criterion is good because it shows us that it is good o III) A dogmatic statement  A mere declaration is not a justification - Modern Skepticism o The issue is not ataraxia o The issue is to decisively answer the sceptical challenge - The Problem o The collapse of Aristotelianism  From teleology to mechanism  Experiments and knowledge  The Heliocentric universe  The Scientific Revolution • Crisis of authority and knowledge - The Project o Foundations  “But we do see several people demolish their houses in order to rebuild them… sometimes we are compelled to do so when the houses are in danger of collapsing on their own and when their foundations are not steady” (138)  Epistemology: A new philosophy of knowledge - The Meditations o “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” - The Method of Doubt o Possibility 1: Dreams  I might be dreaming • When dreaming, I can’t tell the difference between my dream and reality • Undermines sensory knowledge, memory, etc  General features of reality, mathematics, are not effected in dreams  God and the Problem of Deception • Quick response: God wouldn’t allow me to be mostly wrong • But, I am clearly deceived sometimes, so perhaps there is no God o Possibility II: The Demon  I shall suppose that some malicious, powerful, cunning demon has done all he can to deceive me …”all external things are dreams that the demon has contrived as traps for my judgement” (145)  Undermines: Mathematical and geometrical knowledge  Some excuses: • “I’m not going out today it might rain” • “I’m not going out today because aliens could attack and I don’t want to miss the news coverage of that” • “I’m not going out today because the outside might be a lie”
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