Lecture 6- Descartes, perception and truth
Rationalist or empiricist?
✤ rationalism and empiricism deal with the role of sense experience in getting information about
✤ Descartes’ position!
✤ Our fundamental ideas about the essential truths of reality are in the mind, and not gotten
✤ Senses can give us no reliable information!
✤ Locke’s position!
✤ sense experience is the source of all our ideas!
✤ We rely on the senses, therefore!
✤ Essences will always elude us!
Ideas and reality
✤ Do the ideas in our minds represent anything about reality?!
✤Or are we stuck in a world of ideas that reveal nothing about the world outside the mind?!
✤ Descartes trying to answer this!
✤ Spoiler: our purely intellectual ideas represent reality!
Can I know anything?
✤ I am, I exist!
✤ “necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived by my mind.” (147)!
✤ What is this ‘I’?!
✤ “I am not admitting anything except what is necessarily true.” (148)!
✤ Necessary truth will point to essences!
✤ what does he know with certainty?!
Wax and knowledge ✤ What does the example of the wax tell us about the nature of body?!
✤ What do the sensory features of the wax tell us?!
✤ How do we come to discover true and permanent facts about the nature of that substance?!
✤ We do not understand ourselves and the world based on sensation, but “purely mental
scrutiny” (149)! ✤ All of our ideas and the propositions based on them are mental!
✤ our belief in sensory information, however, is founded on illusion rather than certainty!
✤ e.g. the wax is white!
Imagination and Intellect
✤ Two ways to determine what he is:!
- “imagining is simply contemplating the shape or image of a corporeal thing.” (148)!
- imagination not a route to knowledge about self (or anything else for that matter)!
-insight without sensation!
-He is a ‘thinking thing’ or thinking substance!
-operations of the mind--doubting, understanding, willing, imagining!
-all kinds, or modes,