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Epistemology - Descartes.docx

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University of British Columbia
PHIL 101
Christopher Stephens

Rene Descartes: Philosopher and Mathematician. Geometry was a model for knowledge Foundationalism: an approach to thinking about the structure if all our beliefs Philosophy is a Tree: Roots = Metaphysics Trunk = Physics Branches = Sciences (knowledge*)  All knowledge is founded upon metaphysics, it is constructed from the bottom up, we have to get back down to the principles to understand knowledge*. Descartes using Methodological Doubt can systematically examine all beliefs and determine which ones are the ‘axioms’ – foundational beliefs – for our knowledge. Descartes’ Method of Doubt Test: Is it possible to make up a story in which both… : (1) I believe P (2) P is false. If yes -> P fails the MDT and the belief is not foundational. If no -> P passes the MDT and the belief is foundational. (Impossible to doubt) Note: Think of Non-Fictional as real. Terms are backwards. Non-possible P’s are real (foundational), they pass the MDT All a posteriori beliefs fail the MDT – beliefs based on senses are subject to MDT I’m on the moon right now… All first person psychological states pass the MDT I seem to be in philosophy class right now… Note: Sometimes a priori beliefs – 2+2=4 – fail MDT like: an evil all-powerful being is bent on deceiving me Descartes Concludes: I doubt, I am, I’m not, I exist are claims that pass the Method of Doubt Test  the foundation of all knowledge. You also cannot be wrong about what you think you want and what you think is true – The I
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