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Lecture 10

Lecture 10 Notes

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Steve Joordens

th st PHLA10 – Lecture 10 Notes October 30 and November 1 , 2012 Descartes and Foundationalism Chapters 13 Descartes’ Foundationalism Chapter 13: Pages 156 - 169 Foundationalism  Descartes wanted to show that the beliefs we have about the world are cases of genuine knowledge  He split them up into two categories. 1. Foundational beliefs: Perfectly solid 2. Superstructural beliefs: Count as knowledge because they rest securely on foundational beliefs  Used axiomatic geometry as a model to demonstrate this: o Axioms (like foundational beliefs) are ‘self-evident’  They cannot be false and absolutely certain o Theorems (like superstructural beliefs) are deduced by axioms  Follow by pure logic and inherit certainty Method of Doubt  Descartes’ goal was to refute skepticism  He developed his Method of Doubt to determine which of the beliefs he has are foundational; whether it is possible to doubt a proposition. o If a doubt is possible then it isn’t foundational. o If a doubt isn’t possible then it is foundational (indubitable belief)  Doesn’t mean that the belief is false, it just isn’t absolutely certain.  A posteriori beliefs based on whatever you observe: sense, memory, testimony, etc o Dreaming, hallucination and illusions give reasons for putting such beliefs into doubt  A priori beliefs based upon logical or mathematical reasoning; some of which rely on memory o Example: “2 + 2 = 4” or “A square has four sides” o Evil Genius Argument: That an evil genius has deceived your mind to think so; there is a doubt. “I think, therefore I exist.”  Any proposition which if you think it, it must be true  Survives the Method of Doubt  First-person descriptions of the way things seem are indubitable. Mental Certainty  Incorrigibility: We cannot be mistaken about our own mental states o Also known as the transparency of the mental  If we are in a mental state, X, we will know we are in X PHLA10 – Lecture 10 Notes October 30 and November 1 , 2012 Descartes and Foundationalism Chapters 13 o Incorrigibility and transparency aren’t very plausible due to self-deception and unconscious mental states  Example: Can you being suffering excruciating pain and not know it? Can you believe you are suffering excruciating pain and be wrong? Clarity and Distinctness  Some cases that made some beliefs could not be in error  Clarity: What is present and apparent to the mind  Distinctness: Every feature of the idea is clear o Example: Belief there is a book in front of me  It isn’t clear and distinct  Involves: 1. The experience of seeming to see a book 2. The idea that the book is existing in the world  Only the first is clear and distinct and is the only thing that we can know for certain ‘directly’  Rule of truth: Whatever we think of which is clear and distinct must be true Descartes’ view of Mental Certainty  We have beliefs of solid foundation, but are they extensive enough to rest all our knowledge on o How do we go from: “I seem to see a cat”  “There is a cat”? o Descartes thought we needed to know that God existed. (1) If God exists and we are not able to know anything despite all the evidence before us, God must be deceiving us. (2) But God is no deceiver. (3) Therefore, if God exists, we can know things  If we have done everything we should
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