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10. Descartes.docx

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Philosophy 1020
John Thorp

LECTURE TEN: Descartes' Rationalism 0. Historical and biographical matters  One of the most famous philosophical texts of all time: The Meditation of First Philosophy (published in Latin (1641), subsequently published also in French)  An accomplished scientist and mathematician  Often called the “Father of Modern Philosophy”  Interested in the nature of science and in the method of science  A period of great intellectual confusion o Arguments of authority 1. The Project:  Descartes project was to pull down the “edifice of knowledge”  Then build it up again sure foundations, on foundations of certainty  Metaphor “Cleaning the Augean Stables” o Referring to Hercules had to clean stables o Had a plan to make a river flow through the stables to wipe out all the mess  Pull down the degenerate edifice of knowledge and then rebuild it on firmer foundations 2. The Method of Doubt:  “Methodological Skepticism”  Doubt everything which can be doubted- using the highest possible standards a) Memory  Much of what I “know” is based on memory but memory is often false b) Sense-Perception  Sometimes sense- perception is actually sensory illusions  Ex. A coin on a table when viewing from far away it looks oval but it is actually circle  Not really there (dreams) c) Mathematics  Mathematic Knowledge (e.g. 2+3=5)  Grasping the truth, not relying on looking at the figures but thinking about the truth of 2+5 d) Postulation of the Evil Genius  But that is impossible since a good God would not be a deceiver  Perhaps that is a “malicious demon” of the upmost power and cunning who employs all his energy and skill to deceive me in everything  The supposition of the “malicious demon” (aka “evil genius”) s then the instrument of methodological skepticism:  What remains true… maybe the
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