Part II Epistemology
The source of knowledge (3 lectures)
Troubles in scientific knowledge (2 lectures)
10. Descartes' Rationalism
0. Historical and biographical matters
Sample: what is the difference between knowledge and belief?
Can we ever be utterly, 100% certain that something is true?
What is the status of scientific laws? How certain are they?
Given that all experience is private (GOS disorder), how do we achieve public knowledge
Does the world out there resemble my impressions of it?
Are there biases that operate in our understanding of the world?
- One of the most famous philosophers of all time
- The Meditations
- An accomplished scientist and mathematician
THE FATHER OF MODERN PHILOSOPHY
- Interested in the nature of science and in the method of science
- a period of great intellectual confusion
1. The project:
Descartes project was to pull down the “ edifice of knowledge”
“Cleaning the Augean stables” Greek myth that Hercules had to clean out the stable full of crap.
Hercules, the hero had to do labours in the day (crap – they have never been cleaned out)
7 labours – what he did: realized there was a stream nearby, diverted the stream to flow through the
stables and clean them out for him.
pull down the degenerate edifice of knowledge and then rebuild it on firmer foundations
2. The Method of Doubt:
Doubt everything which can be doubted – using the highest possible standards; see if there is anything
that can not be doubted a) memory
Much of what I want to “know” is based on memory …. But memory is often false….
So should I not trust knowledge based on memory?
but there are sensory illusions (CN tower looking small)
there is madness
it seems that all sensory knowledge of the material (corporeal) world should be doubted
2+3=5, but maybe God, who is omnipotent, is deceiving me
d) postulation of the Evil Genius
but that is impossible since a good God would not be a deceiver
perhaps there is a “malicious demon” of the utmost power and cunning who employs all his energy and
skill to deceive me in everything.
The supposition of the “malicious demon” (evil genius) is then the instrument of methodological
Is there anything about which such a demon could