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Department
Philosophy
Course
Philosophy 1020
Professor
John Thorp
Semester
Fall

Description
10. Descartes' Rationalism 0. Historical and biographical matters • On of the most famous philosophical texts of all time: o The Meditations of Rene Descartes • “Father” of modern philosophy • French, European intellectual • An accomplished scientist and mathematician • Interested in optics • Interested in the nature of science and in the method of science o Larger questions of how science should operate  What its methods should be • A period of great intellectual confusion o World moved away from the idea that knowledge came from authority  Aristotle • Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy o Published in Latin in 1641 o Subsequently also published in French 1. The project:  Pull down the degenerate edifice of knowledge and then rebuild it on firmer  foundations • Get rid of the idea of scientific knowledge and have a fresh start o Build the edifice of knowledge on surer foundations, foundations of  certainty o “Cleaning the Augean stables”  Greek myth  Hercules   Cleaning out an infinitely dirty stable belonging to king Augeus  2. The Method of Doubt: “Methodological skepticism” • Doubt everything that can be doubted – using the highest possible standards • If it can be doubted, it’s out. a) Memory Much of what I “know” is based on memory • Memory is often false o So I should not trust any knowledge based on memory o Memory cannot be certain and should not be trusted in knowledge b) Sense­perception • Lots of sensory illusions • There are dreams • There is madness o Delusional people o Those who suffer from illusions  Hallucinations • Uncertain o Doubted o Cannot be the foundation of knowledge All sensory “knowledge” of the material (corporeal) world should be doubted c) Mathematics • Mathematical Knowledge (e.g. 2+3=5) o But maybe God, who is omnipotent, is deceiving me of those that I  believe are absolutely certain 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  that employs all his energy and skill to deceive me in everything • The supposition of the “malicious demon” (aka “evil genius”, Fr. “malin  genie”) is then the instrument of methodological skepticism: o Is there anything about which s
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