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Lecture 2: Descartes the Doubter

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Psychology 3950F/G
Mark Cole

Lecture 2: Descartes, Iconoclast and Doubter From Aristotle to Decartes  400 AD to 1000 AD (Dark Ages) o Represented a time that was little focused on intellectual matters o When intellectual mattes emerged, they focused on Aristotle  Renaissance (1450 to about 1600) o Flourishing in growth in science and art that was pretty much unprecedented in the western world o Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton in science and Michelangelo and Da Vinci in art  Modern era starts with Descartes Early Life  1596-1650; was born in La Haye in Touraine, France  Liked mathematics o Found them pure due to certitude and evidence of reason  Travelled and ended up in Holland (1628-1649)  Discourse on Method (1637)  one of his most important books o “The method”: mathematical reason was the basis of all knowledge  Meditations on the First Philosophy (1641)  another important book of his  Died in Sweden The Method  “At one and the same time, mathematical, deductive, procedural, and rationalistic” 1. Mathematical o Invented “analytic geometry” – combining of geometry and algebra  Just three numbers could describe the location of a fly in the room o Attempting to invent a route to a unified theory of science 2. Logical o Believed that if you start with clear and simple truths, you could derive more complex truths by inference or deduction 3. Procedural o Provided rules for deduction  Never accept anything for true which you didn’t clearly know to be such  Divide each difficulty under examination into as many parts as possible  Complete easier difficulties first – rebuild in an organized fashion starting with the easiest problem and working your way up  Make numerations so complete and reviews so general you could make sure nothing was omitted 4. Rationalistic o Believed truth could be known through reason o Equalizer of all people- people are equal in their ability to reason  First deconstructionist o Doubt!  He applied his method to see what could be doubted and what could not o Cogito ego sum  “I think, therefore I am” (If I can think, then I must exist)  Cannot doubt the existence of his own mind as a thinking being Mind and Body and the Clockwork Organism  Dualism  Clear distinction between body and mind o Body is matter (extended substance: takes up space) o Mind is immaterial – not made of atoms, didn’t obey the laws of matter and did not have extension Mind  Invisible unity but have different functions  Functions include: o Desiring (motivation) o Feeling o Perceiving o Imagining o Above all, thinking (unique to mind)  Self as mind, not body  2 types of ideas: o Derived ideas: result of sensory experience – prone to error just like the senses are o Innate ideas: did not rely on sensory experience – the self, God, and the axioms of geometry  Proof of the existence of God o Imperfect beings could have perfect ideas (e.g., the perfect sphere) but an imperfect being could not possibly be the author of those perfect ideas – the author of the ideas must be perfect, and therefore God must be perfect o This must be true because God would never deceive us  Verity of innate ideas  Sensations don’t lie in objects, th
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