● STAGE SETTINGS
○ Realized that he had some false beliefs, had been drawing conclusions from those
○ Should “raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original
foundations.” (p. 59)
○ Did not have time until now
● WHY QUESTION YOUR OWN BELIEFS?
○ Has has been wrong before. He has made mistakes. His beliefs have turned out to
○ He inherited many beliefs from others, without knowing they are true. Tradition is
not a good basis for believing something
● QUESTIONS OF FOUNDATIONS
○ Are all of my beliefs well founded? Do I have a solid basis for believing they are
true? What makes me so certain they are true?
○ It would be inefficient if I went through each and every belief that I happened to
○ I need to get at the “basic principles” that support my beliefs
○ Method of “razing everything to the ground” in order to see whether there is
anything left standing
○ To instill doubt
○ Target is not just beliefs that are false, but beliefs that can be doubted
○ What we can doubt, we will dismiss as false
○ Descartes is not necessarily a skeptic. He is not defending the view that we can’t
know anything for sure
■ Used skepticism in order to find out whether we can know anything for
● POSSIBILITY OF DOUBT
○ Highly probable
■ Many beliefs that are probably true
■ If we can imagine a scenario in which they turn out to be false, we can
■ If we can doubt them, we will dismiss them as false
■ Requires unshakeable certainty, beyond all doubt
● Knowledge = certainty beyond all doubt
● THE SENSES ○ Where do most of our beliefs come from? Why do we believe what we do? Why
do we believe that we are sitting in this auditorium?
■ Many of our beliefs are derived from the senses
○ Are the senses a good basis for believing things?
○ The senses are sometimes deceptive
■ ex) hallucinations in the desert, planets are closer than they really are
○ Does that mean that my senses could be deceiving me all the time?
○ Can I doubt that I am sitting here (in my winter dressing gown, holding this sheet
of paper in my hands)?
○ To doubt that would be madness. Only insane people can doubt all of their sense
■ Believing they are made of glass/heads made out of clay, etc.
○ But when I dream, I experience the very things that insane people experience
○ Right now it doesn’t seem to me like I’m dreaming. But sometimes while I’m
dreaming, I also think I’m wide awake
○ “As I consider these matters more carefully, I see so plainly that there are no
definite signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep.
● DREAM ARGUMENT
○ Assume I am currently dreaming
○ This would mean I am not sitting in my study, next to the fireplace
○ What would have to be true, even if I am currently dreaming?
○ I couldn’t have fabricated everything in my dream
● CONCLUSION OF THE DREAM ARGUMENT
○ Even if I am dreaming some things would have to be true
○ Corporeal nature (shape of bodies) would have to be true
○ Whether or not I am awake or