Summarization of Rene Descartes' Epistemology (Cogito Ergo Sum)

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15 Dec 2010
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Cartesian Epistemology
FOREWORD (what lecture 20-21 are about)
In the Meditations, Descartes wants to lay a foundation of things we know for sure. He starts off by
discarding anything we cant currently be absolutely sure of (wipes the slate clean, so to speak).
This is considered by some the foundation of modern scepticism.
FORMATION OF NOTHINGNESS
Descartes uses three arguments to get us into a state of no knowledge whatsoever. He uses three
arguments to take away our senses, our body and external world, and finally even our logic. These
arguments are the argument from sensory error, argument from dreaming, and the evil deceiving demon
hypothesis arguments, respectively.
Argument from sensory error
Very simple, just think that your senses are not 100% reliable; most people have experienced their senses
deceiving them at least once. Descartes believes that if your senses (or anything for that matter) can
deceive you once, you have reason to believe that they can deceive you again, and by extension, deceive
you every time. He thus concludes that the senses are an unreliable source of knowledge.
Argument from dreaming
Descartes recalls a dream where he was sitting by the fireplace and could feel the warmth of the flame
touching his skin. Shortly after, he woke up, only to realise he was not by the fireplace, instead he was
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Document Summary

In the meditations, descartes wants to lay a foundation of things we know for sure. He starts off by discarding anything we can"t currently be absolutely sure of (wipes the slate clean, so to speak). This is considered by some the foundation of modern scepticism. Descartes uses three arguments to get us into a state of no knowledge whatsoever. He uses three arguments to take away our senses, our body and external world, and finally even our logic. These arguments are the argument from sensory error, argument from dreaming, and the evil deceiving demon hypothesis arguments, respectively. Very simple, just think that your senses are not 100% reliable; most people have experienced their senses deceiving them at least once. Descartes believes that if your senses (or anything for that matter) can deceive you once, you have reason to believe that they can deceive you again, and by extension, deceive you every time.

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