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Descartes and Rational

Knowledge

Doubting Your Own Mind


Dreams, Demons and Deception
Proofs for the Existence of God
and the Human Soul
The Problem of Certainty

We seem to be certain about many things.


Your eye color.
What kind of car you drive.
What you had for dinner last night.
If you are male or female.
That you are in class right now.
The Problem of Certainty

But we know that we often turn out to be


wrong.
Are there some things that we simply can’t
be wrong about?
What kinds of things and Why?
Perhaps the best we can do is say…”I don’t
have certainty, but I’m reasonaby sure of X.”
The Problem of Certainty
Well…For philosophers,
That’s not really good enough.

We want…
ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY!

But is that really


Possible?!?
Rene
Descartes
1596-1650
*Born in France
*Lived in the Netherlands
*Wrote on Physics,
Mathematics and Biology
*Cartesian Coordinates
*You already know much
more about Descartes
than you think!!
Descartes Project…
Knowledge needs a foundation
The Method of Doubt
Treat all beliefs that are not absolutely
certain as if they were false—don’t rely
on them.
Try to determine if there is anything
that can be known with absolute
certainty, any belief that is immune to
doubt.
“Indubitable”
Doubting
You don’t need to go through all your
beliefs one by one to see if they are
doubtful.
You can show a belief is doubtful if you
can show that its source is unreliable
What sources do we use to form our
beliefs?
Doubting
Much of our knowledge depends on external
sources like friends, family, teachers,
textbooks, newspapers, etc…
Second-hand sources
Are there reasons not to consider these
sources reliable and trustable?
The Problem of Certainty
But these sources are not how we form
most of our beliefs.
Our most common source is our own
experiences.

We think the senses put us


in direct connection to the external
world.
Reason for Doubt?
You might be surprised!

First, because of the physical


makeup of our eyes, men cannot
see as many shades of color as
women.
Second, the lighting conditions
might affect your perception of
the color.
Third, we extend our perception
more than we
should……..Example…….
Do You see
Movement?
Small to Tall??????
Cheating
Boyfriend?

Nope!!!
Senses Easily Fooled
Senses Easily Fooled
Reason for Doubt?
You might be surprised!
Do You see
Movement?
The Senses Deceive Us!!
The Senses Deceive Us!!
The Senses are Unreliable!!
Seeing

Sensory
Feeling Perception Hearing

Tasting
Doubting the Senses
Descartes on the reliability of the
senses…
“The senses deceive from time to time,
and it is prudent never to trust wholly
those who have deceived us even once”

The Liar example.


The Senses Deceive Us!!
I’m sure I’m in Class now! 
The Dream Argument

“When I consider this carefully, I find not a single


property
which with certainty separates
the waking state from the dream.
How can you be certain that your
whole life is not a dream?”
Unreliable Sources
Second
hand/External
Sources

Reasons for doubting


the sources of our
beliefs.
First Hand Unreliable!
Experience

Don’t know if we
are dreaming or
not. Possibility. Not Probability
But what about math and
geometry?
Surely, it is impossible to be wrong about
these things, right?

2+3=5
Evil Genius Argument

There may exist an all-powerful being who is dedicated to causing


me to error in even the simplest tasks…for instance when I add two
and two or count the sides of a triangle. I can not yet suppose
that such a being does not exist.
The Problem of Certainty
There has to be something that we can
know with certainty.
Internal Sense Propositions

ISP’s are statements about your own internal


mental states.
“I have a headache.” “I feel cold.” “I’m
hungry.” “I’m thinking about ice cream.”
Is there any possibility that you could be
wrong about those things?? Seems not.
So we can’t know
ANYTHING???
Descartes’ Famous Argument

No Material
Body
Deceived by
Evil Genius
I might be
dreaming
My Senses
may be
wrong But, Even if all those things
were true, there would still
be something I could be
absolutely, 100% certain
about……….
Being Deceived

I Think. Therefore I am!

Doubting

Dreaming

I Company LOGO
Must Exist!
-Descartes and Plato-
Rationalists
What makes us “us”?

Dualism – Two Substances


Materialism – One substance (matter)
So, we are thinking things.
What is the self or mind?
Just what is this thing that thinks?
Descartes says…I’m not sure, but we
can now reason to a second truth…
The mind is distinct from the body.
Here is his argument #1…
We can’t have We can have
certain
certain
knowledge
knowledge Epistemic
about the
Argument
about the body. mind.

It follows necessarily from this


The that the mind and the body
Soul must be two different things
(substances).
Here is his argument #2…
The Body can The mind can
be divided not be divided
spatially
Metaphysical
Argument
spatially

It follows necessarily from this


The that the mind and the body
Soul must be two different things
(substances).
We now have proof that there
are two kinds of substances
Proofs for the existence of
God
Descartes offers three.*
Ideas can have three
possible sources:

Adventitious Invented Ideas


Innate Ideas
Ideas (Imagined)
(In-Born)
(Caused by
external source)
#1 Proof through formal and
efficient cause.
Any effect can only contain as much
objective reality as can be contained in the
cause.
We have within us the idea of a perfect being.
(that’s an effect)
Since we are imperfect beings, we cannot
have been the author of this idea.
This cannot be an invented idea.
Therefore there must be a cause whose
being includes perfection.
Therefore, God Must Exist.
#2 Argument from First Cause
Nothing that is natural can be created Ex Nihilo.
Every thing in nature was brought into existence by
some natural cause which necessarily preceded it.
An infinite regression of causes is impossible. There
must be a starting point.
There must be one being which caused itself to
come into being.
This being must necessarily be supernatural.
Therefore… there exists at least one supernatural
being with power to create itself and nature.
Therefore, God Exists.

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