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Every single day stimuli of various forms bombard us. We hear cars being driven by, we see many people, feel the changes in the environment surrounding us, etc. however, how can we verify that we experience these stimuli? This question was asked by Rene Descartes about three hundred years ago. Is there anything existent in this world? Descartes came to a conclusion that his mind was real because he at least was thinking, which made him to say "Cogito ergo sum" meaning I think thus I am. In this essay, I will explain the deceiving tool of doubt and how Descartes arrives at his final position on what he does and does not know through his senses, and also discuss briefly Descartes’ theory and its alternative opinions.
Descartes is well known for his way of doubting the senses and removing all previously gained knowledge so as to be clear minded on what is actually true.
Descartes convinced himself that nothing existed in reality, “no bodies, earth, sky, minds” However, this wouldn’t make him nonexistent because he doubts, and there would be no doubting with no one to doubt (Descartes 17). The overall objective of Descartes in the meditations is to have knowledge questioned. To discover such metaphysics issues like the existence of God and separation of mind and body. It was necessary for him to differentiate what we know as truth. He had a belief that reason and not experience was the cause of discovering what is of total certainty.
The Descartes’ first meditation is the base of the rest. In this meditation, Descartes discerns between sheer opinion and strict certainty. To put that into consideration, he decides that he must first deal with the principles that supported everything he once believed. To make the consideration he uses a metaphor where he likens the beliefs to a building (Descartes 12). He says that our beliefs are foundational and give support to the other beliefs. The beliefs that are non foundational are conditional to foundational beliefs. This outlook of knowledge is called foundationalism.
If many mistakes are found within our beliefs building, it is possible that there is something erroneous with this foundation. This is the state Descartes found himself in. The only way of repairing a foundation is by destroying the whole building and then starting all over again. Descartes’ project was to bring down the whole building of his beliefs and as a result, the other beliefs built on that foundation would tumble with it, put a new foundation, and begin rebuilding allover again.
Descartes first examines the beliefs that need our senses; Empiricism – view that we obtain truth through senses. Descartes questions whether the senses that we have are the right indicators of what they symbolize. At this point, his goal therefore is to prove that this empiricism is an unreliable foundation for knowledge.
He uses doubt both as a tool to bring down the former building and to establish a new foundation which is totally stable and firm. To put to test the original foundation, Descartes comes up with three types of methodological doubt.