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Rene Descartes And Rationalism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1296 words Published: 16th May 2017

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Rene Descartes’ method of doubt centers on destroying knowledge to reconstruct knowledge thus, gaining certainty. To do so, one has to first doubt everything. This in my opinion promotes a certain kind of disunity in the world of knowledge, thus leading to no definite knowledge. Descartes states that in order for man not to be deceived by the supreme and powerful being (the devil), man will have to doubt everything, to be more specific, doubt everything in the physical sense. Descartes emphasizes that the only thing true in the world is thinking. Indeed the senses tend to make mistakes, but Descartes fails to see that these mistakes have a possibility in helping man conform into the world of knowledge. The method of doubt downplays every aspect of success in the realm of knowledge.

There are several scientists who made scientific breakthroughs and contributions to the world of science by making these mistakes. This method of doubt is borderline pessimistic by nature. A mistake is in itself an error for man, but what Descartes fails to see is that these mistakes can help in making man better.

Certainty cannot be obtained by doubting everything. Rene Descartes fails to present an endpoint. Meaning, he doesn’t say when man has to stop doubting everything. Rene Descartes states “To conquer that habit, therefore, I had better switch right around and pretend (for a while) that these former opinions of mine are utterly false and imaginary.” He then states that he will stop doing so, until he finds a something that can counter-balance the weight of old opinion. All Rene Descartes does here is to present a means to an endpoint. But he never states what that endpoint is. Thus, rendering this kind of thinking unusable simply because one will never know when to stop doubting. The endpoint being certainty can also be doubted. This is because, how will one know that, that he is indeed nearing certainty or he has gotten to the truth. Rene Descartes offers absolutely no information whatsoever. All he does is again, state a means to an end.

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In Rene Descartes’ method of doubt the train of thought is always moving backwards. Backwards in the sense that in doubting everything, or by apparently destroying knowledge in order to reconstruct it, there is no sense of moving forward to certainty. The train of thought is always in the negative plain. In doing so, I’d like to point out, man cannot reach certainty or at least know when to stop destroying knowledge to reach that “certainty”, by doubting everything. There should be a means of moving forward to that certainty, but in doubting everything all you are doing is going back and in fact lowering the plane of knowledge by doubting it. “So what remains true? Perhaps just the one fact that nothing is certain?” In thinking like this, Rene Descartes disproves that the only thing he is trying to find.

In applying the method of doubt, I affirm that is indeed better to doubt something first before making a quick verification of something. In making a quick verification of things or in trusting your own senses quickly, at times you will err in doing so. But I would like to emphasize that I only affirm only until this aspect of Rene Descartes’ method of doubt. I believe it is in fact better to examine one’s senses first before making a quick conclusion. Rene Descartes was right in saying that your senses are not clear enough to prove things. There are indeed things that elude the senses of man. But insofar, as doubting to the very core, I believe that no one will actually reach certainty.

According to Rene Descartes, the only true science is mathematics. He states that, Mathematics is the only science that is indeed true. Insofar as certainty is concerned, there is no doubt that Mathematics is indeed certain in it’s plane of knowledge. But the certainty Mathematics emits is far different from the certainty we are looking for. Mathematics shows how the intellect can conform into something that is certain without the use of senses. But beyond that thinking, Mathematics is in no way useful. Mathematics as a starting point for reaching something that is certain outside numbers, will in no way bear any fruit. Mathematics is limited to the intellect. As far as certainty is concerned, it is indeed true. The big difference between Mathematics and all the other sciences is that, Mathematics is the only science that conforms to certainty. There is no way one can prove that 1 + 1 is not equal to two.

In applying Mathematics as the basis for the method of doubt, I deny that Mathematics is useful. The mode of thinking in Mathematics is far distinct than the thinking used in the method of doubt. Meaning, the thinking in answering the mysteries of the world, or in this case, whether or not everything is an illusion, is far different from the realm of knowledge in Mathematics. Even if Mathematics conforms into something that is certain, I believe that Mathematics is still not a viable science in knowing whether or not something is true this is because the method of doubt of Rene Descartes is quite complex. Mathematics should not be the central science simply because it is the only science that conforms into something that is certain.

Insofar as the statement “It’s not true if it’s not certain” is concerned, there is no way one can reach at something that is beyond probable and without dispute. This is because the method of doubt has no clear path to begin with. The path to certainty with the use of the method of doubt, ultimately leads to nowhere.

Furthermore, in the meditations, Rene Descartes emphasizes on doubting everything man sees because the devil works to deceive man. But I would like to point out, if man lives under these conditions, and supposing that there is indeed an entity that is out to trick man, man will not have a basis in understanding what is true. I believe man should never cower in fear of the unknown, and if a man does indeed doubt everything for the sole reason that there is an entity out to deceive man rather man should rise from this thinking and think accordingly.

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When someone is the author of his own thoughts and that author of thoughts is indeed wrong in something. I would like to argue that it is not because a supreme powerful being deceived that author of thoughts rather it is a mistake because of ignorance. The author of thoughts simply did not know what that thing is. It is not because of some supreme powerful deceiver rather the author of thoughts deceived himself because of his lack of knowledge. Mistakes in general happen because of a lack of knowledge.

In conclusion, I believe Rene Descartes’ method of doubt is in fact useful only to a certain extent, but anywhere beyond it is downright absurd and a danger to the thinking of man. Certainty cannot emerge from doubt simply because in doubting everything, you also doubt truth as well. And in doubting “truth” or finding the real truth it beats the purpose of using the method of doubt of Rene Descartes. On Mathematics, I believe that Mathematics cannot be used as the central science in the method of doubt simply because it is the only science that conforms to something that is certain. And lastly, the method of doubt does not show any sign of an “answer” or a basis of what is true, rather all it states is to doubt everything until man reaches that very truth. Meaning, man will ultimately continue to doubt everything he senses without a limit. In doing so, if man does indeed doubt without a cause, I see no point in using the method of doubt.


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