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Assess Descartes Method of Doubt
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DescriptionAssess Descartes Method of Doubt: Discussion of Descartes first mediation
Descartes opens the “First Meditation” with his purpose, his purpose being “to establish something firm and constant in the sciences”. He says that in order to do this he must rid himself of all former opinions and start afresh from the foundations. He believes that everything he knew up until now was in fact false. Initially what Descartes is trying to say makes a lot a sense. If you think back to the 17th century when Descartes wrote the first mediations there were many revelations happening. It wasn’t that long after the time when people still believed the world to be flat. So I can appreciate that Descartes didn’t have must faith in what he deem to be true and correct.
However, to say that you are going to disregard and discredit everything you know and start again from scratch seem like an impossible task in my opinion. His purpose was to establish something firm and constant in the sciences so surely he needed his former knowledge as a guideline as to what is plausible and what is not. To expect a person to be able to rid themselves of everything they know just seems unrealistic. Its goes against human nature. To be truly rid of a former belief the brain needs evidential proof because there will always be a niggling doubt as to whether you are right are not, so as a consequence the former knowledge or belief isn’t truly eradicated. There has to be proof first.
Having said that, I can still relate to Descartes purpose and understand the logic behind it. If only he were more realistic and practical with what he was trying to do. If he were to just make the point that he must be aware of the former knowledge and take it in to consideration that is likely to be false then his purpose would stand a lot more ground.
Descartes then goes on to set a standard. This is where I completely disagree with what Descartes has to say. In his standard he says that if there can be any doubt at all in a proposition at all then it will not serve as a foundation. It is not certain so therefore he will reject it. What Descartes is trying to say is that he mustn’t be deceived by things that are not entirely true. It doesn’t matter how big an argument is, if there is any doubt in the argument at all he will reject it altogether.
Here, yet again, I can see where Descartes is coming from with this, but it just seems so cut and dry. I know that he is trying to establish something credible and firm in the sciences and that whatever arguments he put forward has to be nearly 100% flawless, but to reject a theory because of the slightest doubt is just ludicrous.
It’s the same with anything new you try. At first there will always be weakness, doubts and problems but over time these are worked on and made stronger or eradicated. If we where to reject everything we found a slight fault and doubt with we wouldn’t get anywhere. I would be very surprised if Sir Isaac Newton theory on the “Law of Gravity” was 100% correct first time round. I’m sure that he would have had an element of doubt and uncertainty in his theory but over time his theory has been proved to be correct. If Sir Isaac Newton’s had taken the same critical attitude as Descartes in his standard then were would we all be today in terms of scientific progress? Not every far!
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