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Descartes: Knowledge Is Truth Essay

1410 words - 6 pages

Descartes: Knowledge is Truth
With the emergence of the scientific revolution in the 17th century, views of society and nature were transformed throughout Europe. There were great developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology, and chemistry. The world and its views were changing, and with that change, came a new change in thought, a new change in philosophy. Apart from ancient Greek philosophy, which was centered on finding order in a vast variety of things by searching for a fundamental amalgamating principle, Descartes sought to establish order via some fundamental division. Descartes understands and expresses that what we know about our mind is more definite than what we know about the world outside our mind. Descartes’ philosophy is completely different from that of the Greeks, where it is not about a fundamental principle, but about a fundamental knowledge.
Descartes’ examination of knowledge and where it comes from ultimately leads him to a new belief on how knowledge is acquired. Apart from previous beliefs, that knowledge comes to us through sense perception, Descartes argues that this is not the case, as instead knowledge comes to us only through applying pure reason. Descartes dismisses the notion that our senses give us knowledge because to Descartes our senses give us accidental qualities of things. In other words, we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste things the way “they are” in relation to our human body. Our senses are different than those of other animals; therefore we cannot fully rely on our senses to give us the information we need. Descartes’ famous saying, “cogito ergo sum,” is a conclusion that he reached “a priori” and not through his senses or experience. For Descartes this was an essential principle from which all other knowledge be grounded. Descartes distinguishes between the human body and the mind, the difference between the “res extensa” and the “res cogitans.” Descartes stresses that as infants we only relied on our senses and our body, therefore we have these preconceived notions towards the world. These preconceived notions keep us from “the knowledge of the truth” (Descartes 193). In order to access the truth, we must doubt everything. Doubting everything will lead to the distinction between mind and body. Once you recognize that distinction, you will recognize that “neither extension nor shape nor local motion, nor anything of this kind which is attributable to a body, belongs to our nature, but that thought alone belongs to us” (195). This thought that we have produces ideas, and these ideas are given to us by God, they are innate. Since God gave us this “faculty for knowledge […], it can never encompass any object which is not true” (203). For we are able to see the truth clearly and distinctly this way. Descartes argues that God would be a deceiver if what he gave us was able to be distorted and that we can mistake what is false as true. This is not the case, because God is not a deceiver....

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