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Descartes: True Belief And Knowledge Essay

3146 words - 13 pages

Descartes overall objective in the Meditations was to develop a system of true belief and knowledge. He starts with the assumption that the senses were false and anything interpreted by them was also false. This one statement disbands all the knowledge that we have ever learned. He traverses a process to set up a system by which knowledge could be gained, and this knowledge would be correct. The senses lie to us, reality could be our dreams, and material objects don't exist. . He rejects his senses, and replaces God with an Evil Genius. Once everything has been broken down, Descartes realizes he exists: "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes 66). With this affirmation comes the knowledge that God exists as a non-deceiver, the senses are not lying, and our world is not a dreamscape. With the senses true, material objects also now exist, and true belief with justification from the mind becomes knowledge.Descartes first examined those beliefs that required the senses. He established that we must first "attack those principles which supported everything I once believed"(Descartes 60). He questioned whether the senses were true indicators of what was perceived. One night Descartes had a dream that he was sitting near a fire and could feel its warmth wash over him. When he awoke he realized that the fire had not really existed, and therefore there was no warmth. Yet his senses had felt the warmth, and his eyes had seen the flames. Thus he concluded that the senses could be deceived and could in fact be transmitting false knowledge. He went further to insinuate that the world that we are in may not be real; it could in fact be a figment of our dreams. We therefore could be truly sure whether we are in a dream state or not, thus is the treachery of the senses.Descartes further made the hypothesis of "an evil genius, as clever and deceitful as he was powerful, who has directed his entire effort to misleading me"(Descartes 62). He believed that it could in fact be possible that there was no God, instead only this being that has control of him. He could in fact only be a brain that is being fed false information by this Evil Genius bent on deceiving him. By proposing this he was able to maintain that all his former beliefs were false and he was now ready to build his future evidence with confidence.In Meditation two, Descartes attempted to prove the idea that God must exist as a fabricator for the ideas assembled his first theory: the notion that Descartes truly existed. He deduced that if he could both persuade himself of something, and likewise be deceived of something, then surely he must exist. This self validating statement is known as the 'Cogito Argument' (Pitte 458). Simply put, it implies that whatever thinks also exists. Having established this, he asked himself: "What is this 'I' which necessarily exists?" (Descartes 65). He now began to explore his inner consciousness to find the core of his being. He argued that he was a "rational animal" for...

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