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Descartes Vs. Peirce On Knowledge Essay

1168 words - 5 pages

Knowledge according to Merriam- Webster’s dictionary is “acts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education.” Rene Descartes saw knowledge being attained through deductive logic and would disagree with this definition. Charles Peirce’s pragmatic approach on the other hand is the reason we have that definition.
Rene Descartes believed that by ridding himself of all prejudice & prejudgments and doubting everything including his senses, body, and all his previous experiences based on a mathematical approach was how humans can know about the natural world. Rather than going out into the world to find knowledge, Descartes wants us to think and go deeper within ...view middle of the document...

” Instead of creating a new method, the way Descartes did, Peirce applied the scientific method. He used what is already known and from that information formed a hypothesis. Peirce, unlike Descartes is not searching for an absolute theoretical truth, because he has given up the idea of absolute truth. He understood knowledge as coming from experience. To know is to grasp independent reality through the senses or by experience. Peirce would like us to make the distinction between a principle that can't be doubted and one that isn't doubted. Whereas Descartes wants us to go deeper within ourselves, rather than in the world; Peirce wrote, “That the mind of man is strongly adapted to the comprehension of the world, " and that there is a total harmony between man and world.
Descartes shows that no “sense experience”, independent concept, or arbitrary judgment can furnish knowledge other than that which is “clearly and indubitably perceived” by the mind. (Fourth Meditation) Descartes expands on this when he tells us we exist with a mind though we may still be in error of our judgments. From this, Descartes formed the deductive “cogito,” “I think, therefore I am.” Testing the cogito by means of methodic doubt is supposed to reveal its unshakable certainty. Descartes believed the existence of our bodies are subject to doubt, however, the existence of our thinking is not. First person formulation is essential to the certainty of this cogito. Hyperbolic doubt can only have a chance at resting through the occurrence of our own thoughts as individuals. The certainty of the cogito depends on being formulated in terms of our own thinking, and awareness/consciousness. In his second meditation, Descartes describes “any mode of thinking as sufficient; including doubting, affirming, denying, willing, understanding, imagining, and so on.” (cf. Med. 2, AT 7:28) However, our non thinking activities, such as walking, Descartes believes are insufficient, because methodic doubt calls us to question the existence of our legs. Descartes has his mediator say, “And yet may it not perhaps be the case that these very things which I am supposing to be nothing [e.g., “that structure of limbs which is called a human body”], because they are unknown to me, are in reality identical with the “I” of which I am aware? I do not know, and for the moment I shall not argue the point, since I can...

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