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The Significance Of The 'cogito' For Cartesian And Modern Philosophy.

2186 words - 9 pages

Descartes' 'Cogito' is regarded by many as the birth of modern philosophy. Descartes was born in on the cusp of 17th century in 1596 after the high renaissance had literally rebirth-ed the worlds of the arts, politics and science. Philosophy was largely untainted by this worldwide upheaval initially as medieval scholasticism was still the dominant system studied and taught. Philosophy's renaissance from scholasticism was to come with Descartes and his contemporaries when the European world was reflecting and analysing the new discoveries and achievements that had settled themselves into society.As a scientist, Descartes revolutionised geometry by solving geometrical problems by way of algebraic equations. He also wrote essays on optics, physics and meteorology. Descartes was part of a revolutionary breed of scientists and philosophers that subscribed to the now universally accepted view of a heliocentric Copernican model of the solar system. His early works on methodology were part of a wider movement to install the so-called Galilean World View as the wider accepted basis for science . Through Descartes and Galileo physics came to be written in the language of mathematics and geometry instead of the previous order of scholasticism. The Aristotelian Scholastic concept of nisus was rejected in favour of looking at natural phenomenon in terms of a nature like a mechanical machine. Descartes interest in the project of establishing a method for this new advancing science is one of the core motivations towards his work in epistemology and why he was orientated towards the rationalistic view that knowledge should have mathematical certainty.In the scholastic tradition Descartes reacted against it is assumed that the world is as we perceive it. Aristotelian-scholasticism explained phenomena in terms of qualities, causes and effects. Magnets attracting iron were explained in terms of the magnet having the quality of 'magnetism'. The cause of the 'magnetism' is the magnet. This form of circular causal reasoning would have had been insufficient for Descartes and it is in this context of a world that is founded on such archaic Aristotelian principles that he meditates the cogito. Descartes wanted knowledge derived from natural science to have the clear and distinct properties of mathematical and geometrical concepts.Descartes presents his method in The Meditations. In order to assess its importance to his own philosophy it is important to show how he arrives at the conclusion of the cogito.In order to build a proper epistemic approach to knowledge Descartes asks us to suspend our beliefs in propositions whose truth it is possible to doubt even in the slightest (not to necessarily prove them false) . As Descartes progresses through the first meditation our standards for accepting truth are raised ever higher as he demolishes the abilities of memory and the senses and even reason in this respect . He presents three sceptical arguments to fortify doubt, the...

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