Professor R. Boeker
The Mind and the World
Due: October 18, 2013
Descartes presents three skeptical arguments in his meditations which shows he has reason to doubt all of his sensory beliefs. Descartes ultimately aims to free himself from all bad beliefs. His quest for certainty is driven from his belief that our belief system is built on a foundation of basic beliefs, that are not justified, in turn, causing him to believe that all his other beliefs are uncertain, as well. His method for achieving a system immune from errors is described in three steps from Meditation One. Descartes three skeptical arguments pose a few objections to the plausibility to each step.
Step one of Meditation One tells us to doubt everything that can be doubted deriving from our senses. Descartes argued that his senses have more than once deceived him, therefore he cannot completely trust his senses. Descartes method to construct an entirely new foundation to set his beliefs on, is called the method of doubt. The method of doubt suggest that in order to find out which beliefs are stable and which are not, we first have to pretend that everything we know is questionable. If Descartes can find any reason for doubt, regarding any of his beliefs, he will withhold assent and this will lead to finding secure foundations of knowledge. We cannot tell when our senses are correctly reporting truth or deceiving us. Just because some of our senses, such as our vision, hearing and touch, are mistaken, that is not reason enough to suspect all of them. The only reason we know that some of our experiences are wrong, is because we are able to realize after the event, that what we thought to be true, is actually wrong. However, Descartes argument seems unreliable when taken into context. To doubt our senses because they occasionally fail us would be like refusing to use safety ropes while climbing because they sometimes fail us.
Step two Descartes three skeptical arguments is called the Dream Argument, where Descartes argues if there is actually a way to distinguish dream from reality. How can one be sure that we are in fact not actually dreaming experiences of the world or that we are dreaming. Our dreams consist of things that we imagine are happening with the same sense of reality as when we actually are awake, making it hard to distinguish what experiences are real and which one of those that are not. With this theory, it is possible to doubt that any physical thing really exists, that there is an external world at all. Our dreams are all bizarre, and without second thought, we don’t even think it could be an illusion. However, when we are dreaming, our sense of the absurd is perfectly working and awake so we do know that what is happening is real. Also, when one is dreaming we experience mental pain, such as anxiety or pain, rather than physical pain. In a dream, you’ll never dream of extreme physical harm as you experience in waking reality...