What I Need
DESCARTE: SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE
Rene Descartes, a 17th century French philosopher believed that the origin of knowledge comes from within the mind, a single indisputable fact to build on that can be gained through individual reflection. His Discourse on Method (1637) and Meditations (1641) contain his important philosophical theories. Intending to extend mathematical method to all areas of human knowledge, Descartes discarded the authoritarian systems of the scholastic philosophers and began with universal doubt. Only one thing cannot be doubted: doubt itself. Therefore, the doubter must exist. This is the kernel of his famous assertion Cogito, ergo sum (I am thinking, therefore I am existing). From this certainty Descartes expanded knowledge, step by step, to admit the existence of God (as the first cause) and the reality of the physical world, which he held to be mechanistic and entirely divorced from the mind; the only connection between the two is the intervention of God.
In the first meditation he casts doubt on the previous foundations of knowledge and everything he has learned or assumed. He stated \"But reason now persuades me that I should withhold assent no less carefully from opinions that are not completely certain and indubitable than I would from those that are patently false.\" In order to evaluate and discern what is actually true he divides the foundations of knowledge into three sources: the senses, reality, and context.
In the second meditation he has found one true fact, \"I think, therefore I am\". Descartes then attempts to discover what this \"I\" is and how it perceives reality. The \"I\" is a body, a soul, and a thinking thing. It gains perception and recognition through the senses, the imagination, and the mind. He runs into two major problems in these meditations. The first was the existence of reality. The second is the connection between body and mind as he defines them.
Descartes is clearing away all knowledge that can be called into doubt. By doing this he hopes to create something real and lasting in the sciences, a foundation to build on. This indisputable fact will become the starting point or origin of all other true knowledge he can build upon it. He starts the first argument by attacking the very beginning of knowledge, human senses. Descartes states, \"Surely whatever I had admitted until now as most true I received either from the senses or through the senses.\" Anyone will admit that their senses have deceived them at least once. According to Descartes it is a mark of prudence never to place our complete trust in those who have deceived us even once. However, something seen from a distance is much more easily mistaken than something seen up close. The senses show us some things more clearly than others.
Descartes then compares the average mind to that of the insane. Insanity, he defines as those who doubt what is obvious to the senses. From this perspective we must give our senses some credit, otherwise we could not function in reality. At this point Descartes questions how we can know that the reality we perceive is true. He likens it dreaming \"How often does my evening slumber persuade me of such ordinary things as these: that I am here, clothed in my dressing gown, seated next to the fireplace-when in fact I am lying undressed in bed!\" Stated in premise form it is shown as follows:
There is no way to distinguish between being awake and asleep. Perhaps, even now we are dreaming, this not my body, and I am not writing this paper for philosophy but I am really lying in bed somewhere sleeping. However, dreams are based on reality. Whether this hand is real or dreamed, it is my hand, and it exists somewhere. Also, certain things are true in any context. Two plus three equals five and in no context can it be said to be untrue. The power to distinguish cannot be called into doubt as long as we hold that there is a reality whether we perceive it or not. This brings up the question, does there exist a true reality. Assuming that there is a God, he is all powerful, and created this