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A Meditation on Descartes Meditations In the Meditations Descartes a knowledge seeking journey to find the indubitable foundations for knowledge By subjecting everything to doubt Descartes hoped to discover whatever was immune to it In order to best understand how and why Descartes builds his epistemological system up from his foundations in the way that he does it is helpful to gain an understanding of the intellectual background of the 17th century that provided the motivation for his work We can separate three distinct influences on Descartes three conflicting world-views that fought for prominence in his day The first was what remained of the mediaeval scholastic philosophy largely based on Aristotelian science and Christian theology Descartes felt the force of skeptical arguments and while not being skeptically disposed himself came to believe that skepticism towards knowledge was the best way to discover what is certain by applying skeptical doubt to all our beliefs we can discover which of them are indubitable and thus form an adequate foundation for knowledge The third world-view resulted largely from the work of the new scientists Galileo Copernicus Bacon Descartes project then was to use the tools of the skeptic to disprove the skeptical thesis by discovering certain knowledge that could subsequently be used as the foundation of a new science in which knowledge about the external world was as certain as knowledge about mathematics It was also to tack shut the coffin of instruction but also arguably to show that God still had a vital role to play in the discovery of knowledge Meditation One describes Descartes method of doubt By its conclusion Descartes has seemingly subjected all of his beliefs to the strongest and most hyperbolic of doubts He invokes the nightmarish notion of an all-powerful malign demon who could be deceiving him in the realm of sensory experience in his very understanding of matter and even in the simplest cases of mathematical or logical truths The
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