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In this essay I will examine Rene Descartes skeptical argument and responses by OK Bouwsma and Norman Malcolm I intend to prove that while both Bouwsma and Malcolm make points that refute specific parts of Descartes argument in their criticisms neither is sufficient in itself to refute the whole In order to understand Descartes argument and its sometimes radical ideas one must have at least a general idea of his motives in undertaking the argument The seventeenth century was a time of great scientific progress and the blossoming scientific community was concerned with setting up a consistent standard to define what constituted science Their science was based on conjunction and empirical affirmation ideally without any preconceived notions to taint the results Descartes however believed that the senses were unreliable and that science based solely on information gained from the senses was uncertain He was concerned with finding a point of certainty on which to base scientific thought Eventually he settled on mathematics as a basis for science because he believed mathematics and geometry to be based on some inherent truths He believed that it was through mathematics that we were able to make sense of our world and that the ability to think mathematically was an innate ability of all human beings This theory becomes important in Descartes Meditations because he is forced to explain where the mathematical ideas that he believed we were born with came from Having discussed Descartes background I will now explain the specifics of his argument The basis of Descartes entire argument is that the senses can not be trusted and his objective is to reach a point of certainty one undeniable truth that fixes our existence He said it best in his own words I will apply myself earnestly and openly to the general destruction of my former opinions1 By opinions he meant all the facts and notions about the world which he had previously held
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