Rene Descartes, a French philosopher in the 1700’s was known for being extremely skeptical and sought to answer highly abstract philosophical questions on the basis of Aristotle’s teachings. He sought to obtain a stock of things that are absolutely evident. To do this he underwent training now titled Descartes meditation. “I freed my mind of all cares, secured for myself a period of leisurely tranquillity, and am withdrawing into solitude” (Descartes, Meditations p.
18). This basically meant he made a complete reset of his way of thinking in order to answer a “how do I know what I know paranoia”. In life we learn to realize that things we believed to be real and true can actually be false; for example Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Realizing this caused Descartes to become a skeptic philosopher because when we believe Santa Claus was bringing us gifts, we did not know it was false. With this mindset, he also concluded that there must be things that he believed which are actually false and he does not know it yet. This left him faced with skeptic thoughts if his current beliefs were true.
So in order to clear his doubt, he utilized meditation and began to believe everything in order systematically analyze everything one by one in order to prove its truth. He explained this the analogy of a basket of apples. With a basket full of apples (his beliefs) there are some that are molded (beliefs which are false) so in order to segregate the contaminated apples he throws them all on the floor and inspects each apple individually. This is a gist is what he does in his meditation. His process of meditation can be dissected into three stages in which he disbelieves everything; rejecting sense perceptions, rejecting dreams, and rejecting malicious demons. In the arduous task, he examined each belief and only accepted the ones that can hold no doubt so he knew he was only believing true thingsIn the first stage, Descartes withdraws all of his empirical beliefs, which come from experience such as sight, feel, taste, sound, and smell because our sense fails us all the time.
He states “if you have once been deceived by your senses, then you should always be skeptical of them.” I found this to be such a surprise but if smelled bacon in the morning I knew it was bacon in the morning or if I touch a cup of hot coffee I’ll know the coffee is hot. However this is not always the case, he argues in the example of viewing a tower from Kilometers away to perceive it has a round shape, but then upon closer examination, realize that it embodies a square shape. His example showcases that even though your senses corrected themselves it also made a mistake and that holds enough grounds to become a skeptic.Following into the second stage Descartes rejects the belief that your own actions held validation because when he is dreaming, everything that is not real appears to be real.
Another perspective of this can be related to the Matrix movies in which humans live in their dreams and not a real world due to a world crisis. In this instance we experience a dream which we believe is real but when we wake up we can come into the realization that it was actually false. Similar to the realization of our sense when inputted into a different situation. In the final stage he rejects the evil demon. This stage was complicated to comprehend because it ties into religion and the belief of God. In the world filled with skepticism he believe that every person was planted with globally false beliefs simply because there was no way to prove otherwise, however Descartes had faith that it was not God’s work for he was benevolent and that he would not do such a thing. This left the option that someone else had to be planting false information who he labeled as an evil demon.
This meant that this evil mastermind would keep us in radical skepticism – the philosophical position that knowledge is most likely impossible. Meaning that this demon could implant false information in our minds we believe to be true but are in fact false and we would know that because we would be trapped in an illusion. However after much time scrutinizing for an answer he came upon the truth “cogito ergo sum”. He came into the realization that he is a thinking thing thus debunking the evil demon who would plant lies. I think I can relate to being a skeptic since I often find myself questioning what I know due to my inability to understand something.
Specifically I am skeptic in our individual power of free will and thinking. I am a Catholic so I believe in Jesus Christ and the major theme to almost any religion is to have the utmost faith because God has plan for each and every single person on this Earth. He is all powerful and created us so he knows exactly what we are going to do, however he tests his children to follow the path that is righteous in order to reach heaven. We practice prayers and worships in order to show love and praise; which is our choice however is it really our choice if God already knows what decisions we will make. Because if God has a plan for us do we really make any choices since our fate was always pre determined.
So then do we actually live life and is our entrance to heaven and hell already predetermined at birth. This is a gap that I still seek to personally understand and hope to find an answer in.