Descartes Answers: Basic arguments

This page refers to the exercise on Descartes.

Descartes Basic Arguments


a. Why does Descartes think is necessary to doubt ALL of his opinions?

Descartes has learned from experience that some things he believed to be certainly true turned out to be false. This motivates the concern that many things he still holds to be certain could also be false. He thus determines to reject everything and rebuild the whole edifice of belief from the ground up.

b. Why should we not trust ANY belief that is acquired through the senses?
Descartes says that we should not trust anything that has deceived us even once. Since we know the senses sometimes deceive us, Descartes insists that we cannot trust any belief that was so acquired.

c. Why does Descartes continue to doubt sensory evidence even though he admits that this could be regarded a s a sign of insanity?

Descartes admits that he could not live a life while doubting his senses, but he sees that a conscious and active life is punctuated by sleep. In sleep, we continue to have mental experiences – dreams – and this raises the real question of how what is sensed during waking and what is sensed during dreaming can be distinguished. Dreams – or malicious demons – could produce sensory expriences that are every bit as real as those we have in waking life.

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