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Introduction to Descartes

Rationalist: aims to base all knowledge on reason, not on sense

Foundationalist: he aims to base his knowledge on certain,
selfevident beliefs, so that there is not an infinite regression of

Key influences:

Sceptics: prominent during Descartes time. They believed that nothing was certain.


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Senses: Descartes knows that his senses have sometimes deceived
him. As it is `prudent to never truth those who have once deceived us'
he will not trust his senses.

For instance, a tower in the distance may look square, but on
closer inspection it is found to be round.


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(cogito ergo sum). He changed from `I think therefore I am' to `I am, I exist,' because his original
statement was an enythmatic deductive syllogism, meaning that it has a missing premise:

1. (All thinking things exist)
2. I think
3. Therefor I am

This missing premise would be `all…

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Meditation 3

So far Descartes is certain of himself as a thinking thing, `res
cogitans'. He also has his general rule that, `all things
conceived clearly and distinctly are true.'

The Cartesian Circle: One of Descartes' greatest errors is
that he changes from claiming that the knowledge of his own…

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Also he realised that some would ask why it cannot be our parents who created us. However,
Descartes argues that this would lead to an infinite regression of causes, so there must be a first
cause which is God.

If someone argued that he has not proven why there must…

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God's essential quality of existence is inseparable from his essence.

For example, the idea of a mountain cannot exist without
the idea of a valley.

Criticisms of the ontological argument: Gaunilo objected
to Descartes' argument and said that according to this
reasoning anything which we conceive as perfect must

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these ideas must have come from the objects themselves. However, this relies on God not being a

Perceptions: Descartes is a representative realist, so he claims that objects have the essential
characteristics of flexibility, malleability and extension, and these cause us to experience the
secondary properties of colour, shape…


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