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Descartes' Method of Hyperbolic Doubt
This week, we will discuss and assess our excerpts from Descartes's
Specifically, address in as much detail and clarity as possible the following
- Hyperbolic doubt: At the beginning of the First Meditation,
Descartes announces that he seeks "to set aside all the opinions which I had
previously accepted" (p. 177). Why does Descartes wish to do this? Do you
consider his reasons for doing this reasonable? Why or why not? Do you consider
his epistemological project important? Why or why not?
- The testimony of our senses: The first doubt that Descartes
discusses focuses on the idea that our senses occasionally mislead us. What
conclusions does Descartes draw from this? Do you agree with his line of
thought? Why or why not?
- The dream argument: Descartes' celebrated dream
argument--located in the fourth paragraph of our excerpt--ends with the
conclusion that there exists no test that one can use to determine whether or
not he is dreaming. Why exactly does Descartes believe this? (HINT: For any
possible test, could it be the case that we merely dream that we perform that
test?) Do you think that Descartes' reasoning about this is correct? If not,
please identify exactly where his errors lie.
Discussion must be at least 250 words, but may go longer depending on the
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