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Descartes' Method of Hyperbolic Doubt

This week, we will discuss and assess our excerpts from Descartes's

First Meditation.

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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