Descartes Method to Overcome Skeptic

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					Descartes Method to Overcome Skepticism and Its Problems
(Tuesday, 16 May 2006) -

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 Method to Overcome Skepticism and Its Problems
 (By: Istasadhya)

 I. Introduction
The first
 phase of skepticism was revealed under the Pythagoras philosophy, which stated
 that there is no objective truth. The belief of religion was collapse; man searched
 for the truth by rely on their own logic, thus there was no truth outside human
 logic. Unfortunately, every man has his own understanding about the truth, further
 there were no absolute truth, the truth was depend on each man based on his
 own logic. Thus, truth was relative. There was no certainty. At that time came
 the survivor, the great philosopher, Socrates (470-399 BC). By his dialectics
 method, introducing that there is an objective truth. He tried to convince people
 to believe in religion as they used to be.
The second
 phase of skepticism, arose during the 10th-15th century, when philosophy was
 hegemonies by the Church authority. Philosophy as a science could not find its
 freedom to find the truth; the church authority limited its freedom only for
 a tool to legitimate of their Holy Book. All science should be based on the
 interpretation of the Holy Book, therefore if any science contrary or against
 the interpretation of the Holy Book, then the scientist or philosopher should
 be punished. It was ever happened to Copernicus and Galileo, whereas they asserted
 their ideas that it is earth which around the sun, and sun as the center of
 universe (heliocentric). In other words, the using of ratio is limited and undeveloped.
 It is absolutely clear such as in the Anselmus (1033-1109) philosophy. The typical
 of Middle age philosophy is known as in the famous word saying by Saint Anselmus,
 credo ut intelligam, means believing first then understanding. This
 type is absolutely different from rational philosophy, understanding first then
 believing or not believing.
This change
 in thoughts and beliefs and the toppling of the intellectual and philosophical
 foundation (of the Middle Ages) broad about psychological crises in many of
 the scholars, and raised doubts in their minds such as : How can we be sure
 that other beliefs we hold are not invalid, and that one day their invalidity
 will not become evident? How can we know that newly discovered scientific theories
 will not also be invalidated someday? Finally, a great scholars named Montaigne
 denied the value of science and knowledge and he explicitly wrote; how can we
 be sure that the theory of Copernicus will not be invalidated in the future?
 He once more expressed the doubts of the skeptics and the sophists in a new
 way, and defended skepticism, and thus another phase of skepticism appeared.

In the
 middle age, in Europe there was school of philosophy, the place where the only
 discussion taught in the church affiliated schools, and which came to be called
 scholastic philosophy, were these which could justify the dogmas of Christianity,
 dogmas which were not without deviation themselves. The dogmatic resistance
 of the Church and the ruthless behavior of the authorities of the Church with
 respect to the scientists brought about adverse reaction. The most important
 effort from skepticism and the revitalization of philosophy was Rene Descartes,
 the French philosopher who is called The Father of The Modern Philosophy.
The word
 Renaissance derived from The Renaissance, also known as " Rinascimento"
 (in Italian), was an influential cultural movement which brought about a period
 of scientific revolution and artistic transformation, at the dawn of modern
 European history. It marks the transitional period between the end of the Middle - ICAS                  Powered by Mambo                         Generated: 5 November, 2006, 14:32
Ages and the start of the Modern Age. The Renaissance is usually considered
to have originated in the 14th century in northern Italy and begun in the late
15th century in northern Europe.
The term
Rebirth (Rinascenza), to indicate the flourishing of artistic and scientific
activities starting in Italy in the 13th century, was first used by Italian
historian Giorgio Vasari in the Vite, published in 1550. The term Renaissance
is the French translation, used by French historian Jules Michelet, and expanded
upon by Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt (both in the 1860s). Rebirth is used
in two ways. First, it means rediscovery of ancient classical texts and learning
and their applications in the arts and sciences. Second, it means that the results
of these intellectual activities created a revitalization of European culture
in general. Thus it is possible to speak of the Renaissance in two different
but meaningful ways: A rebirth of classical learning and knowledge through the
rediscovery of ancient texts, and also a rebirth of European culture in general.
The following article is discussion about Descartes life and thought.


  2.1. Descartes life
  was born in a village near Tours in France in 1596. He was educated at a Jesuit
  college which was firmly grounded in the scholastic tradition, and by no means
  adverse to the study of either the humanities, or science. At the school he
  was given privileges similar to those enjoyed by boys of noble birth, but on
  the grounds of his fragile health. Descartes studied a broad range of subjects,
  and excelled particularly in mathematics. It is clear he benefited greatly from
  this Jesuit education, yet Descartes (in common with many intellectuals of his
  time) was keen to stress the separation of reason and faith. This meant that
  he could be skeptical concerning the philosophical and theological positions
  taken by the Church, while maintaining his Catholic faith. After taking a degree
  in law from Poitier, Descartes enlisted in the Dutch and, later, the Bavarian
  militaries. By 1619, under the influence of the Dutch mathematician and scientist
  Beeckman, Descartes began his exceptionally fertile mathematical studies of
  natural phenomena. Also around 1619, Descartes may have begun the unfinished
  Rules for the Direction of the Mind which was his first major philosophical
  treatise on the proper method for pursuing either science or rational theology.
  Over the next decade, Descartes alternated spending time in Paris with the circle
  of mathematicians and physicists gathered around the figure of Father Mersenne,
  and travelling widely. In 1629 Descartes moved to Holland where he lived in
  seclusion for 20 years, only occasionally returning to France, and changing
  his residence frequently to preserve his privacy.
 It was
  after he moved to Amsterdam that Descartes began working in earnest on the philosophical
  ideas upon which his fame now rests. The Discourse on the Method was
  published in 1637. And in 1640, he enlarged upon the metaphysical issues therein,
  writing his Meditations on First Philosophy. The full title of this
  work is Meditations on the First Philosophy: In Which the Existence of God
  and the Distinction Between Mind and Body are Demonstrated. The work was
  first published in 1641 in Latin and was translated into French in the following
  year by the Duc de Luynes. The Principles of Philosophy followed in
  1644. He went to Sweden on the invitation of the Queen in 1649, and died a few
  months later of inflammation of the lungs.
  Descartes Philosophy
  philosophys background came from the uncertainty situation that time.
  Scholastic thought, did not know how to handle the positive science which revealed
  by some scientists and philosophers. Seeing those situation he was encouraged
  to get free from the trap of the traditional thought and found out another new
  way of thinking. The following article will elaborate Descartes philosophy,
  mainly related to his epistemology. Descartes epistemology will be divided
  into three main parts: the quest for certainty, the certainty of existence, - ICAS                 Powered by Mambo                            Generated: 5 November, 2006, 14:32
 and the argument for existence of the external world.
 The Quest for Certainty
 point is proposing such a catastrophic test was not just to introduce doubts
 about everything: I did not imitate the Skeptics, who doubt only for
 the sake of doubting, and pretend that they are always uncertain. On the contrary,
 my purpose was only to obtain good ground for assurance for my self, and to
 reject the quicksand and mud so that I might find the rock or clay. Descartes
 was seeking an absolutely certain basis for all knowledge. To find strong basis
 for his philosophy, he started to doubt anything. He doubts all senses perceptions,
 he doubt the existence of his own body. To doubt all those things are possible,
 because there are dreams, illusion, imagination that as if there are exist.
 When we are dreaming, we see by our eyes that we wear a cloth, sitting by the
 fire and seems that it is real, but when we wake up then we know that we are
 not wearing any cloth and are not sitting by the fire. Thus, who can guarantee
 that what we perceive by our senses really real or exist? There is a real exact
 thing that can not be deceived by our senses or even by ghost, it is really
 real or exact that now I doubt . This is became his basis of
 philosophy. his principle may be summarized in his famous proposition:
 I doubt, therefore I am or I think, therefore I am or
 in Latin Cogito Ergo Sum that is, if one follows the way of
 doubt regarding the existence of everything, one will nonetheless never be able
 to doubt ones own existence. Since doubt is meaningless without one who
 doubts, the human existence of doubters and thinkers is also indubitable.

 2.2.2 The Certainty of Existence
In this
 manner Descartes carried on his test in search of some information which would
 be indubitable and certain. If could find such knowledge, he could use it as
 starting point for justifying the entire structure of human knowledge. Descartes
 found exactly the kind of certainty: I think, therefore I am
 why am I so certain that I think, therefore I am is true? According
 to Descartes, the only feature of this statement which convinces me that it
 is true, is that I clearly and distinctly see or understand, what is being said.
 Clarity and distinctness, must be the marks of truth, the distinguishing characteristics
 by which you can tell the true from the false. Then, general rule can be formulated,
  Whatever is clearly and distinctly conceived is true.
From doubting
 anything, he then came to one exact thing which is doubt itself. Doubt is the
 exact n exist thing, because nothing can deceive me who doubt. And the person
 who doubts must be also real and exist. So whoever doubt or think he must be
 real and exist. Finally he found that there is one truth, it is I doubt
 or think, therefore I am. I think, therefore I am is
 a clear and distinct proposition. We must warn against the fact that when Descartes
 began the demonstrative stage of his thought, he had not felt the need for accepting
 the syllogistic figures in logic. Rather, he believed that knowledge of his
 existence by way of his thought is an intuitive matter that does not require
 the construction of syllogistic figures and the acceptance of their minor and
 major premises. Since the proposition, I think, therefore I am
 is true because it is intuitive, such that it is not subject to doubt, anything
 of the same degree of intuitiveness is also true. With this, Descartes added
 another proposition, and admitted as true that a thing does not out of nothing.
 On Descartes official doctrines, ideas are innate insofar as their content derives
 from the nature of the mind alone, as opposed to deriving from sense experience.
 The innate ideas are:


       One truth which stands firm in the face of the storm and is unshaken by
       the tendencies of doubt- this truth being his thought, which is an indubitable,
       actual reality. - ICAS                     Powered by Mambo                       Generated: 5 November, 2006, 14:32

       The idea of God is an idea having an objective reality, since in its objective
       reality, it is superior to the human thinker and all his ideas. This is
       because the human thinker is deficient and limited; while the idea of
       God is the idea of a being absolutely perfect and infinite. Within this
       thinking self, Descartes an idea of God, and an idea of something so perfect
       that it could not have been caused in us by anything with less perfection
       than God Himself. From this he concluded that God must exist which, in
       turn, guarantees that reason can be trusted. Since we are made in such
       a way that we cannot help holding certain beliefs ( the so-called clear
       and distinct perceptions), God would be a deceiver, and thus imperfect,
       is such beliefs were wrong; any mistakes must be due to our misuse of
       reason. This is Descartes famous epistemological principle of clear
       and distinct perception. Thus the idea of God is a must.


       Extension. A matter as an extension as it is described by mathematician.

       Innate ideas are real primary qualities that express objective reality.

 The Argument For Existence of The External World
 We can
 be certain of our own existence, of God and of Gods guarantee that whatever
 is clearly and distinctly conceived is true. Mathematics knowledge is true but
 only gives us truth about concepts in our mind. There is truth outside our mind:
 since the belief in an external world is a natural one, God would be deceiving
 us unless it were true. Since God cannot be a deceiver, there must be an external
 physical world. The properties that we can safely attribute to it are those
 which we find in our clear and distinct ideas of body- namely, geometrical and
 arithmetical truth. Another argument for external physical world is:

    a. Sensation
     come to me in voluntarily (Im unaware of causing them with my will)
    b. Therefore,
     sensations are caused by something external to me
    c. Therefore,
     there exists something external to my mind-external world.

    Thus, it is clear that there is another existence outside mind, it is external
    material world. Nevertheless, Descartes regarding existence of the external
    world expresses specific reactions of the soul, cause by external influence,
    such as the idea of sound, odor, light, flavor, heat, and color. They are
    called secondary qualities that represent subjective reactions. They are successive
    mental concepts that arise in the mental realm due to the influence of external
    bodies to which they have no resemblance.

 epistemology is based on rational foundation. By using his ratio he searched
 for the truth, the knowledge. According to him, thought as an activity of thinking
 is the objective reality, there is no deception by which thought is a truth.
 I think, therefore I am is a starting point for Descartes to find
 the truth. Clear and distinct those are the requirements of finding the truth - ICAS                      Powered by Mambo                    Generated: 5 November, 2006, 14:32
 or the existence of a thing. Through these requirements, Descartes found any
 other truth that he called it as: Innate ideas. Innate ideas are objective realities
 since we conceive those ideas by our ratio, meanwhile the existence of the external
 world as subjective reactions since it is acquiring our senses. Descartes emphasizes
 his thought merely on logic, due to the using of ratio at that time was tightly
 limited. Nevertheless, Descartes himself cannot separate from the atmosphere
 of religion thought. Rationality foundation that he built to find the truth
 did not make him as a slave of ratio and neglecting the existence of God. In
 contrary, he tried to harmonize religion and ratio. He thought clearly and distinctly
 that there is impossible all existences came from nothing, as his famous proposition:
  A thing does not come out from nothing.


- As Sadr,
  M. Baqir. Our Philosophy. Qum: Ansariyan Publications, 2000

- Graid,
  Edward (ed). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (vol 3 and 8). New York:
  Routledge, 1998

- Hopkin,
  Richard H., et al. Philosophy Made Simple. Great Britain, 1979

- Huemer,
  Michel (ed). Epistemology. London: Routledge, 2002

- Praja,
  Juhaya S. Aliran-aliran Filsafat dan Etika. Bogor: Kencana, 2003

   Yazdi, M. Taqi Misbah. Philosophical Instructions. New York: Binghamton
   University, 1999

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