W2 Discussion 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 questions:

  • 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.

Must be 75 to 150 words, but may go longer depending on the topic

 
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