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Rene Descartes has been dubbed the father of modern Western philosophy. He was born in France 1596 to a mom who died shortly after birth and a father who was a member of parliament. Descartes was not expected to survive, but he did, growing up to live with his gramma and great uncle. He was educated in accordance to his father’s wishes that he become a lawyer. He gave it up though in his desire to travel and pursue a life in the military. Overtime he pursued mathematics and physics.
His basic premise:
November 1619 Descartes shut himself in a room with an “oven” to escape the cold. While within, he had three dreams and believed that a divine spirit revealed to him a new philosophy. He formulated analytical geometry and had the idea of applying mathematics to philosophy. He decided that the study of science would lead him to true wisdom and that all truths were linked together. All he needed to do was discover the basic truth. This basic truth for Descartes was “I think, therefore I am.”
The process of his thinking is this
An evil demon may be making me believe things that are false.
There is nothing of which I can be certain.
But when I say “I am; I exist”, I cannot be wrong about this.
An evil demon could try to make me believe this only if I REALLY DO exist.
I am thinking, therefore I exist.
His goal was to remove skepticism from the field of scientific inquiry. He uses “the method of doubt” where we start off doubting everything… that the world itself could be an illusion, and we can’t trust our senses, meaning that we are constantly deceived, and that perhaps we all just in reality dreaming. Hence the idea there is a powerful demon bent on deceiving us. So if a demon could be trying to deceive us we need to ask if it’s possible and if so, to set aside what we might want to believe. This leads him to discover the one thing he can’t fool himself about…. his own existence!
“The demon could only make him believe that he exists if he does in exist; how can he doubt his existence unless he exists in order to do the doubting.” Therefore the end result is “I think, therefore I am.” This is as far as he can go with the first certainty. With this certainty, helping people see from their own perspective, that they exist. Removing all doubt, and helping them reach their own conclusion of their own reality.
Seeking after truth:
As I was going through the basics of what Descartes thought, it struck me that he postulates that some demon is doing his very best to deceive him. Because of this deception, Descartes needed to figure out what truth, what absolute truth could he believe without fail. To him it meant that if he thinks, he exists. There can be no deception in that very basic premise.
It strikes me so true … because Satan is known as The Deceiver. It’s what he does. He deceives people all the time, trying hard to convince them that there is no God. He finds ways to turn our hearts away from God. Descartes had an inkling of this fact. I find it unfortunate that in his thought process he couldn’t figure out the absolute truth of God being at the centre of it all. He put himself at the centre.
Want to think on this a bit more? Consider pulling up my printable to help you in your thinking.