HCCC Philosophy Descartes’ Philosophy Discussion

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Your essay should be approximately 500 words. This gives you an idea of the length I expect, but I don’t count words or pages. Write the best essay that you can. Answer all topics and questions (they are in bold). Please type your essay in MS Word and send it to me by email attachment. Please don’t use any other word processing programs, because I may not be able to open them. Your essay should be double-spaced, with margins about 1 inch all the way around. I do expect that you will proofread your essay and correct typos and grammatical errors.

As I mentioned about other assignments, this is not a research project. I strongly recommend again that you do not search online for help in writing this essay. Most of what is online is either junk or simply not relevant for us. I have designed this assignment so that you need only consult our reading and my notes on the chapter in order to write a fine essay. If you have any questions, just ask me.


1. What is the problem of foundations for science and knowledge in Descartes’ philosophy?

2. Descartes’ method of doubt is to treat as false, for his purpose of discovering some idea that is absolutely certain, any idea that is not beyond any doubt. So why does Descartes doubt that his senses (sight, hearing, etc.) are a reliable source of knowledge? What principle does he appeal to in rejecting the senses as absolutely reliable? Give some examples of how our senses sometimes deceive us. (You cannot use the example of a stick or pencil in water.)

3. Descartes then says that there are some things that the senses seem to tell him that seem beyond doubt, so that if he were doubt those experiences, he would have to be insane. Give an example. Why does he then go on to say that he can doubt those experiences and not be insane?

4. What is the problem of dreaming in Descartes’ philosophy? Even if dreaming is such a problem, something seems to be true beyond any doubt for Descartes: what is it?

5. What is the evil genius? Why does Descartes say that if the evil genius exists, then he can’t even use mathematics as the absolutely certain foundation for all knowledge?

6. Descartes lived in a time of profound changes in science, religion, and the whole of Western culture. What does Descartes think he discovers that is beyond any possible doubt, some truths that cannot be challenged, and how did he discover them?

7. Finally, why is it essential for Descartes to prove, not only that God exists, but that God is good and not evil?