What can we know.? (A short philosophy discourse)
Posted in : Uncategorised on by : Brendan Walsh Comments: 9
Generally we all have a set of believes which we operate from, this is true from the most learned to the illiterate. When challenged on many of these highly held believes we can find the method of proofing it difficult or impossible. However, in our everyday life, our safety zone, we carry on without questions. In our quite moments we begin questioning a lot of things which we were holding as true, doubtful. Well you are not alone.
This was true for Rene Descartes(1569-1650) Descartes was known as ‘The father of modern philosophy’ and undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of his, or any other time.
Descartes contended that the more he searched into the accepted truth the more doubtful he became. This was in a time when it was unsafe or dangerous to challenge the existing powers. The “Schools” Church and the political hierarchic ruled under the direction of what we will call for conveniences “Gods Plan” (familiar.) With God at the helm and the social structure in place, guided with divine structure the world was in a safe and holy place. To challenge this “way” was heretic, punishable by death.
This was the social structure at the time when Descartes was writing his findings and challenging the status quo. At the center of Descartes argument was all teachings, received and taught through the schools were at its core, faith based. To challenge this international accepted system was political and social unsafe. Given that God made the world and everything in it, then if one thing in the world is doubtful then everything in the world and the universe was doubtful. This was the size of the problem facing Descartes as a philosopher.
In his “Key philosophical writings” Descartes wrote.
“It is now some years since I detected how many were the false beliefs that I had from my earliest youth accepted as true, and how doubtful was everything I had since constructed on this basis; and from that time I was convinced that I had for once for all seriously undertake to rid myself of all opinions which I had formally accepted, and commence to build anew from the foundation, if I wanted to established any firm structure in the sciences” (Descartes;key philosophical writings .1997 Wordsworth Editions)P.134 Ch.17
Descartes did not discount God, in fact he believed in God, but he did believe in the science of the mind and in the human potential to think out of the box and encouraged original thinking. Descartes with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are responsible for a part of what we call our Western intellectual character. In a missive way they mapped the way for what we have today . Descartes, like the ones that went before him and as will the ones yet to come, are coming from someone else and so it goes, but it seems that Descartes was a one only in so far as his teachings scope influences.
This may not be the “though for the day” for many people and yet I was surprised at the the response and the meaning it still holds in the world today. Descartes is long gone but his writing is still fresh and relevant in the unsafe world we live in today .