Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

Recalling how he came to realize how many ideas that were untrue he was taught as a young child. He also recalls that as he ages, he has developed other beliefs based upon the foundation of the earlier beliefs. He wants to know the truth and his first thought is that in order to do so, he has to learn everything he has ever known and relearn after careful examination. The shear amount of time and effort that this method of finding truth is almost incomprehensible. So he does what a lot of people do when there is a task in front of them so long and tedious – he procrastinated. So much so to a point where he thinks it would be irresponsible to spend the rest of his life attempting to go about it this way. Descartes is troubled by this, he wants to free himself of caring about his opinions and just live in peaceful solitude but he know in order to accomplish this goal he must make the effort to rid himself of his false beliefs.

The light bulb then goes off for him and he realizes he does not necessarily need to undergo an extreme tedious process of proving or disproving all of his beliefs individually. If Descartes were able to figure out what are the foundational beliefs gained from his youth for which he has built upon all of the other beliefs he has today, he could have a shortlist to examine which would make the process more efficient. Descartes thinks of the one thing that all of his foundational beliefs have in common which is he received these beliefs by way of his senses- sense of touch, smell, seeing, feeling, and hearing. From there he notes that human senses have the ability to deceive us and he also goes on to rationalize that if deceived, it would not be prudent to ever trust that source of deception again – even of only deceived one time.

So that is it! Descartes has found his reason for doubting everything he has ever held to be true therefore disqualifying it! But not so fast. One would also have to consider that even though the senses can deceive us, it is usually about small and distant thing. Plus our senses provide things that we cannot doubt provided by the senses. He illustrates to himself how he knows he is sitting in front of the fire, dressed in his nightclothes, and holding the paper he writes the book on, so how could he possibly draw doubt to that? If he did, he would be called crazy – people would ask how could a person out that his hands are not his hands and he would be disregarded as insane for calling doubt to his own existence.

Descartes then goes on to think about and illustrate how when he dreams, he experiences things just like he is awake. He disqualifies the assertion that he would be crazy for doubting he exists by comparing the idea to his dreams. He has dreamed of himself before in a dream where he was in front of the fire in his nightclothes and it seemed so real – just as real as the real thing – but he was actually sleeping in his bed. This line of thought became a circle for him as he further questions how does he know he is not dreaming at the very moment he knows he is awake – he was deceived before, so it could be now.

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