Essay heading: Knowledge and Reality: On Skepticism

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Philosophy

 

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July 14, 2007

 

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6 / 1509

 

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In his Meditations on the First Philosophy Rene Descartes undertakes a famous thought experiment, questioning what knowledge he has at the most basic level: Whatever I have up till now accepted as most true I have acquired either from the senses or through the senses. But from time to time I have found that the senses deceive, and it is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once…there are many other beliefs about which doubt is quite impossible, even though they are derived from the senses – for example, that I am here, sitting by the fire, wearing a winter dressing gown, holding this piece of paper in my hands, and so on...
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Again, how could it be denied that these hands or this whole body are mine?[2] It might seem that such basic things, such as having hands and a body, or knowing where you are in a particular moment, could be absolutely knowable, but Descartes continues to question various possibilities: How often, asleep at night, am I convinced of just such familiar events – that I am here in my dressing gown, sitting by the fire – when in fact I am lying undressed in bed!...
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