Descartes' demon of doubt, dreamer of certainty

Tuesday 17th September, 7.30 at the Rose and Crown, Tintern

John Clarke

NEXT MEETING 17th September 2019

Descartes' demon? In order to illuminate his 'doubts' he invented a thought experiment in which he imagined that there was 'some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning who has employed all his energies in order to deceive me. I shall imagine that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds, and all external things are merely the delusions of dreams with which he has decided to ensnare my judgement.' (Meditations). Can this philosophical Houdini escape these snares? Can we?

René Descartes (1596-1650), often seen as the founder of modern philosophy, famously doubted everything he had ever learned, until he realized that he could not doubt his own doubting. On this fragile foundation he set out to construct a new universal system of knowledge, which, while for long highly influential, has itself inevitably become subject to doubt.

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Updated 7 May 2019

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