Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Descartes’ Meditations: is there any wiggle room? Ft. his ‘cogito’ (II, I think therefore I am) and his ontology (III, god is real because I conceive it so)

Descartes impacted skepticism (with reference to metaphysics) with the subtle grace of the meteorite that (admittedly allegedly) knocked down the dinosaurs’ door.

The smirk

Skepticism: “the philosophical position that one should refrain from making truth claims, and avoid the postulation of final truths.” (thanks, philosophybasics.com!)

If the breadth of human knowledge and reasoning is a forest, Descartes was enthralled by the idea that he must find which trees cannot be cut down, before he ascends up the branches to look for ultimate truth. To check each tree is a monumental undertaking, so Descartes chose a simpler way: burn the forest down. The trees left standing after the cleansing would be the only pillars for his quest.

Through three arguments, Descartes (as we learned in recent class discussions) threw out all knowledge.

His first, the sense argument, creates doubt in our empirical observations by proving that our senses deceive us.

His second, the dream argument, shakes even the most concrete assumptions we make of reality – if this life is a waking dream then perhaps the world doesn’t exist at all.

His third, the evil demon argument, attacks the final bastion of human knowledge remaining, our reasoning. Even seemingly cohesive systems of logic such as mathematics could actually be false ideas planted inside of our heads by a deceiver.

Eventually, Descartes ends up arriving at ‘cogito ergo sum,‘ which we know to translate to ‘I think, therefore I am.’ His one, unalienable truth is that as long as a thing ponders its own existence, then it exists.

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Pourchista, in class, mentioned that Descartes is comforting – personally, I am still grappling with the stark void that Descartes presents. Indeed, that struggle is going to be the basis of my metaphysical inquiry. Over the next two weeks, I will be attacking Descartes’ arguments individually, looking for gaps. Then, I’ll be attacking his ‘cogito’, and lastly his ontological argument, which I will hint at the very bottom of this post.

It is incredibly improbable I will find any gaps or holes that I can exploit in the logic of Rene Descartes. He has been forged from the relentless pressure of countless human scholars, historians, thinkers and critics for hundreds of years. However, I am confident that the exploration of his work will yield a greater understanding of his thought, and perhaps bring me a little closer to Pourchista’s level.

Thanks for reading this far, since you made it Descartes has an infuriatingly simple conundrum for you to smash your head against: God exists!

  1. I have an idea of supremely perfect being, i.e. a being having all perfections.
  2. Necessary existence is a perfection.
  3. Therefore, a supremely perfect being exists.

This is rooted in Descartes philosophical viewpoint that a thing must spring forth from something else that contains the totality of it. Ideas are included in that statement. Therefore, the very fact that one can perceive and conceptualize an all-powerful, perfect God, means that it must exist. Where else would the idea spring from if not from its own existence?

I love hating Descartes. See you next time.

 

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The Power of the Conscious Mind Vs. The Power of Experience/Memories – Reading

Ah, yes. Another unrelatable, possibly un-philisophical question that provides little to no readings and will box me into a solitary, lonely corner. Rock on. Gotta keep doin’ me.

The questions that kept popping into my head throughout the introduction of Epistemology all sounded like something along the lines of “Can certain knowledge be overlooked/ forgotten if the thinker believes the new knowledge enough?” and “Can “fake” knowledge be used as a sort of placebo to change an outcome?” Motivational-speaker inclined lil’ me finally came up with an ultimate question: Can the power of positive thinking truly affect an outcome? For example: If I KNOW that I’m terrified of rollercoasters and I have experiences under my belt that prove so, but I convince myself, I mean make myself TRULY BELIEVE that I can ride the wooden rollercoaster at the PNE no sweat, will it still be scary? It’s a puzzling topic to me because, on one hand, we’re all so full of beliefs and long-standing strong opinions about this and that, but what if we could just forget all of these fears and negative thoughts that we encompass and replace that pessimistic knowledge with confidence? Looking back at this paragraph, I can see that my question is more of a battle between the power of the mind Vs. the power of experience/memories than anything. (Changing the title of this post now.) That being said, I found a really interesting video in my exploration of the interweb machine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v-IMSKOtoE

The video sums up a scientific study exploring the power of thought. According to the video, studies have shown that THINKING about doing something gives a person the same reactions and works the same sensory skills of the brain (and therefore provides the same benefits) of actually physically completing the exercise. Two group of individuals practiced the piano for two hours per day for three days, only one group practiced MENTALLY (imagining themselves doing the exercise). The result was that the exact same changes took place in the brain as the group that physically sat at the piano and practiced, and at the end of the three days, both groups had the same accuracy in their piano-playing. This incredible feat of the mind made me wonder, “If the brain has so much power over what our body can physically do/improve at/respond to, and just THINKING about playing piano is almost exactly the same as practicing, would I be able to overcome all of my fears and dislikes by simply picturing myself doing -and ~enjoying~- an activity?” Would my brain react and change from the signals triggered by a positive little motivational movie that I play for myself in my head? The video has given me reason to think that the reformation of thought and reaction is completely possible, but my active learning will be the real test.

 

 

 
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