• TheMadFool
    2.3k
    I'm not an expert but was it Decartes who approached philosophy, life, with complete doubt? Descartes, if I'm correct, wanted indubitable truths on which to base his philosophy.

    ''Cogito ergo sum'' he said and thereupon laid the foundation of his philosophy. I think he reeled in God too as one who is benevolent - enough to subdue Descartes' demon.

    I was thinking about how one would go about finding such a truth - beyond the reach of radical doubt - that defeats skepticism of even the worst/best kind.

    Here's what I came up with. It's not that well-formed an idea but for a beginner like me I think it's a good start.

    Let's doubt everything, all truths, knowledge itself.

    That translates to : D = There are NO truths.

    Now, D can be either true or false.

    Suppose D is true.

    That means there are NO truths but...

    that means D too is a falsehood.

    A contradiction D & ~D

    So D is false which entails that: T = There are some truths.

    So radical doubt is a self-refuting position. It's impossible that there are NO truths.

    Therefore, there is at least one truth.

    What that truth is I don't know. Is it Descartes' cogito ergo sum? May be or may be not. It does seem logical. To doubt my own existence would require me to exist, right?

    Is it another truth we aren't aware of?

    What about the statement T = there is at least one truth? This can't be doubted since its negation is a contradiction.

    However, T, by itself, doesn't do much. It proves, beyond doubt, that there is at least one truth but doesn't say what that truth is.

    Do any of you have any idea what that/those truth(s) is/are?
  • Banno
    3.1k
    Neat. The very idea of doubting everything is absurd, since it involves doubting the very language needed to frame the doubt.

    Doubt is overrated. We need not doubt without some reason to doubt.

    Could you doubt that this post is in English? What would that entail?
  • Saphsin
    141
    Doubt needs grounds for justification, just like making confident claims. Just the fact that we probably got many things wrong from a position of epistemic humility doesn't justify a switch in behavior, which we can never succeed in doing so anyways so no point pretending.
  • Michael
    7k
    I'm not an expert but was it Decartes who approached philosophy, life, with complete doubt?TheMadFool

    No. Descartes was a methodological skeptic, not a philosophical skeptic. His approach was to scrutinize all claims to knowledge, not to argue that knowledge is impossible. In fact he was quite certain that we can and do have knowledge, given that we can trust God to not allow for global deception.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I am thinking, therefore I am. — René Descartes

    There"truth" goes even deeper than that. With a careful reading of this statement one might observe that, I think therefore I am. Quite interesting but also probably a ticket to the burning at the stake in Decartes' time.
  • Ying
    175
    m not an expert but was it Decartes who approached philosophy, life, with complete doubt?TheMadFool

    No, that was Pyrrho of Elis. He's considered the first Greek sceptic. He met several wise men (gymnosophists, magi) in the east during his travels with Alexander the Great which inspired him to live a life free from doxa. As such, scepticism has connections with eastern philosophy. Ataraxia, the mental state advocated by sceptics, should be regarded in that way imho, as a meditative attitude. That ataraxia is central to scepticism is further outlined in book 1 of the "Outines of Pyrrhonism" by Sextus Empiricus:

    "Scepticism is an ability, or mental attitude, which opposes appearances to judgements in any way whatsoever, with the result that, owing to the equipollence of the objects and reasons thus opposed, we are brought firstly to a state of mental suspense and next to a state of "unperturbedness" or quietude. Now we call it an "ability" not in any subtle sense, but simply in respect of its "being able." By "appearances" we now mean the objects of sense-perception, whence we contrast them with the objects of thought or "judgements." The phrase "in any way whatsoever" can be connected either with the word "ability," to make us take the word "ability," as we said, in its simple sense, or with the phrase "opposing appearances to judgements"; for inasmuch as we oppose these in a variety of ways – appearances to appearances, or judgements to judgements, or alternando appearances to judgements, -- in order to ensure the inclusion of all these antitheses we employ the phrase "in any way whatsoever." Or, again, we join "in any way whatsoever" to "appearances and judgements" in order that we may not have to inquire how the appearances appear or how the thought-objects are judged, but may take these terms in the simple sense. The phrase "opposed judgements" we do not employ in the sense of negations and affirmations only but simply as equivalent to "conflicting judgements." "Equipollence" we use of equality in respect of probability and improbability, to indicate that no one of the conflicting judgements takes precedence of any other as being more probable. "Suspense" is a state of mental rest owing to which we neither deny nor affirm anything. "Quietude" is an untroubled and tranquil condition of soul. And how quietude enters the soul along with suspension of judgement we shall explain in our chapter (XII.) "Concerning the End.""
    -Sextus Empiricus, "Outlines of Pyrrhonism" book 1, ch.4

    "Our next subject will be the end of the Sceptic system. Now an "end" is "that for which all actions or reasonings are undertaken, while it exists for the sake of none"; or, otherwise, "the ultimate object of appentency." We assert still that the Sceptic's End is quietude in respect of matters of opinion and moderate feeling in respect of things unavoidable. For the skeptic, having set out to philosophize with the object of passing judgment on the sense impressions and ascertaining which of them are true and which false, so as to attain quietude thereby, found himself involved in contradictions of equal weight, and being unable to decide between them suspended judgment; and as he was thus in suspense there followed, as it happened, the state of quietude in respect of matters of opinion. For the man who opines that anything is by nature good or bad is for ever being disquieted: when he is without the things which he deems good he believes himself to be tormented by things naturally bad and he pursues after the things which are, as he thinks, good; which when he has obtained he keeps falling into still more perturbations because of his irrational and immoderate elation, and in his dread of a change of fortune he uses every endeavor to avoid losing the things which he deems good. On the other hand, the man who determines nothing as to what is naturally good or bad neither shuns nor pursues anything eagerly; and, in consequence, he is unperturbed.
    The Sceptic, in fact, had the same experience which is said to have befallen the painter Apelles. Once, they say, when he was painting a horse and wished to represent in the painting the horse's foam, he was so unsuccessful that he gave up the attempt and flung at the picture the sponge on which he used to wipe the paints off his brush, and the mark of the sponge produced the effect of a horse's foam. So, too, the Sceptics were in hopes of gaining quietude by means of a decision regarding the disparity of the objects of sense and of thought, and being unable to effect this they suspended judgment; and they found that quietude, as if by chance, followed upon their suspense, even as a shadow follows its substance. We do not, however, suppose that the Sceptic is wholly untroubled; but we say that he is troubled by things unavoidable; for we grant that he is cold at times and thirsty, and suffers various affections of that kind. But even in these cases, whereas ordinary people are afflicted by two circumstances, -- namely, by the affections themselves and, in no less a degree, by the belief that these conditions are evil by nature, --the Sceptic, by his rejection of the added belief in the natural badness of all these conditions, escapes here too with less discomfort. Hence we say that, while in regard to matters of opinion the Sceptic's End is quietude, in regard to things unavoidable it is "moderate affection." But some notable Sceptics have added the further definition "suspension of judgment in investigations."
    "
    -Ibid. ch.12
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k


    Skepticism is a problem for philosophy because there is no absolute certainty in it. How does one overcome it? Do we fall back on pragmatism or do we just ignore it?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    As for myself, I just keep it real by observing patterns, understanding human nature, always working on sharpening my skills via "cross-training", and like any good detective, making sure all the pieces in the puzzle are fitting together. Philosophy is all about being a good detective whose working to solve the case. I like challenges that thoroughly test my capabilities and creative thinking possibilities. It takes time to develop the skills but it is never too early or late to start.
  • PossibleAaran
    155
    I share the opinion that Descartes had - that if you doubt whatever cannot be justified non-circularly, you will see that you can use those doubts to discover new truths, or to understand old truths more clearly and distinctly.

    I think this view was also held by Bertrand Russell and was the starting point for his logical construction of the world.

    It is not so popular in philosophy today, and not on these forums either. Many people here prefer some dosage of "common sense" and Wittgenstein's view that legitimately doubting P requires some evidence against P or, alternatively, that our ordinary methods of verification are somehow exempt from criticism. I am not sure that I really understand these ideas.

    PA
  • Ying
    175
    Skepticism is a problem for philosophy because there is no absolute certainty in it.TheMadFool

    Maybe the problem is the notion of "absolute certainty", not scepticism.

    How does one overcome it?

    I don't. I retooled to scepticism years ago.

    Do we fall back on pragmatism or do we just ignore it?

    We become sceptics and attain ataraxia. It's not particularly hard.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.2k
    Suppose D is true.

    That means there are NO truths but...

    that means D too is a falsehood.

    A contradiction D & ~D
    TheMadFool

    Evidence that the law of non-contradiction is dubious.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    that if you doubt whatever cannot be justified non-circularlyPossibleAaran
    The problem with this method is when do you stop doubting? When is there enough certainty for something to be justified?

    If I see a flower outside my window, then do I have enough justification to believe there is a flower there just by seeing it? Or do I need to perhaps approach it and touch it? Smell it too? Move it, and interact with it in different ways?

    In other words, with the method of doubt, how do we decide when to stop doubting?

    doubting P requires some evidence against PPossibleAaran
    I tend to agree with the statement. If I doubt something, I must have grounds for doubting it. Though I have to admit, that if I am honest, I don't often behave that way in practice. The reason why I adopted belief in the proposition quoted is because I was suffering from generalised anxiety disorder, OCD and hypochondria back then - so I determined to establish a philosophical method for when to worry and when not to worry (worry being somewhat similar to doubt). So then I learned, using that, not to worry (or doubt) in the absence of evidence, but only in the series of worries/doubts that were troubling me.

    If I am honest, I continued to doubt other things even in the absence of evidence. It has been quite a methodological means for me to determine what can go wrong, and what can be done if it does go wrong. For example, I typically and often do this in my work and business. I doubt whether the work is good enough, or I doubt whether X or Y will do the right thing with the paperwork I need them to do for me, etc. So there is a certain degree of hypocrisy for me in holding to that belief. On the one hand, it did help me overcome an anxiety condition, on the other, I still practice it in many aspects of my life, where it yields results. But on a theoretical level, I cannot distinguish between when it's right to practice doubting and when it's not.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.2k


    Of course there are truths.

    Facts are true, or they wouldn't be facts. What is a truth, if not something that's true?

    There are lots of facts. Here's one:

    If all dogs are mammals, and all mammals are animals, then all dogs are animals.

    Of course there are lots of other facts too.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Rich
    3.2k
    If all dogs are mammals, and all mammals are animals, then all dogs are animals.Michael Ossipoff

    Where is the fact? It is simply a proposal (hence the proposition). You said "If". Suppose someone doesn't buy into your 'If".

    You are confusing consensus on a proposal with some sort of an idea that you call a fact or truth.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.2k

    "If all dogs are mammals, and all mammals are animals, then all dogs are animals. "— Michael Ossipoff

    Where is the fact? It is simply a proposal (hence the proposition).
    Rich

    It's more than a proposition. It's a true proposition. That makes it a fact.

    You said "If". Suppose someone doesn't buy into your 'If".

    The proposition says nothing about a case in which its premise isn't true. The proposition only says something about the case in which all dogs are mammals and all mammals are animals.

    If you doubt that premise, that doesn't mean that you disagree with or challenge the if-then proposition.

    You are confusing consensus on a proposal with some sort of an idea that you call a fact or truth.

    Since the premise is the part that you challenged, I must assume that the consensus that you're referring to is consensus about the premise. See above.

    Having said what I said above, I should quality that statement a bit, by quoting a standard definition:

    As "implication" is standardly, 2-valued truth-functionally, defined, an implication proposition is true unless its premise is true and its conclusion is false. And so the mere falsity of its premise would be enough to make an implication proposition true, by the standard 2-valued truth-functional definition of implication.

    I tell a story based on that definition, at the Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics sub-forum at this website, in a thread entitled, "A guy goes into a jewel-store owned by a logician who never lies."

    My metaphysics is about abstract facts, which could very well contain a lot of false premises. (I don't claim that anything exists). But I claim that, for those if-then propositions, the premise, if true, would always make the conclusion true. Therefore, those if-then propositions that I refer to can't not be true, even by the standard 2-valued truth-functional definition that I quoted above.

    ...so they're if-then facts.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Where is the fact? It is simply a proposal (hence the proposition).Rich

    Because you say so? Suppose sometime disagrees?

    If you doubt that premise, that doesn't mean that you disagree with or challenge the if-then proposition.Michael Ossipoff

    I just did.

    Finding "facts" outside of philosophy class is actually quite difficult.
  • Agustino
    11.3k
    Yeah, recently, there is a lot of competition over Descartes here it seems. You, @PossibleAaran and @Hanover all like Descartes :P

    Personally, as I said in my previous reply in this thread, I find the method of doubt problematic.
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