Reason and Method: The Structure of Reality

Reason and Method

1. The Structure of Reason

The subject of knowledge could access knowledge in two ways:

  • Experience: Which has a goal and a subjective component.
  • Reason: That makes acts of understanding outside the experience.

Reason can be misleading and therefore the faculty that knowledge is the reason. There are two modes of knowledge through real reason:

  • Intuition: It is an object whose intellectual vision is evident truths. All intellectual knowledge is deployed from the intuition of simple natures.
  • Deduction: This is the discovery and exploration of the connections between intuitions and some others.

2. The Method

The question of how the first method was imposed was a matter of interest and to which all these authors concede a special power. The cause is that the thinkers just broken with all authority in philosophy and need something that can be trusted. Descartes used as a model for his method using logic and axioms supported mathematically to deduce from them other truths. Descartes believes that man can behave in any area of knowledge, always using the same method that seeks method. The Descartes method must achieve real certainty, it must have order, clarity and simplicity. It consists of four rules:

  • Evidence: There are admitted only that which is presented to our intelligence with such clarity that no mistake occurs in the evidence. The intuition.
  • Analysis: Means division, you divide the compound ideas into simple ideas. Only ideas and avoid the error. The goal is to divide the problem to get insight.
  • Summary: These form a chain of partial insights which will result in an intuition clear and free of errors. It is a deductive process.
  • Enumeration: It is through the entire process to be sure not to miss checking anything. It is around the process. This is, according to Descartes, the only method of reason. It has been used successfully in mathematics and nothing prevents it from being used successfully in other domains.

Doubt and the First Truth

1. Methodical Doubt

According to the rational, the intellect must find in himself the fundamental truths. This starting point has to be a truth that is absolutely certain. To eliminate anything that is possible to doubt. The doubt of Descartes is:

  • Universal: Have to doubt everything.
  • Methodical: Its purpose is to reach the truth, a firm truth which can not be doubted.
  • Theoretical: Extends only to the level of theory or philosophical reflection.

What to Doubt and Why?

  • Fallacies of the senses lead him to doubt them. The data provided by the inability to distinguish waking from sleep leads him to doubt the existence of external reality.
  • Because sometimes we make mistakes in reasoning, it is even doubtful the validity of the arguments.
  • The malignant spirit hypothesis. It is but an unlikely hypothesis which casts doubt on the validity of principles that are considered obvious.

The Structure of Reality: The Three Substances

It is a fundamental concept in the thinking of Descartes and defines it as “a thing that exists so that it needs no other to exist.” It would only be defined as God. But this broad definition of substance is also applicable to the res extensa (world) and the res cogitans (soul).

The Thinking Substance or Res Cogitans: Soul

Descartes’s thought considers that ideas change. The great challenge to be overcome by Descartes is how to find a way out of the own subjectivity and get to know if there are objective things and how it is. Descartes distinguishes between three kinds of ideas:

  • Adventitious: We can not affirm its validity since the existence of reality is subject to doubt.
  • Factitious: Those that build the mind from other ideas. Our minds are made up from other ideas.
  • Inborn: Those that thought itself has. Some of these are the ideas that are in the ‘I think therefore I am’.

The Infinite Substance: God

It is the idea of something very perfect and superior to humans. This idea can not be adventitious and may not be factitious. The innate idea of God demonstrates the existence of this God. Descartes uses different arguments:

Epistemological Argument

  • I am a being that I doubt and, therefore, I am imperfect.
  • It would not be possible to have the concept of the finite without the idea of the infinite, perfect.
  • The idea of infinity can not come from nothing; from nothing is nothing.
  • Nor can it come about myself: I am finite and the finite can not come to the idea of infinity.

Argument of Chance

  • I am a being not perfect.
  • Then I have not created myself. Therefore there must be a perfect being who gave me existence, God.

Ontological Argument

  • All men have an idea of God. An idea that has to exist not only in thought but in reality. Then God exists not only in thought but also in reality.

Extended Substance or Res Extensa: World

Since Descartes, the existence of the world can be doubted. Descartes will need to demonstrate the existence of the world from the analysis of the ideas themselves. Thus from the analysis of the cogito, Descartes comes to proving the existence of God, a being that corresponds to something in reality. The world’s existence is proven, therefore, from the existence of God. Descartes conceives the world in terms of primary qualities (extension and motion) since they are objective and they alone can be mathematized and therefore, the only accessible to reason. It is therefore a mechanistic conception of reality. Descartes deduces the following principles that will be the basis of his Physics:

  • Natural things are reduced to point masses moving in space.
  • Any action or reaction must be exercised by shock or impulse, in any case contact.
  • It is sufficient to describe mathematically the laws of such shares.
  • The principles governing the system are two: the principle of inertia and the principle of conservation of motion.