Descarte And New Science Essay, Research Paper
The new view of the world comes from new developments in the sciences. The new views and developments contradicted some of the most fundamental ideas that were held in the world at the time. The philosophers associated with this new view of the world are Copernicus, Kepler, Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, Locke, etc. Copernicus tried to resolve the problems of the motions of the planets by placing the sun as the center of the earth. He did make it simpler however, it wasn’t until Newton who cleaned it up and answered some of the key questions that riddled the Copernican theory. Math became one of the fundamental properties of the world. Math was considered to be the most certain and to be the foundation of all truths. The appeal to sense perception was limited because there were sometimes reasons that the sensory perceptions were not too accurate (i.e. stick in the water). The new method was to make careful observations with math, ignore metaphysical claims, and apply math to all primary qualities (size, shape, motion).
Scholasticism was the old view that was started around 200 BC. Scholastics used reason and theology to make their claims. The church’s influence during this period was very important because only views that complemented the church were allowed. The church’s influence was very strong and scared many philosophers, and many of them skewed their writing so not to call attention to their writing, including Descartes. Syllogism was widely used the structure of argumentation. Other than that, the appeal to common sense reason was very important feature of the time. Everything that they thought was relative to them.
In Descartes Discourse on the method for Rightly conducting ones own reason and for seeking truth in the sciences, he makes it clear that philosophy as he knows it is built on a very weak foundation. He makes this conclusion because of the new finding and contradictions from other philosophers as Galileo, Kepler, etc. Thus, the other sciences that are derived from philosophy are also built on unsteady foundation. The proper task of philosophy is to start fresh with a new science. Philosophy has to be built on a solid foundation. There can’t be disputes about the legitimacy of the philosophy and the arguments that it makes. Thus, the first thing the Descartes does is to create a new metaphysics. If he basis his new metaphysics on certainty than everything being derived from it, if it is made with valid and sound argument, will also be on solid foundation.
Descartes starts out by throwing out every belief that he has. This is a difficult task but Descartes wants us to have no belief about anything, just a clear head. He wants to take a skeptical approach by doubting things and rebuilding on a sure foundation instead of just listing his new metaphysics out. This allows the reader to actually think about the arguments that he makes form not believing or believing them. First, Descartes argues for us to doubt our senses. In the Illusion and Dream arguments, he does this by asking are you Dream or are you awake. If you don’t know that you are awake or asleep, then how can you know that what you see is in a dream or what you are actually looking at. He simply does this by making you doubt the fact that you are awake. If you have a doubt then you are not certain. The foundation that you build upon has to be certain, thus senses can’t be used because it is not certain. Descartes wants you rid of all sensory beliefs and wants you to appeal to reason only. He is looking for some ground to build his physics on. First, wants to know if he exists, and he comes to the conclusion that if he thinks then he exists. As a “thing” not a person with hands, feet, etc. Now that he has his foundation he can build on it. He slowly builds up his metaphysics based on grounds that what he believes is certain. He says that you must have a clear and distinct perception of the things to be certain. He concludes that there are three levels of reality, God, Substance, and Properties. Properties are shapes, thought, etc. Substances are greater reality than properties as Bodies and Minds. And God is the greater reality of infinite substance. Also, there are two types of reality, formal and objective. The formal reality is a reality of a thing itself and objective reality is the reality of that which a representation represents. Math is the foundation of the new sciences so he makes the link that Size, shape, and motions are mathematical conceptions. The body can be extended and has modes of size, shape and motion. Mind is a thought system that has the modes of ideas, senses, etc., and mind gives life to the body.
Descartes gives his metaphysics based solely on certain foundations and one being math. Math is the only certain thing. As he says many times two plus two will always equal four. Math is the basis for the new science and Descartes builds a certain argument that the body (size, shape, and motion all components of math) and all its extensions are mathematical. The new science is basically Descartes science because he is the originator of his new metaphysics.
Locke on the other hand, didn’t want to create a new metaphysics. What he wanted to do was to clean up the formalities of the scholastics. There are no innate ideas that Descartes says that everyone has. Locke thinks that the only way to gain knowledge is by sense perception and we are limited to it. Thus, our knowledge of things are also limited. Knowledge of things begins in the senses or by reflection and provides the mind with material of knowledge. Locke calls these materials “ideas.” Ideas are “things” that represent the objects. There are two qualities, primary and secondary. Primary qualities are objects (size, shape, weight) from ideas that represent perceived qualities that do not exist in objects except as they affect secondary qualities (colors, taste, and smell).
Locke is very vague in some of his descriptions, as he talks about self awareness he acknowledges that man exists as material and immaterial substances (he has no definition for substances) and god has given him power of thinking.
Unlike Descartes, Locke holds that sense perception as fundamental tool in the world. The new science takes a cautious approach to sense perception. Locke takes the approach that you can’t know the certain knowledge. Certainty can only be gained in ideas and knowledge of the physical world rests on judgment. Locke doesn’t ground for the distinction of the sciences rather he is an under laborer of new science while Descartes lays the groundwork for the new sciences.
How can we know that the fundamental properties of the world are those and only those that the new science identified as fundamental? For Descartes, it basically comes down to clear and distinct perception. If there is no way to argue against the property and have no doubts of its existence or its reality then it is a property. We have already listed what the fundamental properties are. Descartes supports all the properties in his Meditations as clear and distinct. If there are other properties that are being derived from the fundamental properties and they are clear and distinct perceptions then they will be valid properties. As Descartes says you can trust your clear and distinct perception because God is not a deceiver, Meditation 5.
The question also asks how can we know that the properties are those that the new sciences identify as their fundamental properties. This is a easy question to answer basically, because it was Descartes you wanted to clean out all our beliefs in the beginning of the Meditations and start from the most basic of all beliefs that we make arguments and build on what is certain. The reason why I say that the question was easy to answer is because it was Descartes you set out the new metaphysics so he is the one who originated the fundamental properties. The only way that you and I know that the fundamental properties of Descartes is valid is to ask yourself if the arguments that he makes are sound. If they are sound then you can accept them as valid arguments and accept the fundamental properties. However, if you accepts them as unsound arguments depending on which argument you consider to be unsound, you can refute all the arguments or refute a few of them.
Locke on the other hand is not developing any new fundamental properties. He is fixing the old fundamental properties held by the scholastics. All he is doing is keeping with that sensory perception is the only way to obtain knowledge, but agrees with Descartes by saying that you should be cautious. Locke really doesn’t know if the fundamental properties of the science are those the new science identified as fundamental. They could be fundamental or they could not be. The mind has limited knowledge and if the mind doesn’t know and hasn’t obtained the knowledge from sensory experience then you wont know unless you do. Locke is a very conservative person, he is not overstepping his bounds by making claims about things that he can not prove, so he plays it safe and he stay within the realm of the knowledge and doesn’t delve into areas that he can not know anything of.