Descartes: Doubt and Certainty

9.1 The Pursuit of Knowledge

  • Understand the nature of propositional knowledge.
  • Explain the difference between rationalism and empiricism.
  • Define epistemology, skepticism, a priori, and a posteriori.

9.2 Plato’s Rationalism

  • Understand Plato’s reasons for believing that we possess knowledge.
  • Explain Plato’s notion of the Forms.
  • Explain the doctrine of innate ideas, how rationalists and empiricists differ on the issue, and what role it plays in arguments for rationalism.

9.3 Descartes’s Doubt

  • Understand Descartes’s dream and evil-genius arguments and why they lead to skepticism.
  • Know how such thought experiments as the brain in a vat and the Matrix relate to Descartes’s skepticism arguments.

9.4 Descartes’s Certainty

  • Articulate Descartes’s argument for knowledge; what is the significance of his slogan “I think, therefore I am.”
  • Understand how the concept of God saves Descartes from complete skepticism.
  • Explain Descartes’s use of the idea of “clear and distinct” ideas.
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