Dying to Know Descartes

George Levine

in Dying to Know

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780226475363
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226475387 | DOI:
Dying to Know Descartes

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This chapter discusses Rene Descartes as an epistemologist. Descartes has become the villain in the drama of Western epistemology. His epistemological propping of his science became deeply important in the development of epistemology as a central activity of philosophy. He writes of himself as a benefactor of mankind. The Discourse on Method entails a contingent and human way of knowing. Descartes' morality of knowledge comes to depend on a characteristic Enlightenment assumption that the will acts according to what the understanding reveals. Descartes demonstrates the myth that knowledge is attainable only through shucking the senses, verging on what would seem, to the flawed perceptions of common sense, rather like death. In keeping with a Christian sense of the fallen nature of humanity, Descartes worked into his final comments in the Sixth Meditation a recognition of how extraordinarily difficult is the detachment required to know.

Keywords: Rene Descartes; Western epistemology; philosophy; The Discourse on Method; knowing; knowledge; death; humanity; Sixth Meditation

Chapter.  10273 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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