The path of thought followed by Renee Descartes never failed to lead me to a state of uneasiness and excitement and leave me full of new questions. The deeper I considered and explored these ideas the more I was instilled with a deep conflicting sense of fear and curiosity.
Who is Descartes?
For readers who don’t study philosophy, Renee Descartes was an enlightened despot of the French enlightenment era that took place through the early to mid 1500s Descartes was and is very well known among intelligentsia. This notoriety is granted on behalf of his advancements in philosophy as well as science and mathematics. Despite his other achievements my intellectual relationship with this player is based purely on his philosophical innovations and for the purposes of this article that’s all that need brought up.
What is Cartesian Skepticism?
Descartes originally formed his World view or interlocking set of beliefs on that which we derive from our sense perceptionsm also known as empirical observation. This would however change drastically as Descartes began his philosophical journey to the absurd and back. The ideas to be analyzing pertain to his epistemological beliefs and attitude.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the term epistemology denotes “a theory or the study of knowledge especially with reference to it’s limits of validity.”
Descartes was well known for his radically skeptic epistemological position, meaning he constantly doubted and questioned the integrity of his worldview. However his skepticism would not end at the scrutiny of his belief systems. Rather he took it a step further. He didn’t just scrap all his beliefs and stop there; he now began to doubt the very methods used to obtain knowledge and reason with it in the first place.
How could this be so, seeing is believing isn’t it?
Well that seems to be the case for the majority throughout history (with exceptions like god and aliens) , as the old saying goes ignorance is bliss. Yet for some of us the profound excitement of curiosity is and will always be far more appealing than the comfort of familiarity.
Descartes didn’t care for comfort, he plunged deep into the unknown depths of theoretical possibility and absurdity. As he ought, After all pushing the possibility of thought to its limits is what philosophers do best.
He grew so affixed upon this notion that he even began to wonder if his perceived reality was real at all, positing the theoretical idea that our reality may be an artificial illusion. An idea thought to stem from profound experiences regarding dreams.
However Descartes (like myself) was a devout believer in a higher power, that he might know as god. I on the other hand have no specific word to denote such a force I would merely describe it as the grand harmony of Kindness , Karma , Chaos , Beauty and Irony.
Due to his devout faith he did not believe god would do such a thing like trap us in a false reality, so he posited that If we were living in a simulated reality it would have to be the work of an evil genius attempting to keep us away from the land ruled by god and trapped within this illusion.
At first I found it hard to swallow myself. But alas as I began to venture further along my own philosophical journey I too began too notice odd coincidences that lead me into the direction of such a belief, which continues to be something I ponder and speculate upon quite regularly.
I advise those not philosophically, religiously, or psychologically inclines to not think too deeply into this for the sake of their own sanity. This is not the kind of information one can internalize and work through without a concrete system to guide the way.
So are you saying this belief is dangerous?
yes I definitely believe it has the potential to exacerbate or even induce symptoms of serious mental illness. Such a belief could easily inspire someone to end their life another’s on behalf of believing that existence is only a game or simulation, which is obviously completely irrational regardless of your beliefs.
In general I’ve devised three mental safeguards while in pursuit of this line of thinking, which act as a fail safe in case one finds themself in a position where it becomes difficult to differentiate what is fake from reality in the layman’s eyes.
Nah your exaggerating, how could books be dangerous?
To share a personal story on the subject, I once was laying in bed unable to sleep, focusing on inducing visionary fractals within my closed eye vision field when I started to feel a little tingly. At the time I was starting new s medication, as well as consuming herbal sleep aids with mild psychoactive properties. (Article about my favorite medicinal herbs coming soon.) so I didn’t really think anything of it.
At least until I began hearing noises. They began while drifting into a state of half awake half unconscious. But not just any noises, Hospital noises: beeping of a heart monitor, water pumping through an IV bag, footsteps echoing from a desolate hallway, people talking inaudible English, and the vague image and scent of a hospital room began to vivify, after this i sprang up out of bed and did not sleep again for the rest of the night, I spent the following two months in half belief that I was stuck in a coma.
Eventually I chalked it off to my brain
attempting to recreate conceptual phenomenon to attain a better understanding or just a really strange case of sleep paralysis, but this example shows how easy it is to be caught up in Cartesian skepticism.
And those would be?
>Three tips for exploring Cartesian skepticism
1. Understand that it doesn’t matter.
• in retrospect finding out we lived in a simulation or a dream would not inherently change anything in of itself. Provided there’s no way to leave, what difference could it possibly make?
2. Remember that it’s imgpossible to prove.
Just like the concepts of an omniscient god or a spiritual afterlife there is no concrete definitive way to prove reality is or is not a dream like simulation, no matter how much coincidental or subjective empirical claims stack up on either side.
3. Interpret the idea through an analytic lens
looking at it from various applicable perspectives such as theological, political, psychological or sociological through use analysis and identification of potential allegorical/symbolic links, the ideas of Descartes can be applied to common reality. Examples:
•Analytic lenses: Political
Could be looked at as the wool thrown over the eyes of the masses by corrupt leaders, exploiting their power through lies and secret affairs kept from the general public for personal and gain. (think sheep mentality/herd mentality etc)
•Analytic lenses: Theological
One could argue the illusion vs reality corresponds to ones spiritual life or connected with god, this is especially true in a modern era where egotism, idol worship and material obsession come between the population and developing a spiritual life or as some would call it a connection with god.
•Analytic Lenses: Psychological
The false reality could refer to how perception of the world around us is subjectively altered in correspondence based to what we believe.
For example: let’s say jack is walking down the street in a coat and he notices Jane in her dress. (And me I’m in a rock and roll band HA.) Maybe jack never thought Jane was pretty before, but since he’s running 30 minutes early he decides to have a chat with the young clerk. After getting to know each other they hit it off big time, find out they have all the same life dreams, interests and tastes. Suddenly our once homely miss Jane is the sweetest looking thing he has ever laid his eyes.
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If you would like to learn more about the French enlightenment thinker Renee Descartes more info can be found in the links below:
>https://www.storyofmathematics.com/17th_descartes.html -Renee Descartes on mathematics.
>https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.biography.com/.amp/people/ren-descartes-37613 -biographical summary
>https://www.famousscientists.org/rene-descartes/ Renee Descartes on Science