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René Descartes Essay

“My purpose is to persuade all those who think metaphysics worth studying that it is absolutely necessary to pause a moment and, regarding all that has been done as though undone, to propose first the preliminary question, ‘Whether such a thing as metaphysics can be even possible at all? ’” (Kant 233) These types of questions asked by philosopher Immanuel Kant revolutionized the way humans make sense of the world, and more specifically how the human mind functions. Kant shed a light on prior theories and analogies, eliminating some of the most important beliefs as “unjustifiable”.

He synthesized the two prior beliefs of Rationalism and Empiricism, and preached that in our world, “Concepts without intuitions are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind”. (Fehir) I believe that Kant’s Constructivism is a superior alternative to Rationalism and Empiricism. Before Kant’s idea of constructivism, philosopher David Hume made a claim that all objects of human reason or enquiry may naturally be divided into two kinds; relations of ideas, and matters of fact. In simpler terms, all knowledge must either be classified as a prior (prior knowledge), or posteriori (post knowledge).

Kant’s put this theory to a test and asked “if a truth is not true because of our experiences, nor is it true because of the grammar or meanings of the sentences of our language, how else could it be defined? ”(Higgins and Martin 232) Kant synthesized rationalism and empiricism by discarding their flaws and combining their strengths. Grisell 2 Kant agrees with philosophers such as Pluto and Descartes that there are innate ideas. Knowledge of the nature of reality derives from ideas of the intellect, not the senses.

The concept of self, substance, and identity do not need to be tested through science; we know they exist simply by thinking and understanding. Furthermore, Kant agrees that the self is real and discernible through immediate intellectual intuition. This understanding relates to Cogito ergo sum, a statement from Descartes, which recognizes that someone wondering whether or not he or she exists is, in and of itself, proof that something, an “I”, exists to do the thinking. Kant also agrees with philosophers such as Aristotle and Hume who state that our senses are the primary, or only, source of knowledge of world.

For example, we know that water boils at 212 degrees because we have observed it through experience. Kant explains that there are two different worlds; the phenomenal (apparent) world versus the noumenal (real) world. The phenomenal world is a world of things, publicly observable, describable by science, known to the senses, and determined by physical laws. In this world, we can generate facts through trial and experiment, using our senses to determine a definitive answer (e. g. water boils at 212 degrees). Through Kant’s improved theory of constructivism, he can make conclusions based upon his findings.

Both rationalism and empiricism are wrong when they claim that we can know things in themselves. Rationalists are wrong not to trust senses; in the phenomenal world, senses are all we have. Hume is wrong when he claims the concept of self is unsupported by senses, and therefore false. Rather, the experiencing self is a pre-condition for having any experience at all (Descartes was right). Kant’s “Copernican revolution of the mind” synthesized rationalism and empiricism. What Kant suspected, and what many philosophers believe today, is that “our “ideas”-our Grisell 3

concepts and our language- do not just correspond to reality but in some sense shape and “set-up” the world, impose upon the world (and) the structures we experience. ” (Higgins and Martin 230) He believes that objects conform to knowledge. An example that displays this type of thinking is the Abraham Lincoln analogy. If a fuzzy picture of Abraham Lincoln is displayed to someone who is familiar with what Abraham Lincoln looks like, they can make sense of the image and acknowledge what they are seeing. A person who has no clue what Abraham Lincoln looks like will have no understand of what their eyes are viewing.

This requires prior knowledge from a person, gained through personal experience using their eyes. Although it is simply an analogy, this type of idea was what gave Kant the principle of Synthetic a prior. Kant’s revolution changed our conception of reality, our conception of knowledge, and most importantly, our concept of ourselves. I personally believe that Kant gave philosophers a definitive solution to how the mind and our reality interact. He gave philosophers a renewed ideal of certainty, for he argued that we can be certain of the rules of our own experience.

I think Kant says it best when he says, “reality is the world of our experience, as we constitute it through the concepts of our understanding” (Kant 232) Grisell 4 Work Cited Higgins, Kathleen M. , and Clancy Martin. “Knowledge; Kant’s Revolution. ” Introducing Philosophy. By Robert C. Solomon. 10th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 230-33. Print. LaFave, Sandra. “Kant: The “Copernican Revolution” in Philosophy. ” Kant: The “Copernican Revolution” in Philosophy. N. p. , n. d. Web. 02 Nov. 2012. Fehir, Aaron. “Hume’s Fork and the Problem of Causality. ” Lecture.


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