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Part 1 Week 2 DB assignment:

Assignment Details

René Descartes is often called the “father of modern philosophy.” Born into the French aristocracy in 1596, Descartes was fascinated by mathematics and founded the field of analytical geometry. He wanted to build a system of philosophy that was as clear and certain as mathematics. To do this, he decided that he would need to question all of his presuppositions about the world. One of the presuppositions that he doubted was whether or not he could believe that what he observed through his senses was true. Consider this passage from Descartes’ Meditations (Melchart, 2007):

Of course, whatever I have so far accepted as supremely true I have learned either from the senses or through the senses. But I have occasionally caught the senses deceiving me, and it’s prudent never completely to trust those who have cheated us even once. But, while my senses may deceive me about what is small or far away, there may still be other things that I take in by the senses but that I cannot possibly doubt—like that I am here, sitting before the fire, wearing a dressing gown, touching this paper. And on what grounds might I deny that my hands and the other parts of my body exists?—unless perhaps I liken myself to madmen whose brains are so rattled by the persistent vapors of melancholy that they are sure that they’re kings when in fact they are paupers, or that they wear purple robes when in fact they’re naked, or that their heads are clay, or that they are gourds, or made of glass.

Take a moment to reflect on this passage, and then discuss the following:

Part 1

  • Think of a time when your senses deceived you. Describe what you thought you saw, heard, or felt, and then explain how you came to realize that your initial perception was incorrect.
  • Do you think that it is reasonable to rely on your senses considering that they have fooled you in the past?

Part 2

  • Consider Descartes’ comparison of himself to a madman. How do you know that what you experience is any more real than what a so-called madman experiences as real?
  • Who is to say which experience is valid, and on what grounds?
  • How does reason play into the evaluation of what is real?
  • Discuss with 2 or more classmates their experiences with being deceived.

Melchert, N. (2007). The great conversation: A historical introduction to philosophy. New York, NY: Oxford University.

Part II DB response to classmates:

Susan Phillips (Instructor)

Nicholas, Class Is Illusion a Madman Theory?
Reality as in the non-corporeal world could be considered an illusion, which is analogous to Descartes madman theories of inconsistencies.

Reason plays into what and how the senses reveal what is true,   Descartes states,” that everything one believes is false until one proves it to be true.” (Solomon & Higgins P. 157)


Is Illusion a Madman Theory?


Nicholas Scholes              


Although I can’t really recall many times that I’ve been deceived by my senses. There is one time where they did confuse me pretty bad. About 4 years ago I was on my motorcycle and was hit by a drunk driver. It really messed me up something brutal. Bulging discs, herniated discs, broken ribs, and a severe concussion. The concussion is what I and the doctors have decided that caused my mental breakdown. Anyway I got side tracked there. After the accident I would feel the pain from my neck all the way down to my feet. It made me think that somehow my feet were in pain. It also shot pain down my legs and through my arms. It was really confusing feeling all this pain everywhere else but my upper back and neck area. Even though I was confused about what was happening with the weird pain stuff, I still never question my senses one bit. I know what I feel, taste, see, hear is real, in a sense.

With my mental illness I’m never sure what is real and what isn’t real. I see and hear many things that aren’t there. But that doesn’t make them any less real than anything else that you see or hear. I think Reality is all about perception. One man can see ghosts and believes while another man says they aren’t real and doesn’t believe. Someone like me who sees and hears strange things believes these said things because your senses tell you that it was there. Trust your senses!


Michael Williams             


The time I thought my senses was deceiving me it was 1980, on a hot summer day. My family and I live in a small brick house five bedroom house which two extra two bedroom built upstairs and it had to be around three in the morning. Anyway, it was my sister, cousin, brother, and I was sleeping in one of the rooms and my sister woke up and tapping us saying she got to use the restroom, but she said it in a real soft tone, and we was wondering why? She said to us I hear a strange voice coming from the other room and then we all got quiet and was listening in and heard this sound like someone or somebody is sleeping. Now keep in mind that nobody was there, but us. So! We look at each other like who is going to check this strange noise out?                                                                                                                All whispering in a soft tone saying to each other saying you get up and check it out. Although we were scared as stuff, my brother grabs a baseball bat, my cousin had the flashlight, my sister holding on to my brother and I was in front, but when we look into the other room, the room was empty.  Yes, we check the closet and under the bed and the room were small. So, we went back to the room we were in an about hour later the strange noise return. We all hided under this huge blanket, but the sound were even louder than before. So, we did not move and stayed there and next thing I know we woke up, the bed was wet, and we look in the room again that morning and saw nothing and still today we still talk about that incident. We still saying our mind were deceiving us


Jacqueline Stephens              


A time when my senses deceived me would be the first time I went deer hunting by myself, and this deception still occurs some times.  It was a colder morning and the grass and leaves were crisp.  I had to stay alert in order to see the deer and be prepared to shoot if I got the chance.  While waiting I was very observant of the smaller animals around me : the birds, squirrels, ect.. I had heard a crack that sounded louder than what I had been hearing, like it was a bigger animal.  It sounded like it was right beside me, but I could not see what it was.  At this point, I begin to panic.  I am 20 foot up in a tree, and mountain lions sometime frequent this area, along with bob cat, and all I could think was that a mountain lion was coming to get me!  As I looked around, I could not make out certain objects because the sun was just rising, and darker grasses and taller grasses looked like animals, or other shapes.  My fear allowed my eyes to deceive me into seeing what was not there.  Finally, the animal came out of hiding, and it was a lone raccoon, digging through the creek bed.  I was able to calm down after a few deep breaths, and had to laugh at myself for what a big deal I had made out of nothing that seemed so real.


Although that is an example of my sense deception, I believe it is reasonable to rely on our senses.  Very rarely do my senses lead me on a wild chase, and most of those time I feel it is instinct driven.  I believe that if I am confident with my senses, I will have more success in what I am doing.  I have learned to trust my self more, then second guess the situation, and get to the bottom of what the issue is before I jump to conclusions.


In Descartes’ comparison to a mad man,  he describes men with brains that are rattled, they have no perception of what is going on, and are very confused (Melchert, 2007). I believe my experience is different than a madman’s because I am able to analyze, or rationalize what is happening.


I think it is a personal choice to say what is valid, but if it is a questionable experience, physical proof could help decide whether the experience is valid or not.  Factual evidence can never hurt proving a point.


Reason plays into the evaluation of what is real by showing purpose.  Reasons shows the cause and effect of a situation.


Melchert, N. (2007). The great conversation: A historical introduction to philosophy. New York, NY: Oxford University


Destiny Kolkman

Unit 2 Discussion Board

One time my senses deceived me was when I was cleaning my house and I could have sworn my daughter was crying. However, to my astonishment when I went to check on her she was perfectly fine, sleeping in her crib. My hearing deceived me and I think this is because I was thinking about her my brain sent a false message to my ears telling me she was crying.

Although my senses have deceived me before I do believe I can rely on them. I strongly believe everything happens for a reason and what if my daughter was really crying and I ignored it just because I thought I was hearing things. I believe it is always saver to check than to be sorry for not checking later.

When considering Descartes’ comparison of himself to a madman, I do not know that what I experienced is any more real than a “madman”. However, I do believe my experience was more of an intuition to go check on my daughter. With that being said, I do also believe that Descartes’ comparison is a little cynical in a way of thinking about what is going on around him. I mean something’s are just universally known.

I think every individual is the only one who can say that what they experience is valid. I mean who can tell someone else what they experienced is false or true. Each person experiences their own reality of an occurrence in life so how can anyone else validate it for them.


I think reason plays into the evaluation of what is real because like I stated before there are just some things that are universally known. There are also things that an individual could experience but their brains could tell them what they thought they experienced was false. I think it just depends on the circumstance and what was experienced.


Part III Week 2 Individual Project (Due Sunday 5.11.14):

What is the difference between what is known and what is believed? It may seem like an obvious question, but if you look below the surface and really investigate the difference between knowledge and belief, you may find yourself second-guessing some of your most basic assumptions.

As a general definition, knowledge is something that is believed to be true and can be backed up with evidence. A beliefis something that is believed to be true, but there is not adequate evidence.

The difference between knowledge and belief seems pretty clear. However, how much evidence does it take to change a belief into knowledge? And, who decides what kind of evidence is reliable? Should knowledge be based on empiricism (knowledge that comes from experiencing the physical world), reason (knowledge that comes from logic), or a combination of both?

Take a moment to reflect on these concepts, and then write 2–3 pages on the following:

  • Think about someone in your life who loves you—it could be your mother, significant other, child, or even a pet.
  • Do you know this person loves you, or do you believe this person loves you?
  • State your argument for why you chose to categorize the idea as either knowledge or belief.
  • Give 3 pieces of empirical evidence for the knowledge or belief, as well as 3 logical reasons.
  • After looking through the evidence, do you still maintain your original categorization of knowledge or belief? Why?

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