De Omnibus Dubitandum Est, Or the Curse of Philosophy

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Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2008 04:55 pm
"The method of beginning with doubt in order to philosophize seems as appropriate as having a soldier slouch in order to get him to stand straight." - Soren Kierkegaard

De Omnibus Dubitandum Est, as I've seen on "de Silento"'s signature, means roughly, everything is to be doubted. Kierkegaard notes that this started in modern philosophy with Descartes. Before him it was Socrates' maxim, "philosophy begins in wonder", that was its essence; but now we're stuck in post-Cartesian philosophy.

Friends and classmates who passed through the halls of philosophy, either by reading the classics or by attending philosophy courses at univ, now question and doubt everything. Ideal isn't it? Don't take anything for granted, stomp on fixed ideas, and find problems for any solutions!

But is it also a curse? Before philosophy, we were blissfully ignorant. We didn't question, we didn't doubt our senses, our decisions, our life. We stayed in the cave and we loved it there. But upon leaving the cave, we found that we knew little, if anything at all. Things came crashing down as the epistemological foundation of our knowledge disappeared.

How do you get on with your lives, once you've passed through philosophy? How do you make decisions? How do you stop doubting and just live?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 3 Aug, 2008 07:58 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
"The method of beginning with doubt in order to philosophize seems as appropriate as having a soldier slouch in order to get him to stand straight." - Soren Kierkegaard

De Omnibus Dubitandum Est, as I've seen on "de Silento"'s signature, means roughly, everything is to be doubted. Kierkegaard notes that this started in modern philosophy with Descartes. Before him it was Socrates' maxim, "philosophy begins in wonder", that was its essence; but now we're stuck in post-Cartesian philosophy.

Friends and classmates who passed through the halls of philosophy, either by reading the classics or by attending philosophy courses at univ, now question and doubt everything. Ideal isn't it? Don't take anything for granted, stomp on fixed ideas, and find problems for any solutions!

But is it also a curse? Before philosophy, we were blissfully ignorant. We didn't question, we didn't doubt our senses, our decisions, our life. We stayed in the cave and we loved it there. But upon leaving the cave, we found that we knew little, if anything at all. Things came crashing down as the epistemological foundation of our knowledge disappeared.

How do you get on with your lives, once you've passed through philosophy? How do you make decisions? How do you stop doubting and just live?


Descartes makes it quite clear that his method of doubt is just a device. He assures us that he does not really doubt that he has a body, or that God exists in his letter foreword to the Meditations. What Descartes doubt is not that he has a body, or that God exists. What he doubts is that he knows for certain that he has a body and that God exists. His quest is for knowledge of the truth, for he thinks he already believes what is true. For Descartes knowledge is tantamount to absolute certainty so that if it is possible to doubt a proposition, that means that the proposition is not known.

So, Cartesian doubt is no ordinary skepticism. It is epistemological skepticism. Scepticism about the possibility of knowledge, not of truth. And it should be noted that believing is compatible with not knowing. A person can believe, but not know. This means that Descartes may doubt that he knows that there is a table in front of him, and he can doubt he knows that he is holding a vase of flowers, but he can still put the vase of flowers firmly on the table. For although he does not know they exist, he believes they exist. So, to the question, can Descartes live his skepticism, the answer is, yes of course, for he can still believe what he does know know.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Mon 11 Aug, 2008 06:59 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:


But is it also a curse? Before philosophy, we were blissfully ignorant. We didn't question, we didn't doubt our senses, our decisions, our life. We stayed in the cave and we loved it there. But upon leaving the cave, we found that we knew little, if anything at all. Things came crashing down as the epistemological foundation of our knowledge disappeared.

How do you get on with your lives, once you've passed through philosophy? How do you make decisions? How do you stop doubting and just live?


Be careful not to fall into the same trap as Johannes Climacus. As Kierkegaard notes himself, his fictional character Johannes does what he is told to do, he doubts everything. By upholding this maxim, he lives a life full of despair and waste.

If Kierkegaard is correct, and meaning and value are given to experience by the single individual, then doubting everything can only lead to a meaningless life.

While doing philosophy it is inevitable that one must doubt, critical thinking demands it. But in living one's life, this is not necessarily the case. What is the use of doubting everything when my two year old son tells me that he loves me? What is the use of doubting everything when I am watching my daughter being born? What is the use of doubting everything when I see the face of student light up with joy over figuring out a solution to a problem?

We have one life to live, there is no sense in letting it all go to waste. There are certain joys in life that just need to be accepted as they are.
 
BrightNoon
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 07:00 pm
@de Silentio,
But is it also a curse? Before philosophy, we were blissfully ignorant. We didn't question, we didn't doubt our senses, our decisions, our life. We stayed in the cave and we loved it there. But upon leaving the cave, we found that we knew little, if anything at all. Things came crashing down as the epistemological foundation of our knowledge disappeared.

How do you get on with your lives, once you've passed through philosophy? How do you make decisions? How do you stop doubting and just live?

Here is my solution, in all seriousness, and in the form of a dialogue.


Naive John: "What is the meaning of life?"


Peter the Pessimist: "There is no meaning."


Intruding Stranger, apparently drunken: "So what?"





P.S. how cowardly is humanity that it will not act except at the bidding of another (universal morality, God, etc.)?
 
 

 
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