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.