Against Descartes: A Foundation More Foundationial Than Foundationalism

I admit. I’m winging this post with no handlebars. In this handlebars-free post, I will argue that there is a foundation more firm than Cartesian Foundationalism. 

What most people get wrong about Descartes is that he was a Skeptic. In fact, he was attempting to not be a Skeptic. He was searching for a foundation for knowledge (and, thus, many other things, such as science and law). In what comes I will show that while Descartes was a tragic philosopher, who ended up trying to cleave to God as a foundation, he was on the right track nevertheless.

Descartes. Many know the name. Fewer know The Cogito: “I think, therefore, I am.”

These things are well-known to philosophers and these ideas have been grappled with ever since Descartes published his Meditations

After years of first learning about Descartes, teaching Descartes and, now, being in a similar foundational place as Descartes, I can tell you this: It is not God for which we shall have a foundation for understanding

The goal isn’t to reach above and beyond, going higher than skeptical doubts. Rather, the goal is to move closer to Earth, where we belong. 

Here, in front of me, is my computer. I am typing on it. This is something I know. And I even know it with Wittgensteinian certainty. 

Descartes, as well as many other famous philosophers, may have, as a matter of fact, been plagued by abnormal mental states. These states have actually brought about things such as the scientific revolution. So, I’m not here to dis Descartes. 

Moving further, though, and having had my own abnormal states, I conclude that advances we have made in psychological health and wellness may in fact move us to other unforeseen revolutions. 

At one point, I explored the option of God. I found, perhaps as Descartes eventually found, that just wasn’t the final answer. 

The answer is not necessarily empiricism, either. The way in which I am currently in the world in a normal state–after an abnormal one. As such, I can reflect on these things and say: If you suffer from abnormal states, seek counseling and support. These things may very well bring to new and innovative understandings.

As for Descartes? Going from mere empathy, I can only imagine he suffered greatly. It was probably torment. We should never overlook such tortures that brings us closer to things like science, law and, well, knowledge.

Jennifer Lawson

Author: Jennifer Lawson

Philosopher. That is all.

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