Show list of the lessons
René Descartes (1596-1650) had the merit of making us approach total doubt with confidence, optimism, love for research, rather than wishing to abolish it for a preconceived fear of anarchy, of the total disorientation to which it can lead. Thus he also realized that there is no method for distinguishing between dream and reality; that we can also suspect our belief that two plus two make four; however, in his reflection path doubt leads to an indubitable certainty: “cogito, ergo sum”, that is “I think, therefore I am”. Descartes knows that this reasoning had already been done about 1200 years before by St. Augustine (354-430 AD), but the latter had not assumed it as the basis of a whole philosophy.
Once we appreciate the merit of Descartes, we must not hide, however, that his landing is actually further criticizable. It may be useful to realize some questions to which it does not respond: who said that in order to start a knowledge we must necessarily start from some fixed point? Why consider total doubt as something to overcome, an enemy to fight? Who authorizes us to pass from the datum of doubting to the datum of existence? Who tells us that the evidence of our existence cannot be a deception itself? What does it mean to exist? What does it mean to doubt?
Another important aspect of Descartes is mechanism: the material world (distinct from the supernatural, of which God and the soul are part, for example) is nothing but a gigantic machine, like a great clock created by God, and therefore explainable in all its phenomena through the geometric laws of matter, which occupies a space, and of movement. However, Descartes does not deny the existence of free will.
We must not ignore that even mechanism is open to criticism: geometric ideas are human ideas, adaptations of phenomena to the comprehension abilities of our brain; therefore we must not forget that it is not the world that obeys the laws that we have discovered, but the laws, small tools of understanding created by our brain for its utility, to be in duty to continuously listen to the world, from which they were obtained.
The Cartesian rules of provisional morality are extraordinarily modern: 1) in the practical it is inevitable to have to act being content with truths that are not entirely evident, otherwise we would remain eternally undecided; 2) once a decision has been made, we must be resolute and not doubting endlessly; 3) rather than wanting to change the order of the world, it is better to try to improve our thoughts first.