STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which is known to be theory of knowledge. It is special branch of philosophy that investigates the origin and nature of knowledge, its limits and presuppositions and in general the reliability of our claims to knowledge.1
Knowledge of course is concerned as belief that eventually turned out to be truth and can be justified. Hence, traditionally, the characteristic of knowledge is “justified true belief”. Therefore, for anyone to claim to have knowledge of a certain thing, he must believe it, and the belief must be justified. Although, there is an objection to this position. According to Edmund Gettier, justified true belief is inadequate as condition of acquiring knowledge.
A person, who argues, could actively belief something that thing could be true and he could be justified in believing it, yet he may not know.2
For instance, a clock that is not accurate may give a specific time that can be justified and yet it may not be true. This of course either directly or indirectly is a knowledge, yet it is not true, but it can be verified. In a way, then epistemology is nothing “but a search for certainty”.3 This is the basis why philosophers have tried to find sure and firm foundations for anything that could possibly be called knowledge.
According to an ancient and honorable tradition, knowledge is justified true belief. But what is this “justification?” Theologians of the Protestant Reformation (however things may stand with their contemporary epigoni) had a clear conception of justification; justification, they held, is by faith. Contemporary epistemologists, sadly enough, do not thus speak with a single voice. They don’t often subject the concept in question-the concept of epistemic justification-to explicit scrutiny; but when they do discuss it, they display a notable lack of unanimity. Some claim that justification is by epistemic dutifulness, others, that it is by coherence, and still others that it is by reliability.4
Given the above, the question remains: there is need for a clearer look at epistemic justification and allied conceptions. There is need for argument that none of the above is the correct answer, and an alternative needs to be suggested.
Such terms as ‘justification’ and ‘justified’ are, as Roderick Chisholm suggests, terms of epistemic appraisal; to say that a proposition is justified for a person is to say that his believing or accepting it has positive epistemic status for him. What we appraise here are a person’s beliefs, more exactly, his believing’s. We may speak of a person’s beliefs as warranted, or justified, or rational or reasonable, contrasting them with beliefs that are unwarranted, unjustified, irrational, or unreasonable.5
Secondly, epistemic justification or positive epistemic status clearly comes in degrees: at any rate some of my beliefs have more by way of positive epistemic status for me than others.
And thirdly, among the fundamental concepts of epistemology we find, naturally enough, the concept of knowledge. It is widely agreed that true belief, while necessary for knowledge, is not sufficient for it. What more is required? Whatever exactly this further element may be, it is either epistemic justification or something lurking nearby. Initially, then, and to a first approximation, we can identify justification as a normative property that comes in degrees, and that lies in the near neighborhood of what distinguishes true belief from knowledge.6
It must be reiterated that there are many questions to be addressed for epistemology to justify its reality. These questions are: how do we know that we know something for certain? What is the objective justification that what we claim to know to be true is really true? How can we determine the reliability of human knowledge? What determines the truth or falsity of our knowledge?
Despite the fact that intuition is a common phenomenon, philosophers have often been hesitant to identify it as a form of knowledge–primarily because there seems to be little way to determine whether it does, in fact, provide knowledge as opposed simply to lucky guesses. So most philosophers focus, instead, on reason and sense experience as the bases of knowledge. These two latter ways of approaching the question of knowledge are identified as rationalism and empiricism.7
A rationalist epistemology claims that knowledge (as opposed to opinion) is possible only if it is based on self-evident and absolutely certain principles. Such principles are not learned through experience; instead, they are implicit in the very notion of reasoning itself. Sense experience cannot provide the certainty needed to guarantee that what we claim to know is true. Empiricism is a philosophical doctrine or school of thought that claim that knowledge must be attained based on one’s belief on experience. They claim that any successful claim to knowledge must be fully confirmed by sensory experience. So, like mathematicians, we have to rely on reason itself as the basis for determining whether our opinions are justified true beliefs (that is, knowledge).8
To determine whether our beliefs are justified, we have to be able to trace them back to a statement, belief, or proposition that cannot be doubted. Such a proposition could provide the firm foundation on which all subsequent beliefs could be grounded; it would guarantee that all subsequent claims based on it would be true.
Descartes revolutionary idea entails using doubt explicitly and systematically as a tool for reaching certainty. Despite all the four rules given by Descartes, knowledge can still not be justified according to Justified True Believe. Several questions shall be addressed. These questions are: what is Descartes methodic doubt? How does he come about the idea of cogito? Why did Descartes try to doubt whatever can be doubt? What is a thinking thing?
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The purpose of this essay is to examine Descartes quest for certainty through his methodic of doubt and to argue that the four rules as criteria for certainty cannot be rationally justified.
The philosophical method or tools to be used in this research will be conceptual clarification, analysis of issues, critical evaluation and appraisals of ideas and comparison of different epistemological doctrines viz: rationalism and empiricism.
The thesis shall attempt to argue on the four rules given by Descartes in his quest for certainty that it cannot philosophically guarantee absolute certainty or indubitable knowledge.
SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This research shall cover all Descartes theory of rationalism, viz-a-viz his methodic doubt and the mind and body problem of Cartesian philosophy and the Traditional definition of knowledge.
SOURCE OF MATERIALS
This research work shall seek out materials needed through secondary source and relevant textbook, journals of philosophy shall be sought out from different libraries, including the internet will also be useful in this work and also information gathered from my project supervisor.