The Method of Doubt


Descartes embarks on a new method through which he can affirm or ascertain anything that is presented in the sciences. He determines for such affirmation to be confirmed, there is a need to start right from the foundations of knowledge. As such, he suggests that one should not reject what they already know to ascertain or affirm it, but should instead avoid believing that such knowledge is indubitable and entirely certain. Thus, the proposed approach, in this case, is to embrace skepticism and to be objective in the search for the truth about any aspect that individuals engage with, as opposed to entirely rejecting such things, without considering that they may hold truth as much as they may be false. 

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Critical Questions for Thinking

What is your initial point of view?

It is without a doubt that scientific truth can only be obtained by seeking evidence, and thus employing doubt. It is only through an objective approach that one can be able to test both sides of given knowledge and to establish the truth behind it without bias. As such, I agree with Descartes that the “certainty” of something can only be established through doubt. Nevertheless, it is vital to understand that our individual perspectives are determined by our backgrounds, be them political, social, cultural, or religious. Thus, the certainty of something as we hold it may still be refutable according to the perspective of other people as influenced by their backgrounds. 

How can you define your point of view more clearly?

Different substances and ideas have a set of knowledge that has been established in support of them. In most cases, such knowledge is supported by evidence that was obtained by subjecting it to a test or review. As such, ideas are not necessarily certain as much as they may be deemed so, and thus, the only way to establish their level of certainty is by subjecting them to doubt and then embarking on the journey of proving them either right or wrong, using an objective approach. Descartes maintains that if we believe that something is not certain, then we doubt it, such that we embrace the opposite of certainty as doubt. He believes that every idea is subject to doubt, with an exception of only those ideas that are “distinct and clear” which are seemingly apparent and unmistakable to the mind considering their properties, once they are mentioned. As such, I maintain that objects and ideas are subject to doubt and that it is only through rational insight that the truth about them can be established. 

What is an example of your point of view?

Case in point, a man may not be certain of the paternity of the children that his wife claims to be his, in as much as they have engaged in sexual intercourse with the wife. Transcending the boundaries of trust, such children may as well be those of another man as much as the so-called father may be certain that the children are his. The mother may also be certain that the children belong to the man despite engaging intimately with another man. To establish the certainty of the paternity of such children, the method of doubt comes into play, where such knowledge is put to test to affirm its certainty. Tests such as the DNA test have been scientifically proven to offer such insight and thus could be used in such a case.

What is the origin of your point of view?

My point of view is based on Descartes’ definition of perpetual illusion, where he noted that senses may be mistaken in the judgments they make concerning various aspects of the external world. This could likely be the origin of the wise saying “do not judge a book by its cover”, as some things that people see in the external environment may turn out to be the exact opposite of their appearance at first glance. Given that one cannot immediately judge what is veridical and what is not at first glance, they I buy Descartes’ position that individuals ought to doubt any sensory knowledge that may be deemed apparent, to determine the truth behind it.  

What are your assumptions?

My assumption is that any by challenging the truth of any idea or substance, one is passing them through a sieve. As such, it is only the knowledge that is perfectly certain that would survive such a level of skepticism. This means that the process does not only involve knowledge that has clear evidence of uncertainty, but also that which has been deemed fundamental, as its certainty would also depend on its survival of the skepticism challenge.

What are the reasons, evidence, and arguments that support your point of view?

Descartes provides a clear insight into the issue of doubt as a method of reasoning and obtaining the truth. In his first meditation, he clearly identifies the need to be skeptical about any object or idea that one interacts with in the external world, suggesting that our senses may be lying. He further narrows down his thought in the second meditation, where he suggests that only ideas that are distinct and clear are exempted from the skeptic approach. In this case, he referred to a dream, which involves imaginations that one is actually experiencing certain events, when he or she is not. Nevertheless, he notes that some aspects maintain the certain state within the dreams as they do in the real world, including color and mathematics. Such aspects, according to Descartes and clear and distinct, and thus “certain”. 

What are other points of view on this issue?

Husserl took a different stance, criticizing the practicability of Descartes method of doubt. He suggested that by maintaining that one has to doubt everything before coming up with truth, it means that Descartes failed by basing his ideas on the Cartesian philosophy, which was already deemed as self-evident. As such, he insisted that one has to have knowledge upon which he can build other knowledge, be it additional, contradicting, or new. Heidegger also criticizes the method of doubt by insisting that such an ontological tradition, which upholds inner-worldly being for the actual phenomenon of the world, altogether misses the actual phenomenon of the world. As such, he maintains that there has to be an inner basis of knowledge upon which certainty can be charged, and the method of doubt then means that one has to doubt everything including this inner knowledge. 

What is your conclusion, decision, solution, or prediction?

My conclusion is that each and every idea has to be given a fifty chance of proving its certainty even as one pursues certainty through an objective approach. Every idea has a rationale that support it, and thus it determining such certainty, it is only fair to look at both sides of the idea. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that some of the ideas already scientific rationale behind them, and thus there is no need for skepticism in determining their certainty as they are already certain.

What are the consequences of your point of view?

My point of view has allowed for an understanding of the level of skepticism that one has to hold to find the truth. It is clear that there is a need for one to uphold inner knowledge upon which certainty can be defined, unlike initially when I believed that all the knowledge, including the inner knowledge is put in doubt.  


It is evident that Descartes’ view holds a considerable level of weight when it comes to affirming certainty of objects from the external environment. Every individual is provided, with a chance through this approach, to create a rationale and facts in support of the ideas they put forth. It is, however, important to note the argument brought forth by Descartes’s critics, who believed that his philosophical ego contradicted his theory. As such, there is need to engage the thoughts of other in determining certainty as perspectives of certainty are affected by one’s background.

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