Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015
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Two great historical figures, Michel De Montaigne and RenéÂ Descartes, through the use of philosophical approaches have tried to comprehend the issue of doubt and whether it can lead to knowledge. Montaigne, first of all, began by doubting that there is anything certain in knowledge that people have acquired [1 ]. while Descartes doubted everything that exists in the world around us and this is how his quote "I think, therefore I am" arose [2 ]. One could define knowledge as 'familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study' [3 ] or else 'a sub-category of belief' [4 ] and doubt as an extended review of what has been initially stated. It is obvious that there is a correlation between the two concepts, but the problem arises when one tries to establish a link between these two values. A vivid example of this case would be the story of Socrates when learning that the Oracle at Delphi had said that he is the wisest man in Athens. Instead of accepting this title, he tried to find the truth by doubting this statement and trying to prove that this notion expressed by the Oracle was false. Based on his doubt, he followed inductive reasoning by asking other what was worth in life and nobody gave him a clear answer. Thus he concluded that he may actually be the wisest one as he did not pretend to be someone he was not. Moving to a broader scale, one could attempt to determine whether doubt is a key to knowledge by examining two specific areas of knowledge, history and mathematics and real life situations where doubt has led to awareness and understanding.
First of all, history is one of the areas where doubt is thought to be a key to knowledge. If not doubt exactly, then skepticism as it is the zone where people gain knowledge from past resources. Since those resources are often biased, it is through doubt that people can assess the source they are acquiring their knowledge from. Some could argue that this does not fall under the definition of the word knowledge because there is no belief. Of course this argument could not possibly stand, as belief is probably set after the value and the background of the historic resources has been established. Also, when people are searching for truth through in history, they try to combine all of the resources that they have and all of their different interpretations, in order to come to a conclusion, simply by using reasoning. Most of the times, when looking at historic facts, reasoning comes in the form of truth tests. Despite the fact that there are three types of truth tests, coherence, pragmatic and correspondence, only two of them can be used so as to determine the validity of historical resources. Firstly the coherence test, which calls you to think what information the resource is providing you with and based on what you already know you come to a conclusion. This could mean that you look for problems in the claim itself, consider why a historic fact can have more than one different interpretation, but also consider possible strengths that the argument has. Apart from the coherence test, the correspondence test can be used effectively, which means that the person in search of truth throughout history will 'go and check' [5 ] the validity of his resources. Even though it is quite difficult, one can actually use this test by combining the information of the resource with what else had been happening at the world at that time period, remarks made by others and even look at the language and tone used to describe the historic fact.
History is the area of knowledge mostly based on doubt and skepticism because that is the only real way one can understand what has happened in the past. Usually resources are affected by their author's age, gender, ethnicity or even education. As a result, a certain fact can be interpreted in various manners. For instance, I can recall being taught about the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922 [6 ]. being introduced to the idea that the fire was caused by the Turkish forces, aiming to vanish the Greek and Armenian populations of Asia Minor. On the other hand, the Turkish government has not accepted responsibility for this fact, stating the fire was caused by Greeks and Armenians. Even though a final conclusion has not been made, there are resources with great importance which support the notion that the fire was actually caused by the Turkish Army. Without the factor of doubt though, people could have accepted any of the two sides without knowing which one is actually true Thus, it is through doubt that me and thousands of people have tried to get closer to truth and eventually at some point reach it. Similar is the case with the resources describing the African-American civil rights in the United States. Most of them are biased due to the discrimination that existed and continues to exist, as well as the propaganda that people were exposed to. Of course a person that seeks for the truth in history should not only consider biased resources, because he would definitely come to the wrong conclusion, but these are quite helpful as they provide a clearer and broader view of what the situation was. As a result, it is through the reexamination of historical facts, triggered by doubt, through which one can attain knowledge for the past, as well as for the future.In mathematics, the coherence test is used in order to establish whether a truth in mathematics is actually valid. This means that "the axioms they use as foundations need to be logically consistent" [7 ] .Until the 1990s the field of mathematics was dominated by the idea that the fundamentals were completely flawless and that mathematics can reach a state of absolute certainty. This arose from the fact that in the field of pure mathematics, from logic to axioms, is following certain laws. In addition, since deductive reasoning is used, the proof of a conjecture leads to its acceptance and as a result, doubt is meaningless. At that time though, different paradoxes started arising, because of contradictions and doubts on the main axiomatic systems. A vivid example would be the creation of the non-Euclidean geometry. In spite of the existence of Euclidean geometry, which assumed the existence of a flat plane meaning that the sum of the angles of any triangle would be 180 degrees, non-Euclidean geometry doubted this and assumed the existence of curved planes, meaning that the sum of the angles of a sphere do not have to be 180 degrees. Having doubted Euclidean geometry, a new pathway opened towards knowledge as the basics were set for the creation of the String Theory, as well as the idea of General Relativity. Using more real life applications of non-Euclidean geometry, one could take into consideration the use of spherical geometry [8 ] . Apart from the doubts on the Euclidean Geometry, other paradoxes enable mathematics to move to a higher level. For instance, I clearly remember one of my mathematics teachers trying to show how logic can create contradictions in mathematics. He used a paradox known as the liar's paradox, where someone states: "I am lying". [9 ] If the person is actually lying then the sentence is true and this goes on. In the 1930s, Kurt Gödel created a notion that is widely known as "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem" [10 ]. This states that mathematics cannot possibly reach a state of completeness as in any axiomatic system, the axioms used can create contradictions, and thus the system cannot be proved to be consistent. It is through reasoning that a paradox is created in a system itself due to the referencing of one axiom to another, leading to "Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem". Doubt is formed from logic and reasoning and through them the contradictions in the axiomatic systems are created leading to the development of mathematics. These doubts arising in the systems let the field of mathematics progress. As Wile's once said: "So you see, the way that mathematics progresses is you trivialize everything!" [11 ]. This trivial that Wile refers to, are the doubts and the contradictions of an axiomatic system which ultimately lead to the creation of new problems allowing mathematics to gain knowledge and move even further. To sum up, based on what was said above, doubt is a key to knowledge, but not in all areas. History is a bright example where doubt is possibly the only key to true knowledge, whereas there is a controversy whether or not doubt in mathematics can have any productive outcome. As a result, doubt is merely the key to knowledge and sometimes people have to accept the facts in order to let the field progress.
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’s Essays Essay, Research Paper
This book called Selected Essays is just what the title tells it to be. It is a group of selected essays written by a medieval French philosopher named Michel de Montaigne. The essays are of course translated but as the ideas are Montaigne s I don t feel it necessary to share the translator s name. I would like to expand on the idea of how extensively Montaigne s life differs from that of today s average person and also how that difference in lifestyle and time greatly influenced his opinions on certain subjects. Another idea I would like to develop is of how the style of writing they used differs from the style of writing used by contemporary authors today.
Montaigne was born on February 28, 1533 right smack dab in the middle of what most people refer to as the Middle Ages. Now the times in which he grew up were very different from what we would now experience, for instance surfs (peasants) were little better than slaves, women were looked upon as property and male children were sent to other peoples homes to be raised. Montaigne himself had quite a unique education, being such that Latin was his first language and he was allowed to read whatever he pleased and was not confined to only what his tutor thought appropriate. His opinions on many subjects were greatly affected by these circumstances. He, as did most men of this time period, felt that women were objects designed only to bear children and direct the servants of t
he house. His opinions on children were unique in that he felt a great need for education of a greater sort and not just literacy although he felt that important also. He believes that a male child should learn to cope with much cold, fight, and show sympathy for suffering.
The writing style used in Montaigne s time is quite different from the style of which we use today. They start on one subject and end on quite another, for instance should you read an essay today on the education of children you would expect it to stay at least somewhat on the subject of the education of children. I n Montaigne s essay Of the Education of Children he traverses into subjects such as hiding ones true self, traveling to other countries, a mans soul and many other things while every once in a while returning to the original subject of the education of children. It is more like having a conversation than reading an essay. He starts on one subject and transgresses into many of which he sometimes returns to and sometimes leaves as is.
In truth I enjoyed the book as it was intellectually stimulating and kept me thinking and analyzing my own opinions on the subject of which he speaks. I found that while I did not always agree with what he was saying the essays were well written and every opinion was well supported. I would have to say that only people who enjoy thinking deeply should even bother to undertake this book. Anyone else would most definitely be utterly bored by it.
The statue of Michel de Montaigne by Paul Landowski (1896-1961), which stands in Square Paul Painlevé across the street from the main entrance to the Sorbonne on Rue des Écoles, was executed in 1933. Students at the Sorbonne believe it is good luck to touch Montaigne's shoe before an exam, lending the statue's foot its bright polish.
Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Best known for popularizing the essay as a literary genre, his massive volume Essais (Attempts) contains, to this day, some of the most widely influential essays ever written. A conservative and earnest Catholic, Montaigne also possessed an anti-dogmatic cast of mind and is considered the father, alongside his contemporary and intimate friend Étienne de La Boétie, of the 'anti-conformist' tradition in French literature. In his own time, Montaigne was admired more as a statesman than as an author.
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