Posted: August 12th, 2013







Michel de Montaigne argues against the claim of certain knowledge by the Rationalists based on their exaggerated reasoning and confidence. Rationalists base their knowledge on views appealing to reason and this is their source of justification or knowledge. The knowledge ability of rationalists is limited because it corresponds to beliefs that cannot be grasped by the human mind fully, even though they are true. He questions their credibility on theoretical knowledge where practical wisdom is excluded. Montaigne criticized the education system that fostered students who recited words from their memory but had little idea over their substance or sense. Instead of embracing mediocrity, the challenge by Montaigne was directed at self-mastery and taking difficult tasks. As he stated, when manages to handle and think out their own life, then they have managed to handle the hardest task of all. Montaigne regarded the knowledge of knowing how to live life naturally and well as the most valuable knowledge.

Another argument Montaigne directed against rationalists maintained absolute perfection comes from the virtual divinity of knowing how to enjoy the gift of life rightfully. Rationalists had a tendency of seeking other conditions because their lacked informed understanding of how to spend one’s life. According to Montaigne, rationalists went outside themselves because they did not know their inside well. He used a proverb to rely on his point and stated that it makes no sense for one to mount on stilts since one still uses his or her legs regardless of the stilts.

Empiricism is referred to as viewing sense based on Aristotle’s knowledge and philosophy in “The School of Athens” painting. The painting depicts Aristotle’s hand pointing downwards and Plato pointing upwards. This depicts the contrasting view made by the senses. Humans in this school of thought knowledge are only derived from sensory experiences. In essence, this limits the ability of knowledge in empiricism since knowledge is derived from sources other than senses. However, Montaigne argued against this school of thought stating that it is unreliable and relative. As he stated, the mind is not capable of obtaining ultimate truth because it places heavy reliance on the experience of senses. Furthermore, humanity is not capable of resolving conflict between reason and senses. In this case, his argument was in favor of skepticism.

Epistemically, Montaigne further argued against empiricism through comments such as “I tend to judge myself through reasoning rather than actual sensation. Another way he went against was through the anecdotal materials he reported designed to undermine cultural prejudice or universal judgments. The design of these anecdotes focused on variations between humans and animals, cultural differences, and varying reaction of healthy people compared to the sick. The purpose of his argument was to state that supposedly objective judgments are based on pure relation to one’s mental, physiological, and spatio-temporal condition rather than just senses.

The three certainties offered by Descartes include “I exist”, “God exists”, and the “The physical world exists”. These certainties illustrate Descartes effort at defeating skepticism that show if one goes on to acknowledge matter, then it holds that he or she is not in a position to doubt other truths. He achieves this by using methods of analysis and doubt jointly. The doubt method involves posing skeptical hypothesis that call into knowledge claims classes of doubt. The determination of these classes is held by three faculties. Descartes established these as knowing the senses, things, understanding, and imagination. When truth is coming from imagination, senses, and most coming from understanding have been eliminated, Descartes concluded that no one could be deceived into thinking that his or her existence is false nor that of the physical world, since that is where we live. Therefore, these are two truths than we can establish with certainty and no skeptic can deny. On the other hand, the other certainty on the existence of God is subject to the argument by skeptics. In this case, there is little evidence suggesting that God exists, and this is the argument posed by skeptics. However, those in support of this truth base their argument on biblical accounts as well as the harmony and maintained delicate balance of the universe and solar system, such that it supports life.

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