The Importance Of Solitude And The Potential Problem Of An Evil Genius Manipulating Our Senses

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Rene Descartes’ statement, “I at least know for certain that nothing is certain” perfectly illustrates the multiple problems that arise when all rational beings realize that their senses can deceive them and that the very foundation of their knowledge is based on the assumption that everything they encounter is real. Thankfully, being aware of the problem is the first step in solving it. The juxtaposition of Rene Descartes and William Shakespeare reveals a difference of opinion when they set out to examine and solve the problems that arise from the doubtfulness of the knowledge provided by our senses. Although both authors agree on the importance of solitude and the potential problem of an evil genius manipulating our senses, Descartes’ use of experience to construct his argument inevitably undermines his emphasis on contemplation. Shakespeare, through the actions of his characters in The Tempest, counters Descartes’ argument by illustrating the crucial role that experience plays in resolving our reasonable doubt. Because all humans have the capacity to reason, we inevitably seek a solution to the doubtfulness created by the sometimes faulty input from our senses - experience is that solution.
Near the end of Meditation One, Descartes introduces the idea that there is “not a supremely good God, the source of truth, but rather an evil genius, supremely powerful and clever, who has directed his entire effort at deceiving me” (Meditations on First Philosophy, p.62). The…

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