Skeptical Philosophers Essay

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Vanessa Gabriel
Philosophy 201

The Skeptical Philosophers

After having read the allegory of the cave by Plato, Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes, and The Matrix, I begin to thoroughly understand the meaning of the term skepticism in philosophy. As mentioned by Dew and Foreman, there are varying levels of skepticism, but generally speaking, all skeptics tend to lack trust in the claims of knowledge made by others (Dew and Foreman, 2014, P. 148). The Matrix and both the readings from Rene Descartes and Plato all display characteristics of skepticism. Each story holds elements of reality being hidden or obscured in some way, showing a world where our senses are misled. All of the stories are showing us an expression of skepticism through philosophy, however, there are differing types within the realm of skepticism. In the allegory of the cave, Plato is attempting to show us that our sensory perception can lead us astray. Therefore, we know what we think we know. Learning more of the reality that surrounds us seems to be a personal choice for each of us. From this allegory, we can determine that Plato believed in the physical and the metaphysical, however, he question our ability to detect and sense both. This did not stop Plato from believing that the two exist, therefore Plato was most likely a global skeptic, who took an externalism position when it came to justifying beliefs, who also believed in materialism. Rene Descartes' theory of the “Evil Demon” expresses to us the same question that Plato presented, in whether we can trust our empirical data gathering skills. Our senses can be used to confuse us. Rene displays a type of skepticism called methodological skepticism, in that he is only doubting what he cannot be certain of, for the sake of finding out what is left that we can be certain is undoubtable—I think, therefore I am (Dew and Foreman, 2014, P. 151). It is also interesting to mention that there are two sides to his belief, that there is an omnipotent being that we call God, and there is yet another omnipotent being who is solely in existence for the purpose of tricking and confusing us. This shows us that he had no doubts when it came to the metaphysical world, so he was not a radical skeptic. Finally, The Matrix was similar to the first two mentioned stories, in fact it seemed to almost combine the two previous concepts. The story showed those who were freed from the Matrix coming back to save others and enlighten them as to the prison around them, just the same as the cave allegory. Yet it is also similar to the “Evil Demon Theory” in that there is an entity that is responsible for obscuring the truth from everyone. Each example demonstrates some of the variations within the world of skepticism. It is surprising to think that the habit of doubting, can actually bring about real answers, when doubt is usually considered to be counterproductive. If we trust what we cannot doubt, then at least we know that we have a starting point when it comes to epistemology.

The only way that I believe we could prove that the world we are living in is actually real—if you believe Plato and Rene Descartes—is to question your reality. From what I have read thus far concerning skepticism, it appears that we cannot really come to a consensus when determining…