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Dying to KnowScientific Epistemology and Narrative in Victorian England$
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George Levine

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780226475363

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226475387.001.0001

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Dying to Know Descartes

Dying to Know Descartes

(p.44) 2 Dying to Know Descartes
Dying to Know

George Levine

University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses Rene Descartes as an epistemologist. Descartes has become the villain in the drama of Western epistemology. His epistemological propping of his science became deeply important in the development of epistemology as a central activity of philosophy. He writes of himself as a benefactor of mankind. The Discourse on Method entails a contingent and human way of knowing. Descartes' morality of knowledge comes to depend on a characteristic Enlightenment assumption that the will acts according to what the understanding reveals. Descartes demonstrates the myth that knowledge is attainable only through shucking the senses, verging on what would seem, to the flawed perceptions of common sense, rather like death. In keeping with a Christian sense of the fallen nature of humanity, Descartes worked into his final comments in the Sixth Meditation a recognition of how extraordinarily difficult is the detachment required to know.

Keywords:   Rene Descartes, Western epistemology, philosophy, The Discourse on Method, knowing, knowledge, death, humanity, Sixth Meditation

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