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Methodological Skepticism

October 9, 2010

When I studied Rene Descartes’ Methodological Skepticism, I was impressed by his use of skepticism to rigorously determine that there was only one thing could not be doubted: one’s own existence. That is, by doubting existence, one would end up confirming it, because to doubt is to think. Cogito Ergo Sum.

But then Descartes makes me really hate his guts by making the fallacious inference that God would not deceive him because he is infinite and thus has no reason to. This statement is so logically full of holes it’s ridiculous, so let me just go with the most obvious problem: Why would God need a motivation to deceive in the first place? (If he is indeed God, everything he did would be justified de facto, because it’s God who did it. God doesn’t need a reason.

However, Rene Descartes did inspire an important insight for me, in regards to how I can know and understand truth: I cannot know the truth with certainty, but I can know what the truth isn’t. By knowing what isn’t, I can better understand what is, thus using my own equivalent of methodological skepticism to understand God, reality, and the truth.

For example, because God is infinite, he is beyond my comprehension and thus unknowable. However, I can at the very least know what God isn’t. God isn’t finite, he isn’t insecure (nothing is lacking), he isn’t arrogant (as this is an imperfection), and he isn’t fearful (what is there to be afraid of). By knowing what God isn’t, I can then understand who God is. If God is not cruel, he must be kind. If God is not weak, he must be powerful…and so on.

According to my methodology, to understand all that is, we must not focus on knowing the truth (which is unknowable), but on what is not the truth (which is knowable). By using what is not true to isolate what is true, we can better understand the truth even without knowing it. Divide and Conquer, using a logical skepticism to isolate the truth.

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