On Passing Cars and Trust

crossing ducks



“Certainly, up to now whatever I have accepted as fully true I have learned either from or by means of the senses: but I have discovered that they sometimes deceive us, and prudence dictates that we should never fully trust those who have deceived us even once.”  – Descartes, First Meditation, Meditations on First Philosophy


Failing of satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of the heavenly bodies on the supposition that they all revolved round the spectator, he [Copernicus] tried whether he might not have better success if he made the spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experiment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards the intuition of objects.    Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant

 Descartes was reflecting on the consequences of the Copernican Revolution, which turn the philosophical world upside down via the shift away from an earth centered Scholastic universe with Ptolemaic bodies to an sun centered one.  Descartes concluded that if a colossal mistake like that was made, what can we trust as truth?  So in the Meditations, he doubts anything that is not ‘indubitably true.’   I wonder how the Meditator works out a practical distinction of full trust vs. ordinary trust.  What is the difference?

Life is full of surprises, so what makes ‘ordinary trust’ untrustworthy? I do not think I am being “duped” if I ask questions, validate conditions, and formulate theories? Descartes was an accomplished mathematician of analytic geometry and calculus after all, so he was accustomed to the tedious process of problem solving. Further, is ordinary trust a sufficient reason to utilize the method of doubt, or is ‘never fully trust’ the gold standard?  I wonder if the Meditator thought scholastic “madmen” were intentionally trying to lie to the masses.  Perhaps the “madmen” did believe it would be unwise to trust without relying on credible sources, so when they received confirmed oral tradition and read literary works, they resigned themselves to what they considered ordinary trust.  Don’t we all do that?   Are we mad people too?

Obviously, we must place some faith in our own senses; otherwise we would deliberately wait for a passerby to pull us out of the way of a car coming towards us instead of getting out of the way ourselves. Does ordinary trust mean relying on my self to get out of the way of a screeching car- and full trust means I let a passerby pull me out of the way?  Or is it the other way around?  🙂

Best!   Kassey

keep calm

Aquinas quote A

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