Sample Descartes Quiz
One option for the Descartes
quiz is to work with a classmate and exchange a series of text messages
talking about the assigned material. What I include below goes
above and beyond what I am expecting here, but it will give you a good
idea of how to show that you have both read and thought about the
text. Hope this helps!
- On page eight
of Discourse on Method, Descartes says,"[...] it is nearly impossible
for our judgements to be as pure or as solid as they would have been if
we had had the full use of our reason from the moment of our birth and
if we had always been guided by it alone".
My question is, do you believe that we are born with a strong
sense of reason, as Descartes implies that we are, or is "reason" a
reflection of our culture/ up bringing?
- I partially
disagree with Descartes in this aspect. I believe that though people
are inherently born with their own unique personality, their
personalities are solidified by their parents and the way that they are
brought up. A person can have a poor sense of reason, but when taught
the difference betwen right and wrong through either parenting or the
cultural environment. I think it is a combination of the two that make
up a person, but I think that the environment and teachings make up
more of the sense of reason than what you are inherently born with
personally. Nice question!!
- there is a
movie called "Into the Wild". It is a story about a young man who
essentially tries to rid himself of society. He goes out into the
wilderness and just fends for himself. It is important to note that he
did much research on how to survive but, "Too make a long and
interesting story short and boring", he just ends up dying from
starvation. ANYWAY, being alone gives him a lot of time to think about
life and what he wants out of life and why people do the things that
they do. He eventually comes to understand a lot about the world that
he would not have figured out if he had gone to college, had a job,
stayed in society.
I have heard of a lot of people who have done similar things and
developed insightful theories as to their own lives and the lives of
Do you think that the people who venture away from society like this
are, in a sense, trying to discover the reason that they were born with
or reflecting on the reason that has been given to them by "society" ?
- Please forgive
my word vomit. One of my friends from high school and I decided that
the best time for thinking is after 11pm before 5 am, so here goes a
good chunk of this project.
"[...] as regards all the opinions to which I had until now given
credence, I could not do better than to try to get rid of them once and
for all, in order to replace them later on, either with other ones that
are better, or even with the same ones once I had reconciled them to
the norms of reason." (8)
This line makes me think about college in a sense. I have heard it said
that college is a time to redefine and recreate yourself, but I can not
help but wonder how much of that really goes on. Sure, our thought
processes as individuals should be growing and maturing, but that is a
part of developing as a person that development should never be lost in
life. What I am finding more and more that this "redefining" of oneself
that is supposed to take place during the early part of college is more
reaffirming what I always thought to be true. As much as I feel that
parts of my life should be altered or replaced, I am understanding that
everything I have done up to this point in my life has just defined me
as a person and I can not simply let all of this go.
It may be a sign of weakness to hold fast to those things which are
near and dear to me, but I am holding them close in a different light.
The connection I am making is in reference to when Descartes talks
about the rebuilding of a house to better fit the style of a
I feel like every part of my being, physical and mental, is like a
house. Despite my desire to demolish the house that is myself and start
over again in hopes of building something more "stylish" and
purposeful, I find that, given my freedom, I accept certain things in
my "previous life" as being true and just and good and a solid
foundation of me.
What do you think in relation to this?
In Descartes search for truth, he eventually finds about the same thing
everywhere in the sense of how people realize and accept truth. After
his realization, he has this to say, "I found myself, as it were,
constrained to try to guide myself on my own" (10).
In my middle school years, I would spend hours online or in quote books
just reading through the quotes and finding those perfect ones that
seemed to describe me. One day it occurred to me, why am I looking so
much to what other people have to say to explain ideas or concepts that
I am thinking about? At that point, I found myself at the other
extreme, I would not look at any quotes. Why should I? All of these
wise people had come before and said these miracle words, but who was
to say that I could not think of these inspiring statements on my own?
I also realized throughout high school that, in order to deeply
understand my own thoughts and desires on life, love, and the pursuit
of happiness, I could not be permitted to explore these subjects deeply
with other people.
The very presence of another person can have an effect on MY thought
process and MY ability to reason.
I understand where Descartes is coming from when he states that he
would have to be his own guide through this exploration. I am a firm
believer that one can not personally know truth unless one has come to
their conclusion, whatever that conclusion may be, on their own
account. It is my understanding that Descartes feels this same way.
What do you think about this?
- Just Kidding! In all
honesty though I do partially agree with you, although I feel that
since I've only been in college for about 4 weeks now I don't get to
fully say what college will be to me and whether or not it will change
me or just affirm the person that I have always been. When I talk to my
mom about her college experience she always says that she learned so
many new things and she really does feel like the experience of college
changed her. She believes this to be because she saw so many scenarios
that she wanted to avoid, and instead picked up on the way that she
wanted to live the rest of her life, hence she went from being the most
careless/reckless of her friends to being the most responsible. I think
that I can't fully understand this because I think the result that my
mom came to was a long term change, and I haven't been in this
situation long enough to experience any long term changes. Although I
do feel as if up until this point I have to agree with you, so far
college has simply been a reaffirmation of the person I want to be, as
for Descartes house metaphor, I feel like when I came to college
instead of fitting into the neighborhood in which was placed, instead I
tried to surround myself with the types of people that I enjoyed the
company of in high school. The kind of people that are easy-going and
simply live to enjoy life, not to impress others.
With the second point, I disagree with Descartes here. He describes the
way in which he "...abandoned the study of letters..." in order to
"...search for no knowledge other than what could be found within
myself, or else in the great book of the world..." While I don't
believe that you must learn strictly through books nor is it healthy to
solely rely on facts other people have given you, I think that a big
portion of learning must be from other people. I can best describe this
in my Into to Persons with Exceptionalities class, obviously since I am
not autistic I will never be able to understand autism and the way it
works, nor was the Special Education community until finally in the mid
1900's Temple Grandin wrote a novel about having autism herself fully
describing the way that her mind comprehends thoughts and how she must
think in order to understand what is happening around her. Though
extensive research had been done on autism, no one was able to
comprehend what it was and what those suffering from this disability
were going through until someone directly effected by the disability
was able to share. I think this is one of the best examples of how even
though there is much to learn on your own, you must never "abandon the
study of letters" as Descartes had and find a balance of learning from
others, both in their experiences and in their experiments, and
discovering things on your own. I do think that there is a difference
between Descartes time and our own in this particular example though.
We still have much to examine in our own life, but we have unlimited
access to what is happening in the world around us through the
internet, and I think that is a huge aid to our education in all
- Now I have a
question for you, Descartes describes how he had once found himself
having trouble with taking in all of the 'answers' that had been
hypothesized by other philosophers/scientists/etc. because he did not
want to "begin to reject totally any of the opinions that had once been
able to slip into my head without having first been introduced there by
reason, until I had first spent sufficient time [...] seeking the true
method for arriving at the knowledge" (18). Do you think that with our
advancements made today it is made easier or more difficult for us to
block out what has been said to consider if we ourselves believe this
to be true? With the internet it is made easy to do reasearch and such
to arrive at our own conclusions, but if we use the internet are we
truly doing our own investigation, or again just relying on the
research that has already been done for us?
- I think the
advancements have both made it easier and more difficult. Easier in the
sense that we have access to all of this information at our finger tips
and can look up anything at anytime. We also have the ability to look
at different sides of issues through researching main different view of
the issue or topic. More difficult in the sense that we do not really
look for all the information that we ought look for. After all, we
COULD find this information anytime that we want to, we just don't.
As far as believing it is true, if you were to come up with a solid
definition for "truth" you would put thousands of years of philosophy
under the bus. Just because something is "true" in one situation does
not make it true in another situation or time.
That may not answer the question... if it doesn't, just read word the
question and I'll try it again.
In response to the second question, this is actually something that I
constantly struggle with, this concept of, "if I am not the one
experiencing the situation first hand, how much knowledge can I "truly"
gain from it?"
Mostly for me this relates to religion. I often questioned the Bible
because, how do I know if this is God's word or
God's-word-as-interpreted-by-man? But, in the interest of time, that
will be another conversation for another time.
ANYWAY, when I get very interested in a topic, or when I want to do in
depth research (not for a school thing, but for myself), I always find
some way to observe my topic of interest in real time and perform my
own experiments. Most of these are social experiments so it is not
overly difficult to perform them, it just takes some planning.
Long paragraph short: I trust other person's writings as research when
it comes to school projects but when it comes to how I choose to live
my life and the research I do in relation to happiness and the meaning
of life, I will look at others research but ultimately I look to my
surroundings and the situations I find myself in first hand for the
Sample Descartes Quiz