Perspectives on Human Reason

Human reason is a topic that, without a doubt, can have multiple outlooks by various individuals. Descartes believed that reason was the ultimate cornerstone of human knowledge, while Pascale believed that reason alone could not allow someone to attain knowledge. He felt there were limits on reason. Both tried, to the best of their ability, to back their beliefs and make others see their point of view. Descartes doubted the senses and believed that people only knew things through the content of their mind through human reason.

Descartes used logical deductive reasoning to question the certainty of the senses. He states, “I have found that these senses sometimes deceive me, and it is a matter of prudence never to confide completely in those who have deceived us even once” (Descartes 26). His basic question that he sought to find the answer for is very complex yet seems so simple when reflecting upon it. How can we actually know things, for certain? How do we know that the sky is actually blue, or that the earth is round? Is there any certain proof to reveal the fact of anything?

Are the ideas we form in our minds and perceptions we have the truth? These are the types of things Descartes thought about. He questioned the certainty of absolutely everything. “I have no senses at all; body, figure, extension, movement and place are chimeras. What will, then, be true? Perhaps just this one thing: that there is nothing certain” (Descartes 31) Most people just go along with what they believe and what they know to be true. They never really go deeper to question the assurance of their insights.

With this type of thinking, Descartes has made contributions to the modern way of thinking. He felt that the world could know things through mathematics, because math problems have actual set answers. When solving a math problem, a person uses the reason they know to come to a final conclusion. He strongly believed in the primacy of the individual and human consciousness. What is the connection between what we see from our body, and how we perceive it in our minds? Through reason, his skepticism and rational doubt contributed to human knowledge.

Pascale was critical of Descartes and his opinions on thought and reason. He tried to point out the limits of science. He states, “One must know when it is right to doubt, to affirm, to submit. Anyone who does otherwise does not understand the force of reason. Some men run counter to these three principles, either affirming that everything can be proved, because they know nothing about proof, or doubting everything, because they do not know when to submit, or always submitting, because they do not know when judgment is called for” (Pensees 53-54).

He actually used reason to show the limits of reason. That seems to most people as an extreme contradiction. How could an individual prove something wrong, by using that which he or she is set out to argue over? Pascale simply seems like a hypocrite. His response to those thoughts was as follows: “Contradiction is a poor indication of truth. Many things that are certain are contradicted. Many that are false pass without contradiction. Contradiction is no more an indication of falsehood than lack of it is an indication of truth” (Pensees 54).

Pascale felt that not only reason, but through the heart and imagination was the correct path to find truth. He strove to show that faith and reason were not opposed. “Man without faith can know neither true good nor justice” (Pensees 45). He used reason to show the validity of religion. He felt that knowledge of God is gained through the heart. In Meditations On First Philosophy, Descartes explained how the idea of God is most real and true, and that he actually does exists. God does not deceive anyone or anything, and every clear idea must be true.

He states, “God, I say, he, the same one of whom the idea is in me, that is having all those perfections which I cannot comprehend, but to which I can in some way attain by cogitation, and being subject to no defects at all. From which things it is obvious enough that God cannot be a deceiver” (Descartes 54). The idea of the existence of God is agreed upon by both authors, Descartes and Pascale. They both believe that God is divine and the creator of all, and they accept the fact that humans cannot comprehend the true concept of God, let alone the trinity. We can only hope to understand one day in the afterlife.

Descartes and Pascale were very influential authors, let alone thinkers. The way they looked at the world, and their profound thought process are enough to keep us thinking and questioning all things for all eternity. Although they had opposing perceptions on reason as the means of attaining human knowledge, each in their own way contributed to they way people think today. Descartes and Pascale each had their own opinions and proposed valid arguments for their own respective views and ideals. It only lies in the hands of the particular individual to choose along which perception they agree with the most.


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