Thursday, January 31, 2013

RC Sproul : The Illusion Of Descartes - Defending Your Faith Part 17

The illusion of Descartes


Rene' Descartes was a French philosopher and mathematician, born in La Haye,
France. In Bavaria, in the winter of 1619, he took on the mission to re-create the philosophical world by doubting every assumption and building a philosophy based on math. It may seem as though he was a wild-eyed mystic, but he was actually very quiet and careful, keeping many of his books from publication because Roman Catholicism was in the very act of condemning Galileo's work. But after his works were released, they caused a storm in philosophy and apologetics that still troubles and amazes us.


1. To begin a critique of the four explanations of reality.
2. To discuss the philosophy of Descartes and its impact on apologetics.


I can only trace the lines that flow from God. (Albert Einstein)
Sin has gotten man into more trouble than science can get him out of. (Vance Havner)
The scientific way of looking at the world is not wrong any more than the glassmaker's way of looking at the window. This way of looking at things has its very important uses.
Nevertheless the window was placed there not to be looked at, but to be looked through; and the world has failed of its purpose unless it too is looked through and the eye rests not on it, but on its God. (B.B. Warfield)


I. We start with four possibilities to explain reality.
a. Illusion: Reality is not real.
b. Self-Created: Reality came into existence through itself.
c. Self-Existent: Reality exists by its very nature.
d. Created: Reality is created by a self-existent being.

II. Descartes' Critique of Reality as Illusion

a) Rene' Descartes (1596-1650), a mathematician, was confronted by a wave of irrationality, an epistemological breakdown.
b) The controversies of Copernicus and the Reformation and Galileo created a crisis of authority.
c) Descartes attempted to restore certitude. "Clear and distinct ideas" were his goal, ideas that could reconstruct man's search for knowledge.
d) Illustration: What are ten things that I know for sure?
e) Descartes doubted everything that he could conceivably doubt, and whatever was left, that is where he would begin. Perhaps everything was just the dream of a demon, he offered.
f) He found that the one thing he could not doubt was that he was doubting. There is no way to escape the reality of doubt and the underlying reality that there is a doubter.

III. Assumptions of Self-Consciousness: Cogito, Ergo Sum
a) If Descartes is right, then whatever else is in doubt, our existence is not in doubt.
b) Going a bit further, if a piece of chalk actually exists, then a self-existent Creator must exist.
c) The two major assumptions of Descartes in this formula are the law of non-contradiction and the law of causality.

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