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Knowledge of the External World Essay

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Updated: Feb 2nd, 2022

The problem of knowledge of the external world has been many times approached by famous philosophers including Rene Descartes and George Moore. In his writings, Descartes argues that human knowledge is not certain, and this is the reason why every truth should be subjected to doubt including the truth that the world is really the way it appears. George Moore made attempts to respond to Descartes’s perception of certainty. However, Moore failed to clearly alleviate his skeptical thoughts. In the following paper, Descartes’ and Moore’s vision of the problem of knowledge of the external world will be addressed with the purpose of identifying the replies concerning this problem that are more reliable. Overall, the evaluation of the two visions of the problem of the external world, the one by Descartes, and the one by Moore, suggests a conclusion that Moore’s concept does not provide satisfactory replies whereas Descartes’ concept of the external world seems to be rational.

In the First Meditation, Descartes resorts to the use of a systematic doubt method to present his beliefs and thoughts on certainty to defeat skepticism. Descartes doubts the truth about the external world due to his fundamental reasoning process and presumption of culture.

Descartes is certain about the human sense of experience being deceitful thus the reason why one cannot form one’s basis of knowledge on posterior claims. Humans cannot be sure whether their senses are true or false; thus, they cannot affirm that their senses gave them a correct report on the manner in which things really are for that period of time. This is the reason why Descartes believes that it is best to doubt our knowledge especially the one based on our sense experiences. Descartes is trying to point out that humans are not in a position to distinguish whether they are dreaming or are awake. To support this way of reasoning, Descartes mentions a number of illustrations showing that people may feel that they are awaken when they dream. This therefore means that we may not be aware of the reality of the things occurring to us in the external world.

George Edward Moore made attempts to respond to Descartes perception on certainty. He made his own skepticism refutation on certainty which inspired and directed his arguments in large. Moore’s main argument is that if a person cannot differentiate between being awake and dreaming, then he or she cannot be sure if they have a body; on the contrary, if one is sure that he or she has a body, then they can easily differentiate between being awake and dreaming. Moore’s proof on the existence of external world is based on the assumption that he is aware that he can view, see and feel his hand. Moore tries to address every piece of doubt that Descartes speaks about in the First Meditation including the nature of senses, uncertainty of whether an individual is asleep or is awaken, the saying that human minds are corrupted by the evil, and the necessity to respect the one who is above, the God Almighty as a higher source of wisdom and the true vision of external world. Moore’s argument can be hardly named trustworthy because many of his saying are simply sayings, and they are not supported by any particular evidence. For example, if a person says that there is no electricity because no one can see it, such saying is not accepted as a true one because it has no facts proving it. Similarly, if an individual says that there is no evil that makes human minds imperfect and incapable of valid reasoning, this does not mean that it is so. One must prove his or her sayings by particular facts. However, Moore’s inconsistency criticism does not provide such evidences.

In conclusion, in an attempt to solve the problem of external world, Descartes used systematic doubt method to present his beliefs and thoughts on certainty to defeat skepticism. George Edward Moore made attempts to respond to Descartes perception on certainty, and on his arguments on dreaming. However, Moore failed to give skeptical facts on his arguments against experience and logic which made his response to the knowledge of external world unsatisfactory as compared to Descartes.

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