Review of Metaphysics 26 (1):172-173 (1972)

As the subtitle indicates, this book intends to discuss Descartes’ attempt of laying a new foundation of knowledge. In a lively and critical interpretation of Descartes’ writings, especially of his Discours de la Méthode and of his Meditationes, and a competent use of the corresponding philosophical literature the success of this attempt of enlightenment and its shortcomings, identified with the Cartesian re-introduction of the traditional metaphysics, are explained in order to allow the author in a concluding discussion to present his ideas of the necessary revision of Descartes philosophy. Presenting the I as the subject not only for the first time but in an unique way, and concentrating upon the problem of the self-originating human knowledge in an exemplary manner, Descartes is found to have become the founder of subjective philosophy. As knowledge of knowledge, philosophy is not concerned primarily with objects, but with knowledge and has self-foundation as its main task. So it has to start with human knowledge and to place the self as the fountain from which all knowledge proceeds. The demands of subjective philosophy dictate its method described in the Discours. The foundation of knowledge, which as such can only be true and certain knowledge, leads to enlightenment, i.e., to the rebellion against and to the great confrontation with the culture of the time, that is, with the guiding principles of understanding and evaluating the world of his society, and to the introduction of self-experience as the primary source of knowledge. Appointing human reason as the only leader of his intellectual life, Descartes determines the program and future order of his thoughts; the method, in the form of the four rules, has "correctly to direct his reason and to seek the truth in the sciences." It brings Descartes over the methodical doubt to the unquestionable and unsurpassed foundation of human knowledge, the absolute certitude of the self in the Cogito. His analysis of the poor, unprotected I, related to itself knowingly, is unique and of priceless philosophical value. However, the further stations of the philosophical way of Descartes who, unable to stand the ontological loneliness of this philosophically determined self-awareness, sacrificed the idea of scientific progress to a rational theology, cannot be followed. The claim of the metaphysician to be able to discover or, at least, to test every humanly possible knowledge in terms of the absolute knowledge, disintegrates in view of the progress of the new sciences. Not eternal, necessary truth, but the finite human I is the origin of subjective philosophy. The stability of rational relations does not lie in these relations themselves as if they were existing for themselves, but in the strict consequence of logical reason. "'God’ is... the title for the transcendental-philosophical background of consciousness, for the conditions to which the I-think is always already subjected." All contents which allegedly are already given in the infinite knowledge and can always be deduced from it, have to be produced and developed out of the first human knowledge by way of scientific research. Science which received its new foundation in subjective philosophy and is sought in the efforts of communication of the scientists, is not characterized by truth, but by certitude. "'Truth’ is the concern of metaphysics or better of religion. It is of the essence of such truth, not to be capable of demonstration. The absolutely true has no need to prove itself; it is entitled to faith." Differences between metaphysics and religion, and the nature and possible justification of such metaphysical and religious faith are regrettably not discussed.—M. S.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1972261130
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