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Descartes' Criteria for Truth


The criterion of truth is a means of verifying truth or falsity of a statement, hypothesis, a theoretical construction, etc. The criterion of truth is a social practice. Scientific theories are getting their final check in the practice: in industrial and agricultural production, in the revolutionary action of the masses or for the reconstruction of society. If the theory is successfully used in practice, this means that it is true. Methods of testing varying thoughts in practice can be different.

Descartes is considered one of the founders of modern philosophy. He is credited with a clear and profound statement of the main intuitions and assumptions under consideration of the classical period of modern European philosophy.


If one follows the retreating lines of development from Descartes, thus, one of them, ‘rationalistic’ through Malebranche, Spinoza and Leibniz leads to Kant who represents a turning point of views. It manifests how the new spirit of rationalism is vigorously deployed in extensive systems, grafted by Descartes. Therefore, the belief that reasonable and universal cognition of the world can be done by a method of ‘mos geometricus’ is dominant.

The empiricism is exactly against this belief as well as against such an extension of the new science, when it enters the ‘transcendental’ and in the end acts against the most transcendent, though it is largely defined by Descartes. However, empiricism is a reaction of the same kind as the reaction of the ancient to the modern skepticism of his rational philosophy.

New skeptical empiricism begins with Hobbes. However, for people, due to the enormous influence on subsequent psychology and the theory of knowledge, the critique of Locke’s reasons and its development in the near Berkeley and Hume is more interesting.

This way of development is particularly important, because it is a significant segment of the historical path that psychologically distorted transcendentalism of Descartes and deploys its investigation, trying to break through to the realization of his insolvency, and hence to a genuine transcendentalism, and is more aware of its true meaning.

The rules on which Descartes based his experience suggest the following:

  1. One should not ever take anything as the truth if he or she do not know the truth obviously; to avoid any hasty interest and include in their judgment nothing except for what was revealed as clear and visible from the front of the heart, which presumes no way to doubt.
  2. One is to divide each of the questions, which should be examined into as many parts as necessary to resolve the issues.
  3. One should have their own ideas in the proper sequence, from the simple things, moving slowly, step by step, to the cognition of the most complex, assuming the order, even among those who naturally do not follow each other.

These rules can be defined respectively as the rules of evidence (to achieve proper quality of knowledge), analysis (going to the last bases), synthesis (performed in its entirety), and control (to avoid errors in the implementation of both analysis and synthesis). This well thought-out method should be applied now to the actual philosophical knowledge.

Rene Descartes saw the truth and its criterion in the intellectual intuition. The first rule of Descartes’ method requires taking as truth all that is seen in a clear and distinct manner and does not give the rise to any doubt that it is self-evident. The criterion of truth, according to Descartes, is the most action via a precision that allows one to clearly distinguish between the facts and to provide clarity. In other words, it should be capable of generating the experience. For example, the clarity of its own, in the case of severe and diffuse throughout the body but within not clearly localized pain, does not mean the true clarity. ‘It may be clear perception, not a distinct, but there is a clear perception that there would be clear at the same time’, said Descartes.

According to Descartes, intuition as a criterion of truth is a state of the mental self-evidence. But it cannot be equated with the mystical contemplation of God in the Middle Ages and with the sensual clarity of Francis Bacon although sometimes Descartes calls it as an ‘experience’. For example, he states that he was able to reach the ‘truth of things’ based on ‘long experience’.

The philosophy of modern times came from the mind which lights and determines the truth or falsity of the existing one. As Descartes wrote, ‘Mind is the universal tool, which is able to serve in a variety of circumstances’. This hymn to the mind manifests itself in the philosophy of Hegel, who said that the reasonable one is really, and the real one is rational.

However, to recognize the mind as a criterion of truth is not possible for the simple reason that it becomes the judge itself. It turns out that the truth of the knowledge gained from mind (thinking) is checked by the mind.


In conclusion, it should be said that since Descartes’ times, the new orientation of philosophical thought in which the central idea is the man, take on a classic clear character.

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