What Is Descartes Approach to Epistemology?


Martha Robinson

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist who is widely considered the founder of modern Western philosophy. Descartes is famous for his approach to epistemology, which is the branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge and belief. In this article, we will explore Descartes’ approach to epistemology and its significance.

Descartes’ Method of Doubt

Descartes’ approach to epistemology is based on his method of doubt. He believed that in order to find true knowledge, one must doubt everything that they think they know.

This includes beliefs, opinions, and even sensory experiences. By doubting everything, one can arrive at certain knowledge that cannot be doubted.

The Cogito Argument

Descartes’ most famous argument for certain knowledge is the cogito argument. The cogito argument states that “I think, therefore I am.”

Descartes believed that even if he doubted everything else in the world, he could not doubt his own existence because he was thinking. This argument forms the foundation of Descartes’ philosophy and is still influential today.

The Role of Reason

Descartes believed that reason was the key to finding true knowledge. He argued that sensory experience could be deceptive and unreliable, but reason was always trustworthy. According to Descartes, reason allowed us to understand abstract concepts such as mathematics and logic which were universal and necessary truths.

The Methodical Approach

In order to use reason effectively, Descartes developed a methodical approach to discovering truth. This involved breaking down complex problems into smaller parts and analyzing each part individually. By doing this, one could arrive at certain knowledge about each part which could then be used to understand the whole.

The Importance of Skepticism

Descartes’ approach to epistemology emphasizes the importance of skepticism. He believed that one should always be skeptical of their own beliefs and the beliefs of others. By being skeptical, one can avoid falling into error and arrive at true knowledge.

The Legacy of Descartes

Descartes’ approach to epistemology has had a profound impact on modern philosophy. His emphasis on reason and skepticism has influenced many other philosophers, including Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche. Descartes’ methodical approach to problem-solving has also been adopted by scientists and mathematicians.


In conclusion, Descartes’ approach to epistemology is based on his method of doubt.

Descartes emphasized the importance of reason in finding true knowledge and developed a methodical approach to problem-solving. His legacy continues to influence modern philosophy, science, and mathematics.