"I suppose, accordingly, that all the things which I see are false; fictitious. I believe that none of those objects which my fallacious memory represents ever existed; I suppose that I possess no senses; I believe that body, figure, extension, motion, and place are merely fictions of my mind. What is there, then, that can be esteemed true? Perhaps this only, that there is absolutely nothing certain. But how do I know that there is not something different altogether from the objects I have now enumerated, of which it is impossible to entertain the slightest doubt? Is there not a God, or some being, by whatever name I may designate Him, who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind? But why suppose such a Being, for it may be I myself am capable of producing them? Am I, then, at least not something? But I before denied that I possessed senses or a body; I hesitate, however, for what follows from that? Am I so dependent on the body and the senses that without these I cannot exist? But I had the persuasion that there was absolutely nothing in the world, that there was no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies; was I not, therefore, at the same time, persuaded that I did not exist? Far from it; I assuredly existed, since I was persuaded. But there is I know not what being, who is possessed at once of the highest power and the deepest cunning, who is constantly employing all his ingenuity in deceiving me. Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition: I am, I exist; is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind."
~ René Descartes
Probably one of my all-time favorite philosophers, much of his work laid the foundation for modern western philosophy and set the foundation for the modern scientific method. I would also consider Descartes to be the most influential character to agnosticism. He doubted God, he doubted the objective world around him that he perceived through his senses, he even doubted he had a physical body (Hundreds of years before the invention of virtual reality!). He even doubted his own existence, until he found this was the one thing that could not be doubted, the fact that he was consciously aware of himself doubting his own existence proved he must exist! The famous phrase “Cogito Ergo Sum” otherwise known as “I think, therefore I am.” Our own conscious experience is in fact the only thing we can be certain to exist without a doubt.
Little known fact:
In 1619, while in his early twenties and serving for the Hapsburgian army, one night Descartes has a series of three dreams. In these dreams an Angel appeared to him and told him "The conquest of nature is to be achieved through measure and number." Ultimately the revelation he had from these dreams is what inspired him to persue his works.
So the foundations of modern science were based on a revelation from an angel in a dream. HA! Talk about ironic, how very rational indeed
” He even doubted his own existence, until he found this was the one thing that could not be doubted, the fact that he was consciously aware of himself doubting his own existence proved he must exist! The famous phrase “Cogito Ergo Sum” otherwise known as “I think, therefore I am.” Our own conscious experience is in fact the only thing we can be certain to exist without a doubt.”
^That right there is the basis of my latest article on intuitive thinking : ) The only “constant” that is absolute, against which all objectivity is compared, contrasted and measured.
Great thread; I’ve got a lot more to say once I have a little more time!
It’s not up yet, but will be either later today or tomorrow morning. There will be a thread and a link here, so you’ll definitely be able to read it! It goes into detail about the differences between agnostic rationalism and gnostic intellectualism, which I think most people here can identify with. I really love that last part about verifying your own existence, because that ties in perfectly with what the article is about!