Discussion 12: How do you know if what happen last year actually occurred?

Question: How do you know if what happened last year actually occurred? Could there be any doubt it happens as you remember? Consider Descartes argument, and incorporate it into your argument.

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Expert answer:

If I want to know if what happened last year actually occurred, I used the available evidence to prove that it actually occurred. This involves looking at the effects of the occurrence. For instance, suppose there was World Cup last year, then the effect is that there will be a winner. Therefore, to prove that the World Cup football tournament happened last year, I will search for the winner of the tournament. If I find the winner, it is sufficient to say that the World Cup football tournament occurred last year. If I do not find the winner, then the occurrence of the World Cup football tournament was only an illusion.  There could be some doubt as I remember because I might have watched the tournament in a dream, which raises doubt if it actually happened.

According to Descartes’ argument, it is pointless to be sure that something is real. This is because what we think is real may only be an illusion while what we think is an illusion is real. Descartes uses the analogy of two worlds. In one world, he is asleep and dreaming and in another world, he is awake and experiences things in their real existence. Descartes doubts the real world because he thinks it may be an illusion. This means that Descartes doubts everything. He states that before we believe something to be true or justify our beliefs, the beliefs should be indubitable. An indubitable belief provides a foundation upon which subsequent beliefs are based. To claim that something is true, Descartes states that we must first, have justification for what we claim to be true. Second, it is not possible to appeal to things outside our ideas.

I agree with Descartes that to believe that something is real, we must have justification for it. By justification, Descartes means that there must be evidence to prove that something is real. Descartes’ argument is in line with my view on how to know what happened last year actually occurred. In the case of a World Cup football tournament, we can justify that actually, World Cup football tournament occurred by checking if there were winners. Furthermore, the justification can involve the opening ceremony, closing ceremony and the award of the trophy.  The concept of justification is also applied in Christianity where Paul the Apostle says that we were justified by faith. Therefore, Descartes is right when he doubts everything.

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