The notion of a clean slate as a basis or starting point have been strong roots in philosophical thinking for decades. Some noted philosophers applying this notion to their thinking are none other than Descartes himself as well as John Locke, who's "Tabula Rasa" proposition is well known.
It should be noted that Descartes' "clean sate" is different to the Tabula Rasa as suggested by Locke in the sense that Descartes is referring to clearing apparent "knowledge" that is based on false assumptions, as opposed to Locke's emphasis on experience gained through the sense.
Descartes need for a clean slate comes straight from childhood experience, where he stated that he had accepted many falsehoods as truths:
"Several years have now passed since I first realized how numerous were the false opinions that in my youth I had taken to be trueÃ¢ÂÂ¦"
Tracing back to the beginning of Descartes' career, his education was based on the day's prevalent emphasis on humanities and the use of Aristotelian philosophy, which was almost exclusive.
Descartes detested the uncertainty presented by the Aristotelian way of thinking because of its vagueness and inconclusive nature -one could have a variety of possible explanations/opinions which were in favour of the truth. For Descartes, mathematics alone offered the clarity that he sought in his search for truth. This search for certainty is something that preoccupied Descartes thought, and had either a direct or indirect effect on almost all of his work. The questions "of what I can I be certain of?" was one that fuelled much of his work.
It is not surprising therefore, that Descartes felt that the concept of "absolute certainty" was to be the fundamental for his criteria in his quest for real knowledge. In order to banish every notion and...