Descartes-Meditations on First Philosophy
Descartes-Meditations on First Philosophy
Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy comprises six meditations. In the meditations, Descartes refutes all belief in indefinite things in the first part of this treatise. He claims that the things he was not sure of have always troubled him. He therefore resolves to transform his thinking to concentrate on those things that are certain rather than the indefinite. Descartes develops a trail of thought enabling him to understand how the mind assists him in the thinking of God. After establishing his belief in the existence of God, he embarks on a mission to understand other indefinite material things. The treatise is therefore through Descartes’ ways of thinking and the quest to understand things that are not certain.
In his first meditation, Descartes examines the foundations of his beliefs on indefinite things. He reflects on the false beliefs he has had ever since he was young and the doubts he had on these beliefs. The knowledge base he has built on these beliefs is faulty so he decides to clear all his belief on the uncertain and start building up knowledge on the things he considers certain. He reasons that he only needs some form of doubt to cast away all his beliefs about uncertain things. Descartes acknowledges the deceptive nature of one’s senses (Descartes and Donald 8). Senses can deceive but only in trivial and very unclear matters. Descartes analyzes the functioning of his senses and asserts that dreams have a connection with what happens in real life. He concludes that his doubts are limited to the composite but one cannot doubt the elements forming them.
He proceeds to doubt his belief in God. Descartes wonders whether God really exists or rather than God, there is a supreme demonic being deceiving humans. Descartes realizes that it is easy to doubt simple things. He ponders whether God deceives him in a way making him believe in things that do not exist. Descartes predisposes himself to think of such things such as the air, sky, colors and shapes as creative deceptions from God. Descartes finds it extremely difficult to avoid the falsities he has cited and no matter how hard he tries, the thoughts still linger in his mind. He therefore resolves not to believe in what he considers false until he achieves knowledge of the truth (Descartes and Donald 19). He refutes all belief in the uncertain and chooses to live in ignorance of such things.
After acknowledging that there is nothing certain in the world, Descartes embarks on a journey to understand his existence in meditation two. He identifies who he is by saying he is a man. He proceeds to question what it means to be a man. He continues in his practice of believing that he is an empty object having no physical parts. Descartes says he still actually exists and compares himself to a piece of wax which when exposed to fire loses its identifiable form but remains the same piece (Descartes and Donald 22). He therefore assets the notion of an evil being that deceives men such that they possibly cannot believe in anything that their senses tell them. He argues that for one to be deceived they must have the ability to perceive. Thus, he develops the notion of intellect residing within this ability that provides the idea for deception. The intellect therefore makes us aware of the self.
These first two meditations summarize Descartes theory of radical doubt. Descartes employs a process of doubting in order to validate the certainty of things. He is skeptical about the existence of definite things. He doubts the existence of the self and God and reexamines these beliefs until he concludes that the self and God exist. Descartes argues that the senses deceive man because a superior being with evil intentions controls them. This matters to him because it means that everything under the world is an illusion and no tangible thing is true. Descartes also says that dreams reflect the reality. The dreams guide his thoughts into believing that if dreams depict real things then his thoughts and senses like the dreams portray the reality. Descartes proposes the evil genius because he believes that everything that appears certain is the creation of an evil being out to deceive him. His process of radical doubt enables him to establish the existence of God through the functions of the self.
Broughton, Janet. Descartes’ Method of Doubt. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2002. Print.
Descartes, René, and Donald A. Cress. Meditations on First Philosophy: In Which the Existence of God and the Distinction of the Soul from the Body Are Demonstrated. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co, 1979. Print.
Hume, David, and P F. Millican. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
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