Descartes Meditations Essay Research Paper One reason

Descartes Meditations Essay, Research Paper

One reason is simply that the question what if anything is anything certain is an interesting one. We live in a world where there are diverse opinions, views, and theories about many matters. Often these views we hold with great confidence, yet what passes for knowledge is continually changing as new scientific discoveries are made, and new theories are devised. Have you ever asked yourself if whether anything is really certain? Or that those who live in uncertainty, take guidance from the prevailing expert opinion of the day, which may change tomorrow? Has the thought that nothing is certain crossed your mind?? Rene Descartes, a philosopher and mathematician of the 16th century was dissatisfied with such prospects. I will try to analyze Descartes 1st , 2nd and 6th meditation.

The purpose of mediation I is to determine what propositions if any cannot be doubted. By this doubt then, Descartes does not mean to reject permanently all his former beliefs. Some of them may well be true. But if they are, then Descartes wants to rediscover them, in the sense of showing that they follow logically from basic, indutible propositions, the main purpose , so that Descartes can use them as foundations upon which to rebuild his knowledge. The doubt is a way of rethinking everything from the beginning, so as to achieve the certainty that he is seeking. Throughout mediations I Descartes doubts, or call into question his old beliefs. In the very first sentence of Meditation I, Descartes declares that he must question his beliefs if he wanted to establish anything at all in the science that was stable and likely to last ; and near the end, he repeats that he must withhold assent from his previous beliefs if he wants to discover certainty . The two sentences in the quotations are crucial to Descartes argument because in them Descartes reveals his purpose: to discover what, if anything is certain. It is for the sake of this goal that Descartes resolves to doubt his previous beliefs. After stating this Descartes decleares that reason now lead me to think that I must hold back my assent from opinions which are not completely certain and indutible just as carefully as I do from those which are patently fase To say this is to imply that one is reasoning from some premises. Then from what premises is Descartes here reasoning? The answer is obious: from his statement of purpose. For given that his purpose to find absolute certainty , one has an excellent reason not to accept things that are uncertain. Descartes is here reasoning directly from his goal to what he must do in order to attain it. Descartes is not examining all his beliefs individually because it would be an endless task for him to do so. Rather he proposes to examine the basic principles on which his beliefs rest. If these basic principles turn out to be uncertain, then so are any beliefs resting on them. But what are these basic principles are Descartes beliefs based on? It is important to note that Descartes is talking about the beliefs about our present, immediate physical surroundings. According to Descartes whatever has up till now accepted as most true have acquired either from senses or through the sense . The beliefs that we accept as most obvious and certain, then, are based on our present perceptions of sense- on what we see, hear, feel and so on. It is one thing to, however, to say that something is accepted as certain and another to say that it really is certain. Can we assert that beliefs acquired through senses really are certain? Descartes answer to this question is no because he admits that from time to time I have found that the senses deceive me, and it is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once . At this point Descartes begins to critique his senses. With this step, Descartes introduces a point that occupies him throughout Meditation I. Descartes wants to determine to what extent, if any, the senses provide certainty. He claims that there are some things that he cannot doubt with his senses such as him sitting before the fire and touching the paper and so on. But then brings up the possibility that he might be like madmen who think they re kings, which in fact they are not. He however dismisses this possibility because he believes that he is not insane as the madmen are. If he does believe that he s insane then he might as well give up the search for finding certainty because an insane person is in no position to use philosophical reasoning to discover whether something is certain or not. Having dismissed the probability of being insane, Descartes invokes his dream argument. He states how often a dream has convinced me that I was here, sitting before the fire, wearing my dressing gown, when , in fact I was undressed and between the covers of my bed . The fact of dreaming provides a reason to doubt even perceptions occurring under the best conditions. This is that such perceptions can exactly duplicated in a vivid dream. At this point Descartes can t distinguish between the dreaming state and being awake. As he puts it I see so plainly that there are no reliable signs by which I can distinguish sleeping from waking . Of course not all dream are that lifelike; some dreams have dreamlike quality. But all that is needed to provide some reason to doubt even our best perceptions is that some dreams to be so realistic and authentic, as to be indistinguishable from waking experience. Descartes now suggests that even if we can never be certain that we are perceiving reality, rather than having a vivid dream, we can at least be sure that the images we have in our dreams are derived from reality. This is essentially a hypothesis concerning the origin of dreams suggesting that their contents must be based upon reality and must in some degree correspond to reality. He compares his dream to a painter painting an imaginary portrait of siren. He claims that even if the painters give the sirens bizarre shapes, they would still have to use other animal parts or at least use real colors to paint the image. He goes further to suggest that even if the things like eyes, heads, and hands may be imaginary, it must be granted that some simpler and more universal things are real . By simpler things, he s referring to bodily natures of things and their extensions, real color of things, the space they occupy or the time in which they exist. Descates being a mathematician then argues that even if the things he has mentioned so far can be doubted, principles of geometry and arithmetic which deal only with completely simple and universal things without regard to whether they exist in the world, are somehow certain and undubitable . He claims that 1 plus 2 is always three, no matter if you re awake or dreaming or that squre has no more than four sides. At this point Descates brings up his belief that there s a God who can do anything and by whom I have been made to be as I am . Descates here is saying that God has created him in such a way that he has experiences exactly like the ones he would have if there were no physical existence.



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