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What Is Descartes Trying To Achieve In

The Meditations And What Is The Relationship Between T Essay, Research Paper What Descartes is trying to achieve in the Meditations can be simply described as trying to find the truth. Although in the printed dedication at

The Meditations And What Is The Relationship Between T Essay, Research Paper

What

Descartes is trying to achieve in the Meditations can be simply

described as trying to find the truth. Although in the printed dedication at

the start of the work he explains that his core goal is to prove the existence

of God, the truth he is seeking for is more fundamental than even that: he

wants to find out which premises and ideas, if any, are able to be indubitably known.

In short, he sets out to find out if there is anything he can be certain of.

The terms ?knowledge? and ?certainty? are used interchangeably in everyday

life, many philosophers consider them to be separate concepts entirely.

Moreover, as Magee has pointed out, Descartes considered that ?certainty? and

?truth? to also be different ideas. The relationship between the goal of

Descartes? project and certainty will therefore have to be considered, in order

to assess how effective what he is trying to achieve, and whether he can

actually achieve it. During

the time Descartes was writing, the sciences were unified, and were closely

connected to philosophy and theology. Cottingham comments that the prevailing

view was that ?knowledge was a profoundly difficult and complex business? and

that the search for truth was ?a laborious attempt to uncover occult powers and

forces?. Others felt that all the world?s truths could somehow be solved by one

individual thinking alone, and extreme sceptics who were sceptical about the

possibility of find any truths at all[1].

Descartes himself can be said to fit in the second category, and indeed was

contemptuous of the idea that knowledge could be gained from books, as shown in

part two of his Discourse on Method: ?I thought that the sciences found in books?do not approach so near to the

truth as the simple reasoning which a man of common sense can quite naturally

carry out respecting the things which come immediately before him.? This

flows very much from Descartes? opinion that the individual can work to a much

greater degree of perfection than a group of people. All that matters is that

the enquirer uses the right method, and the mysteries of the universe should,

ultimately come clear. In the Discourse on Method, Descartes comments

that education corrupts the abilities of the human mind to do this:??I

thought that since we have all been children before men and since it has for

long fallen to us to be governed by our appetites and our teachers (who often

contradicted one another and none of whom perhaps counselled us always for the

best), it is almost impossible that our judgements should be so excellent or

solid as they should have been had we had complete use of our reason since our

birth, and had we been guided by its means alone.?This has been quoted at length for the

fact that it illustrates some of the reasoning behind the method he adopts in

the Meditations. In order to discover what he can indubitably know,

which is, as mentioned above, the major goal of the Meditations, it is

necessary to clear the mind of all knowledge previously known or assumed. Not

only does he consider himself to have been misled by secondary sources of

knowledge, he includes in this anything he has cause to doubt. The ?Method of

Doubt?, as his method has been termed, is his technique for achieving his goal. Descartes removes from his mind anything

that he might have reason to doubt. By stripping away all that can be doubted,

he is trying to find if there is any ?clear and distinct? idea whose certainty

is indubitable. He describes it as a way to pre-empt any criticisms from

sceptics, and thus assure its certainty to his mind. However, as was said in the opening

paragraph of this essay, certainty is considered by some to be a different

concept to that of knowledge. Certainty is an internal state of the mind ? one

can be certain that something is true, but this may not bear any relation to

the actual state of the real world. One may be certain that the next bus goes

to Cowley, when in fact the next one goes to Headington. It is a belief more

than a fact. Knowledge, on the other hand, relates to the external world. In

this way, it can be argued that Descartes? ?Method of Doubt? prevents knowledge

from ever being brought into consideration: if something relates to the

external world, it is not incorrigible, and thus must be rejected. Although he uses his Method in the work

and comes to the conclusion that the only thing he can be certain of is his

existence, he follows it immediately in what has been described as a large

u-turn by introducing the idea of God. Having said that he can be sure of

nothing, he uses a circular argument to prove that God exists, which leaves him

open to criticism. One of the aims of the work was to find evidence for God,

but this causes one to wonder if, using Descartes? Method, one can be certain

of His existence. Certainty might be considered to be an

incorrigible belief.? Descartes, in the Mediations,

is trying to use his method in order to see if any of his beliefs could be described

as indubitable, or certain. He also wants to find a proof for God, which

ultimately conflicts with these aims. Descartes, though, uses both the Discourse

and the Meditations, as a way to test his Method in order to establish

its effectiness. [1] See Magee, The

Great Philosophers, page 81 for examples

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