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Interpretation And Summary Of Descartes' 1st And 2 Meditations From "Meditations On First Philosophy"

2566 words - 11 pages

Descartes: The First and Second MeditationsRene Descartes begins Meditations on First Philosophy by explaining his basic purpose and how he plans on going about accomplishing this project. Descartes hopes to discover truth and justify human knowledge and belief. In order to find the fundamental truths of life, Descartes believes he must start from scratch so that he may discern truth from false beliefs. All of Descartes' beliefs, everything he has learned and grown to believe is now cast under the shadow of doubt, as he explains to us, "I will attack straightaway those principles which supported everything I once believed" (14). Descartes further explains the task which he faced as he says, ...view middle of the document...

He tells us, "This class of things appears to include corporeal nature in general, together with its extension; the shape of extended things; their quantity, that is, their size and number; as well as the place where they exist; the time through which the endure, and the like" (15). Descartes is simply telling us these other bodies include things with physical characteristics that tell about the nature of these things. Examples of these other bodies could include other humans or animals.Mathematical knowledge makes up the third category of beliefs of which Descartes writes. As an example of this type of belief, Descartes states, "For whether I am awake or asleep, two plus three make five, and a square does not have more than four sides" (15). Hundreds of examples of mathematical knowledge exist in the world, such as a right angle is 90 degrees, a triangle has three sides, and five times six equals thirty.The final type of belief discussed is the belief in God. Descartes very clearly states his views about God as he writes, "There is fixed in my mind a certain opinion of long standing, namely that there exists a God who is able to do anything and by whom I, such as I am, have been created" (15). This type of belief incorporates humanity's belief in a being greater than ourselves who created this universe and the people who make up the world.In the First Meditations of Rene DescartesMeditations on First Philosophy, he sets out to doubt four beliefs. These beliefs being: existence of one's own physical body, the existence of other physical bodies/things, mathematical knowledge, and God. Each of these beliefs is approached with the idea of radical doubt. Through the process of radical, Descartes then establishes whether or not each belief exists or not.Descartes first belief is trying to establish whether the physical body exists or not. He says that some of the truths we hold currently hold to be achieved through our senses. However, our senses can sometimes mislead us wrong conclusions about certain things and situations. In trying to prove that the senses are misleading, Descartes leads the reader to the "Dream Argument." He describes a perception one could have while dreaming. He says: "How often does my evening slumber persuade me of such ordinary things as these: that I am here, clothed in my dressing gown, seated next to the fireplace- when in fact I am lying undressed in bed" (14). From this argument, he concludes that since one cannot find definite signs to distinguish dream experiences from waking experiences, it is a good possibility that one is dreaming now, or that all our perceptions are false. However, even though Descartes is able to draw those conclusions, he has certain objections to the overall conclusion. He argues that the images we form in dreams (as abstract and newly developed as can be) are drawn from experiences in real life combined into different ways. So, even if there is reason to doubt our perception, we can't doubt...

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