Meditations on first philosophy
Meditations on First Philosophy
This paper will discuss Meditations on First Philosophy written by Rene Descartes. The book is made up of six meditations which were written as if he meditated for six days but it actually took him several years to write. Descartes first rejects all belief in things which are not definite, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. I will be discussing his first and second meditation that discusses what can be doubted and how the mind is a far better knower than the body. The thesis of meditation one and two is that everything can be doubted and the mind is the only thing that can be proved to be true.
Descartes states that everything you perceive as true you have learnt through your senses. You only know what you are sensing because you have sensed it before. But he also points out that sometimes your mind can be deceived. If you think you see someone you know and you go up to them and it turns out to be someone else then what you perceived to be true is false. But you can only tell if something else is false if you compare it to something else. But if you can never be certain of something you perceive then how can we claim to know anything?
Descartes discusses how you can never be certain if what your body perceives as true. Because your mind can trick you and your perceptions could be false. He uses the example of a dream. When you are dreaming everything you imagine seems so real and vivid but then you later wake to find out what you saw was not real. He discusses how when you dream you have perceptions just like the ones you have while you are awake. So how do you know what is real? There is no definite way to distinguish between a dream experience and a waking experience. So how do you know that you aren't dreaming or if your perceptions are real?
In his second meditation he discusses that the mind is the only thing that can be proved as true. He states "I" is, this "thing that thinks." Which means that even though what he senses could be false there has to be something there to think which is himself. He says that even though he may be dreaming or deceived by his mind he can still imagine things so he knows his mind is real. He states that "every thinking thing needs a thinker" and that thinking thing is your mind and the thinker is you.
Descartes uses the example of a piece of wax. He states that we can see the piece of wax and we perceive it as wax. Then as you place it on fire and it melts and it becomes melted and soft. It is no longer hard and clear as your senses perceive a piece of wax to be. Your senses tell you it is no longer a piece of wax but in your mind you know it is still a piece of wax. He concludes that he must know his min far better than his body because even if he is seeing things that aren't real he is still seeing images that his mind perceives as something.
The thesis of meditation one and two is that everything can be doubted and the mind is the only thing that can be proved to be true. As I read through his meditations I realized that I have no choice but to agree with Descartes. While it seems unnecessary to doubt everything, it also is true that everything cant be proven true. We only perceive things to be real because we all agree it is real. Although we don't look at the fact that we all perceive things differently and when one person sees an event they might take one thing from it when the other person takes something completely different from it. So how can we know which is correct. While Descartes ideas seem absurd, we really can't be certain of anything. We could all be imagining each other and what we know as reality could all be a dream. We choose to believe that everything we perceive is real while at the same time it could be doubted because it is not certain. Descartes makes a good point about how we can know anything if nothing is certain. Although as Descartes discusses, we do know that our mind exists because we all form some type of images whether they are real or not. I agree with Descartes and his theories he discusses in his meditations.
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