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Lecture 4

PHIL 2160 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Solipsism, Well-Founded Relation, Intentionality

Course Code
PHIL 2160
Patricia Sheridan

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Lecture – Descartes (Substance and Essence, Descartes ontology, the proofs for God’s existence)
When we attribute an ontology to someone, we are discussing what they think exists or is
Substance and essence
oDescartes is a substance dualist
oThe world outside of the mind is all matter fundamentally and essentially
oThe essential nature of something is what defines it as one thing and not another thing
oThe thing that distinguishes matter from anything else in the universe is that its essence is
material – matter and thought share nothing in common
oDescartes’ ontology involve two separate substances in the universe
oYou cannot measure the size of your ideas like you can measure the size of objects, such as
tables, which take up space and can be pushed by force
oThoughts are different in essence than matter
oHis ontology also includes God at the top, but if the ontology relates only to created things in
the universe then there are only two things so he is a substance dualist with regards to these
created things
What does he know based on the cogito?
oHe is a thinking thing (44)
oDoes he have a body, sensation and motion? He has ideas of all things. But… do they
represent anything real outside the mind?
oThere seems to be something outside our minds that are distinct from our mind. We have
ideas of things that seem different from thoughts, such as when we see a table. However, we
don’t know for sure if this table exists outside of our mind.
oMight it all be in his head?
oWhat is the nature of material reality?
What is the problem, exactly?
oI think I have a pretty clear and distinct idea of my hand.
oBut, the idea is a simulation; we take our ideas/mental representations to actually represent
things (to be reports about the world outside the mind) – but we cannot know or verify this
with accuracy
o“There was something… I used to affirm, which, owing to my habitual tendency to believe it,
I used to think was something I clearly perceived, even though I did not actually perceive it at
all: namely, that certain things existed outside of me, things from which those ideas
proceeded and which those ideas completely resembled.” (47)
The piece of wax
oWhat happens when I call up my ideas of wax? Confused and changing sensory ideas
oWhat happens when the wax melts? It completely changes in every respect, and although its
perceivable qualities have changed, we still talk about it as the same thing
oWhich ones represent the true reality of the wax?
oIf we think we understand the world by our senses, Descartes says we are mistaken
oThis example shows us that we understand the world in a consistent way
oOne that is purely intellectual: extension: this doesn’t depend on imagination (sensory
information). Descartes knows its essence whether or not the wax exists outside my mind or
oWe have the idea of extension in our minds and we understand it perfectly
oWe have two kinds of ideas in our mind: thoughts (we consciously attend to our ideas and are
aware of ourselves thinking; they are about the mental world) and dimensionality/extension
(suggestive of something other than thought because thoughts aren’t dimensional; they
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