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Lecture

Descartes Meditations Oral.doc

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Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 1090
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Pheme Perkins

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Descartes Meditations ­body being attached to a body ­conclude on a god who is not a believer ­what does it mean to be an irrational/conscious/connected to the body/  mind? ­descartes decides that he must come up with a perfect being in order to  guarantee the metaphysics of certainty ­our judgments have way too many mistakes to talking about being that he  calls God ­why does Descartes think he needs to bring God into a rational discussion ­we wouldn’t really be stuck on that if we focused on rational thinking  which is the only type in our consciousness ­para 62 pg. 87 “we have an attention problem, I have noticed another  infirmity and constantly focused on one …knowledge. By attempted and  often meditation, I’ve developed a habit to not really make mistakes ­greatest perfection for human beings is not that we make our mistakes but  rather because we can correct them ­we can get into a habit to fix things ­mind has a tendency to not stay focused and it needs to be constantly  disciplined ­cant afford it so they make a checklist in order Meditations on First Philosophy begins with two introductions. The first is addressed to the theology faculty at the Sorbonne (a university in Paris), the second to his lay readers. He outlines some of the objections to the Discourse and asserts that his critics generally ignored his chains of logic and only attacked his conclusions. He pledges to return to the two criticisms he finds worth considering. He asks his readers to approach the rest of the book with an unbiased mind. The first meditation reiterates material from the Discourse. Responding to an objection to his critique of the senses, Descartes agrees that he would seem a madman if he argued he was not sure that he possessed a body. But he also points out that in his dreams he experiences a reality as convincing as his waking reality. He can find no sure way to distinguish between waking life and sleep. He then goes on to argue that if we dream of hands, feet, eyes, and bodies, then they must actually exist. When we dream, he continues, we use information we gathered from reality. Even if particular complex objects do not exist, at least the basic colors and shapes that compose them exist. In the same way, we can say the physical sciences are uncertain because they study composites. Arithmetic and geometry study simple objects (shapes, angles, numbers) and are therefore trustworthy. He trusts his perceptions of self-evident truths such as simple shapes and numbers because he believes in an all-powerful God that created these things. Descartes admits that he cannot be sure that God is not playing some sort of trick on him. However, because he believes that God is good, he knows that God would not deliberately deceive him. Therefore, to rebuild his knowledge on the basis of doubt, he decides to pretend that a “malignant demon” is bent on tricking him. This powerful demon has created the illusions of the physical world to deceive him. With this in mind, Descartes sets out to prove, using only reason, that some things are beyond doubt. Most of meditation II is devoted to discovering whether there is anything about which Descartes can be absolutely certain. First he decides he can be certain that he exists, because if he doubts, there must be a thinking mind to do the doubting. He does not yet accept that he is a thinking mind inside a body. After all, the demon could have convinced him that his body and the physical world exist. He moves to another question: what is the “I” that is doing the thinking? The answer is that the mind is a purely thinking thing. Descartes concedes, however, that though what he perceives with his senses may be false, he cannot deny that he perceives. So the human mind is capable of both thought and perception. He explains this using the example of a piece of wax. We understand that solid wax and wax melted by a candle are both wax. Therefore perception is not strictly a function of the senses. It must be the reasoning mind that makes this judgment. Because the senses can be deceived, physical objects, including bodies, are properly perceived only by the intellect, and the mind is still the only thing he can be certain exists. In meditation III, Descartes says he can be certain that perception and imagination exist, because they exist in his mind as “modes of consciousness,” but he can never be sure whether what he perceives or imagines has any basis in truth. He then expands on his argument for the existence of God from the Discourse. He examines his own mind to see whether there is anything in him that would allow him to make God up. Not only is God perfect, but God is also infinite and all powerful. Descartes knows that he himself is finite. He reasons that it is not possible for a finite being to dream of infinity. Therefore the idea of the infinite must come before the idea of the finite, before any person can begin to think of what he or she is. ← ← Meditation IV deals almost entirely with the nature and origin of truth and error. Descartes asserts that knowledge of God will lead us to knowledge of other things. Because God is perfect, it is impossible that God would deceive Descartes, because deception is an imperfection. But Descartes knows himself to be capable of error, and so he has to examine the nature of his own ability to err. He concludes that God must have created him so that he could be wrong. Imperfect things, like him, may occupy their place in the world perfectly. In other words, Descartes’ imperfections may be what make him perfect for his role in God’s plan. He further reasons that his own propensity to err must be his own failure to use his method to approach the knowledge sent to him by God. Descartes decides in meditation V to begin to examine whether he can believe in the material world by examining the essence of material things in relation to God. He looks at his own ideas about the material world and separates them into two categories: distinct and confused. Mathematical ideas are distinct and therefore exist. He further concludes that no truth, no science, and no certitude can exist without the knowledge of the existence of God. He realizes that the existence of everything depends on God and reasons on that basis that he doesn’t have to doubt everything anymore. Descartes knows that God has given him the capacity to learn the truth about both intellectual and corporeal things. Meditation VI is devoted to investigating whether material things exist. Finally, Descartes finds that it seems safe to believe that his God-given senses convey the truth to him. Above all, his senses convey to him that he has a body. He maintains that, though there is some mysterious link by which the mind is joined to the body, the mind and body are different things, and the mind will outlive the body. Having decided this, Descartes dismisses all his doubts of the past and determines, at last, that he can trust his senses. Analysis In the first introduction, to the theologians of the Sorbonne, Descartes takes pains to avoid charges of heresy. He had already seen, in the case of Galileo, what could happen if the church disapproved of scholarly work. Although Descartes ultimately comes to conclusions that would be acceptable to the theologians—God exists; the human soul is eternal—it might have been considered heretical to feel that it was even necessary to logically prove God’s existence. The Catholic Church, after all, considers God’s existence to be a matter of fundamental, unquestionable truth. The introduction to the reader reiterates his intention of publishing for an audience of logically thinking but uneducated readers. One way in which Descartes tried to make his work acceptable to a conservative Catholic audience was to structure the meditations in a form similar to that of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. The Spiritual Exercises recommends a six-step path in which the Christian begins by releasing all attachme
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