- Why does Descartes write ‘Meditation of first Philosophy’? Explain the main issues of
the book. What kinds of questions is Descartes trying to answer in his book?
The book was written during Renaissance. During this time their idea was to go back and see
what happened. They were focused on a rediscovery of the Ancient. Columbus discovered
America shaking up Europe because they thought they were the center of the world. There
was also a scientific change and new discoveries. Everyone thought they were sure of how
things worked but they soon began realizing that things were completely different.
Descartes’ idea was to find the truth and then base everything off of that. He says that
meditation is the first step in finding the truth. Contemplation was the next step: he wants to
find new foundations that are solid so what comes next will be solid too, therefore there is no
room for faith.
Descartes is considered the father of rationalism and modernity.
There is a shift from religious to something else.
Descartes begins by putting aside his belief in all things, and tries to establish what can be
known for certain. He begins by stating that his senses are perceptions and are deceiving.
Therefore cannot be relied upon. Next he explains his existence as a thinking thing separated
from his body.
He then finally gives proof to the existence of God but asks why errors exist if God exists.
Lastly he gives proof for the existence of external material objects outside of himself and
God, as well as proof for the mind and body distinction.
- At the end of Meditation I, he says: ‘I will suppose not a supremely good God, the
source of truth, but rather an evil genius, supremely powerful and clever, who has
directed his entire effort at deceiving me’. How does he come to this conclusion?
Explain his vision of reality in Meditation I.
Descartes starts by saying he doubts about everything. He has to raze everything to the ground
and begin with original foundations. He starts with his senses because they are our bridge to
the world. He claims that sometimes our senses fool us. Challenges Aristotle’s ideas. He then
moves onto the topic of God and questions how come he created. Needs and explanation so
says lets suppose the idea of an “evil genius” who’s sole job is to deceive. His version of
reality is given in an example where he says he is not unlike a prisoner who enjoyed an
imaginary freedom during his sleep but when he begins to suspect that he is dreaming, fears
being awake. He says he falls back into his old opinions dreading the difficulties now brought
Deep skepticism. Willing to accept the tough reality.
Everything is deceiving us and we don’t know what is going to happen next. - Descartes discovers with 100 percent certitude: “… it must finally be established that this
pronouncement: “I am, I exist” is necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in
my mind.” How does he come to this conclusion and what does he mean by the definition
of himself as a ‘thinking thing’? (Meditation II)
He starts by saying that he has convinced himself that there is nothing in the world and by
saying that he wonders if he exists. He decides he does exist because he is convinced of
something. He says that there is a deceiver out there trying to make sure he is always deceived
and comes to the conclusion that if he is deceived he exists. Basically his consciousness
implies his own existence. Once he has secured that he exists he wants to find out what “I” is.
He then concludes that he is a thinking thing and has doubts. He uses circular argument.
Descartes defends that we continuously doubt and doubting is a way of thinking. If we doubt,
we think; and we cannot exist think without existing. Therefore, I am, I exist. But what is I?
He concludes that I is not our body, it is much more. Our senses deceive us. We are nothing
else than a thinking thing. We are creatures who think. “cogito, ergo sum”.
- Why does Descartes need to prove of the existence of God? Explain two proofs of the
existence of God (Meditation III). How does Descartes demonstrate the existence of God
in Meditation V?
Descartes needs to prove the existence of God because he says that in his mind he has ideas
about God and that they are innate and he wants to prove where these external ideas are
coming from. He struggles with the idea that things exist outside us. It is true that we have the
idea of God in our mind, but where is it coming from? We cannot produc