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Descartes Study.doc

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Boston College
PHIL 4406

René Descartes - 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 forward. 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. Rational animal. 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
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