Reading #3 (Synopsis, Meditation 2, Meditation 6)
Meditation on First Philosophy
By: Rene Descartes
Synopsis (of the 6Following Mediations)
A firm foundation (basis of an idea) for the sciences requires a truth that is
absolutely certain; because of this, Rene rejects all his beliefs where there is
possibility of doubt. Whatever truths are left will be absolutely certain.
It isn’t necessary to go through all his beliefs individually since they are based on
fundamental belief. If there is any reason to doubt this foundation belief, then all
the beliefs based on it are equally doubtful.
All his beliefs about the world are based on the fundamental belief that the senses
(sight, touch, taste, etc. your body) tell him the truth.
This isn’t certain and is possible that his sense tell him an
illusion created by a powerful being.
Therefore, there is reason for doubt his foundation belief, and
thus all his beliefs about the world are doubtful.
If all his beliefs are doubtful there is truth that is certain. Even if all experience is
an illusion, it cannot be doubted that the experience is taking place. This means
that the experiencer (himself) exists.
Since the only evidence is that he is thinking (experiencing), then it is certain that
he is a thing that thinks (experiences), that is, a mind.
Since her is not certain (yet) that the physical world (including his body) exists,
but he is certain he exists, it follows that I AM NOT MY BODY. Therefore, he
knows with certainty that I am only mind.
He is much more certain of his mind’s existence than his body’s. It might
determine we know physical things through the sense with greater certainty than
we know something intangible (something unable to tough) like the mind.
The wax experiment demonstrates that the senses (body) themselves know
nothing, and that only the intellect truly knows physical things. It follows that the
mind itself is known with greater certainty than anything that we know through
the senses (body).
Wax Experiment: if you were placed in a place where your sense were
eliminated (no gravity, dark, no noise etc.) would you exist or know of your
Meditation #3 Every idea must be caused, and the cause must be as real as the idea. If you have
any idea of which you cannot be the cause, then something besides me must exist
(if something else causes your idea it exists)
All ideas of material reality could have their origin within you, but the idea of
God, an infinite and perfect being, could not have originated from within you
because I am a finite and imperfect being.
You have an Idea of God, and God can only have caused it. Therefore, God must
Only an imperfect being could practice deliberate deception. Therefore, God is
not a deceiver
Since your faculty judgment comes from God, you can make no mistake as long
as you use your judgment properly.
But it is not an infinite faculty; you may make a mistake when you
judge something you don’t really know
You therefore know that if you know something with absolute certainty, then you
cannot be mistaken, because God does not deceive and God is your faculty of
The correct way to proceed is to avoid mistakes and limit your
claims to knowledge to those things you know clearly.
What can be found for certain about material objects? Before deciding whether
they exist outside of you, you know that your ideas of them consist of shape, size,
motion, etc. You also know that by thinking about these attributes you can
discover certain facts that are necessarily true about them (e.g. truths of
You don’t invent ideas such as geometrical shapes, nor do you get them from
sensory experience. Proof of this is the fact that you can discover geometrical
truths about figures in which you can’t imagine.
By thinking about ideas of geometrical shapes, you can discover truths that
necessarily belong to them; you can do the same with God. You have a clear and
distinct idea of a perfect being. Perfect = lacking nothing. You can’t i