The Enlightenment & Human Understanding TUT #5
Oct 17 , 2012
Model of learning is mathematics – it always begins with axioms (self evident truths)
Premises following down towards a conclusion
Of all arguments of the time, deductive arguments held to be superior type.
If it follows rule of logic, and all the premises are true, then the conclusion must
be true – it cannot be false.
Therefore, greatest tool for speaking truth because all you had to do was ensure
the validity of the arguments and you had to ensure all the premises were true.
2102011 PPOP: This is not the form of reasoning he is looking for; he does not believe
that I contains anything new … simply puts together items that were not together in
premises (Make implicit, explicit).
Descartes metaphysics in his miditations:
Looking to discover rules for learning generally.
Seeking out axioms/first prinicples not of geometry, but of human learning
How do we study the Meditation?
In the meditations, Descartes want to find first principles of knowledge, which
include the knowledge of God.
As with axioms in math, these do NOT depend on toher knowledge – they are
first and therefore should be self evident.
Well, now Descartes has a problem with selfefidence in mathetmatics
After all that, this is what Descartes wants to say: The first principles of geometry
agree with the senses!
On the other hand:
First principles of metaphysics (nature of self, God), which are in fact based on innate
ideas, conflict with the senses and therefore with respect to these, there is sensory
Self evident geometric principles are easily grasped by anybody, even if not geometer
The FPs of metaphysics DO NOT accord with our selves so to the uninitiated there is
always conflict between what metaphysics
This prejudice prevent sus from grasphing these innate ideas and seeing that they are
So therefore, Descartes wants to say that there are two tasks before him… two things his
Meditations must achieve!
1) To rid the mind of prejudice: It is to us of a reliance on our sense and therefore to ABANDON all sensory
beliefs and bodily influence. To have the mind rid itself of EVERYTHING but
2) Capacity for attention: To lead the mind, once all prejudice has been removed, to
the TRUE metaphysical innate ideas (God, truth, the Self)
And Descartes says: Once you grasp these truths, innate ideas, you will accept
selfevidently (No proof will be required)
Second Set: This is the method of ANALYSIS – method used in metaphysics
Not only does this method help us uncover FPs, but it also helps us see that they are self
“So that if the reader cares to follow, and gives attention…the student understands the
matter no less perfectly and makes it as much his own as it he discovered it”
This is an FP in metaphysics – but it is contradicted by sense!
With senses there is no awareness of God whatsoever, there is no evidence of God
– He is not a being of perception.
Furthermore, even if there is a God, the senese are insufficient to conclude He is
Descartes’ creator. We must therefore eliminate influence of sense
And if you do these things (elim sense, be attentive, not hostile)
Then you will see in your own mind’s eye the connection between God and your
creation; it can only be understood through thought, cannot be understood through
So now… first part of this: getting rid of the prejudice the sensory prejudice that is in the
Meditation 1 preamble:
Remember, trying to get rid of sensory beliefs…. so what’s the standpoint where
Descartes begins? Whole thing is undertaken from perspective of common sense – you
and me not doing philosophy.
Lots not contained in the book explicitly, its implicit.
Remember, we are seeking FPs of human knowledge
We have 2 canditates: a) Reason b) senses
Med1 is concerned with the senses
Determination of whether sense can provide FP’s of human knowledge will be
determined by Descarte