Descartes meditation 1 essay

Born in France, Descartes is known as the foundation of modern Western philosophy. His book, Meditations of First Philosophy, aims to show that the real source of knowledge comes from the mind, rather than the body or senses, creating his own scientific method. There are three points that Descartes focuses on in Meditations, each arguing against the position that we may attain….

He creates the dream argument that argues about how it is possible to be uncertain about whether or not a person is in a real world or dream world. In philosopher G.

Descartes' Wax Argument Essay - 1458 Words -

Descartes' First Meditation Descartes believes that knowledge comes from within the mind, a single indisputable fact to build on that can be gained through individual reflection. While seeking true knowledge, Descartes writes his Six Meditations. In these meditations, Descartes tries to develop a strong foundation, which all knowledge can be built upon.

In the First Meditation, Descartes begins developing this foundation through the method of doubt. He casts doubt upon all his previous beliefs…. He concludes that reality as we know it is false, and we are ultimately deceived. This is interesting because there is no way to prove we can determine whether this is true or false logic.

The claim has no intent on changing our daily actions, our moral beliefs, or our role in the universe, but is intended to bring us into open-mindedness. If we allow ourselves to accept the plausibility…. He doubts everything that his senses inform his of, and even the reasoning procedure, because he wants to conquer skepticism. He knows, however, that he is real because he has the ability to think. By looking at Meditations of First Philosophy by Descartes, one can see that….

In Meditations of First Philosophy, Descartes explains philosophical meditations written over six days. However, no matter what the thoughts are, we are conscious of them. Consequently it is the only real thing in the universe. I believe that body makes no more than a perfect container for the spirit. Even though material and spiritual mental world are entwined, Descartes came very close to the fact that one of them is primary. And primary is the one, which does not cause doubts, the real one, and the true one, the one, which our soul and consciousness belong to, the spiritual world.

What is his example intended to demonstrate? How do I know that there are men in the street and not dressed-up mechanical dolls? As Descartes shows us, piece of wax may change his material form, but its essence stays the same.

Doubt Everything: Descartes

However, as we perceive the changes in its appearance, our mind might assume that it is a completely different object. Consequently, if our mind trusts only senses, it can be easily deceived; therefore there is something else in us we have to listen to in order to be more aware of the true essence of things in the surrounding world. According to Descartes, we unfortunately can not be sure of the fact that people, walking around us are not dressed-up mechanical dolls.

We can, however, be sure that we are not. Is there any way to distinguish between dreams and waking thoughts, and between dreams and hallucinations or delusions? What, in your view, is the point of reference to dreaming? In the brain, these signals are processed and somehow the image of the tree is formed in my mind. Thus, between the external object of my perception, and the representation or image of it, there are several layers of causality. This causal model of perception is illustrated in the following diagram:.

Within this model, the only thing we are immediately aware of is the representation. We are divorced from the external object itself by the chain of causality. With the malicious demon thought experiment, Descartes simply changes the causal model to the following. Malicious Demon -- Representation. Thus, both models lead to the same representation, and the representation of objects is all that any particular person is aware of. Hence, from that person's perspective, there is no way of knowing which causal model is the correct one. What Descartes shows is that if one believes any one particular causal chain then any other will do just as well, because from the point of view of any individual at the end of the causal process there is no way to tell which is the correct conception of the external world and of how it is perceived.

Doubting the Causal Model of Perception. As expressed by Williams [p. For Descartes, perception of objects 'is known only through the medium of ideas' [Williams, p. He considered that causality is part of the concept of perception.

However, it is not at all clear that this is self-evident. It could be argued, in support of Descartes, that it is straightforwardly obvious that when we perceive something, there is a separate something that is perceived. However, what is not so clear is that this something is a thing external to the perception.

Whenever I perceive something, what is evident is the appearance of the object; there is no evidence of an external cause of that appearance within the perception itself. For example, when I look at a tree, I simply see the tree. This perception does not necessarily imply an unseen cause for the appearance of the tree.

Indeed, common sense tells me that what I perceive is the tree directly, not mediated by ideas as Descartes would have it. This is an argument that may be put by a follower of G. Moore [Williams, p. Other philosophers have also argued against his causal model of perception. In his Refutation of Idealism, in answer to Descartes, Kant B argues that objects of perception must be apprehended immediately in consciousness.

Reflection on Descartes’ Meditations Essay Example

Further, if we analyse what is meant by causality, following Hume or Kant, we find that any application of it must be empirical, hence contingent. This is because a causal relation involves linking a cause with an effect, both of which are empirical events. So it is not possible for any particular perception to necessarily have an external cause. Thus the causal model of perception must be contingent, therefore not self-evident. It may be argued that we could justify a belief in the causal model of perception empirically. For example, I have empirical evidence of the causes of visual perception by knowing about light rays, eyes, optic nerves, and so on.

And I know about these things empirically, by observing them in the world or being told about them or reading about them in books: i.


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But beliefs based on perception are the very things that are doubted in the malicious demon argument which follows from the causal model of perception. Therefore, an empirically justified causal model of perception is inherently mistaken because by implication it undermines its own premise.

Ultimately then, Descartes offers no argument to support his causal model of perception, and as we have seen, the claim that it is self-evident can be challenged. Further, it is not possible to support his assertion by empirical evidence. Thus, it would seem that the causal model of perception is at least doubtful. Therefore, if we wish to follow Descartes's Method of Doubt completely, we must also relinquish the causal model of perception. Once it is doubted, the malicious demon argument can no longer be put.

By assuming a causal model of perception, Descartes was implicitly assuming the existence of an external reality: that is, a world that exists quite independently of his mind and his thoughts about that world. Thus, although Descartes says that his malicious demon thought experiment implies that he must be doubtful of the existence of external things, it does not imply that at all.


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  8. What it implies is that we must be doubtful about the nature of external reality. After all, what Descartes argues is that he cannot be sure whether the external causes for his perceptions are external objects corresponding one to one with his perceptions so, for example, if he sees a chair then there correspondingly exists an external chair that is the ultimate cause of that perception , or whether the external cause is a malicious demon. In both cases, Descartes is postulating an external reality, even if it does turn out to be the malicious demon.