Philosophy1020 Introduction To Philosophy : Essay Fountain

Question:

Write an essay on one of the following subjects:
 
1. The First Meditation of Rene Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy in which he provides reasons for doubting his own opinions. Your essay should answer the following questions:
 
(a) What is the main question on which Descartes focusses in the First Meditation?
(b) What answer does Descartes defend?
(c) What reasons does he provide in support of his answer?
 
2. David Armstrong’s “The Nature of Mind” in which he argues for a conception of both the mind and mental states. Your essay should answer the following questions:
 
(a) What is the main question on which Armstrong focusses in “The Nature of Mind”?
(b) What answer does Armstrong defend?
(c) What reasons does he provide in support of his answer?
 
Purpose: Develop the ability to identify and formulate an argument and the ability to write clearly and economically.
 

Answer:

In the first meditation on first philosophy by Descartes, he is trying to establish the authenticity of his knowledge. The question Descartes is asking in his meditations is the extent to which people are certain about what they know concerning their physical world? He does this by bringing himself into attention, and trying to meditate in what he calls ‘What can be called into doubt’1. He decides to meditate on the things he knows and once he finds a doubt in their foundation, he put them away and start afresh on a surer foundation. 

In his meditation, Descartes establishes that everything that he knows about the physical world is doubtful1. His doubts are set out on a well-reasoned framework. First, he realizes that all that he has known to be true, he leaned through his senses. He also establishes that our senses can be deceitful, example when we look at objects from a far distance, our senses show us they are tiny but in real life, they are not tiny. He believes madmen are the most deceived by their senses but he blushes the idea that his reasoning is rational and not influenced by mental disorders. Descartes decides to reject all beliefs that are based on his senses3. He reasons if a source of knowledge is deceitful then it is prone to be deceitful again and always. 

 

Another thing that the author uses to come up with his conclusion that everything he knows is a lie is his dreams. He suggests that dreams are false. For example, if he dreams, he is running he cannot establish if it is true because he cannot tell whether he is dreaming and since dreams appear as real experiences, therefore they cannot be distinguished hence cannot be believed. He suggests for dreams to be true when he dreams running, then he should be running in the real sense and since it is not true, he concludes that dreaming is not a reliable source of knowledge4. He argues that even when awake he has the same kind of experiences as when asleep, hence rules out any knowledge based on the things he sees when asleep and when awake5. He says, “on many occasions, I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and in dwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep that I am lost in astonishment”6. He considers the things he knows from his sleep or when awake as a result of his senses and since he ruled his senses as an unreliable source of knowledge, he considers experiences from his dreams and in reality, untrue7.

Descartes further argues what he believes to be true might be influenced by other powers like God or a demon. He thinks if God is powerful and perfect, he can make an imperfect man have deceitful senses. He also argues God could make our conception of the things we think to be true like mathematics false8. He again rules out on God and assumes that his knowledge might be influenced by a demon, therefore, making it false belief. This suggests our reasoning by itself is not enough source of knowledge but should be coupled with such considerations as ruling out an external influence like a demon. Descartes supports the belief that all we know is uncertain and should not be relied on, through his reasoning about our senses, dreams, and powers like demonic influence.

Conclusion

Descartes uses a methodological and rational way to certify his beliefs. First, he establishes his beliefs are made up of his senses which are sometimes deceitful so he rules out every belief whose source is the senses. He goes ahead to rule out the beliefs from his dreams since dreams can be untrue. In the same way, he claims one cannot either belief what they see when awake since being awake is a continuation of our dreams. by this, he means we can only dream of the things that exist in real life as if they are only to find it was a lie. When awake we continue to think of things that we dream of and this disqualifies things he believed from his dreams as well as things he could sense when awake. He then concludes even the things he thinks he knows could be false unless there are no powers like the powerful and perfect God or a demon to influence them. It can be deduced that the intention of Descartes in his first meditation is to bring out the idea that our senses and perceptions have flaws and we should not entirely rely on them. From his meditation, Descartes finds out that all that he believed about the physical world was doubtful and therefore could not be trusted as true. This serves to remind us that we should not be quick into believing things without proof.

 

References

Allison, David B. “Hermeneutic Reflections on Descartes’ Introduction to His Meditations on First Philosophy.” (2017).

Campbell, Michael. “Time, Causality and Character in Descartes’ Meditations.” (2015).

Descartes, René. Descartes’ Meditations. Author’s Republic, 2016.

Descartes, René. Descartes: Meditations on first philosophy: With selections from the objections and replies. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy: And Discourse on the Method. Blackstone Audio, 2019.

Rosen, G., Byrne, A., Cohen, J., & Shiffrin, S. V. (Eds.). (2015). The Norton Introduction to Philosophy. WW Norton & Company.

Rosenthal, David. “René Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy.” Topoi 34, no. 2 (2015): 541-548.

Schneider, Susan, ed. Science fiction and philosophy: from time travel to superintelligence. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

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