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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Descartes Meditations - 1297 words
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.. n whathis senses perceive. He begins to explore this notion that he had previouslydismissed to doubt. He inquires whether his senses give him reason for bodiesto exist. He comes to the conclusion that they do because God has given us "agreat inclination to believe that these ideas proceeded from corporeal things."( ) This proof progresses into the nature of how mind and body co-exist.Descartes beliefs are as follows: It is from nature that we distinguish otherbodies and their interpretation.
We are inclined by nature towards things thatbenefit us. This is for our own self- preservation. Descartes makes thedistinction between mind and body. He states that the mind is a thinking,unextended thing, while the body is a physical extended thing. The mind isindivisible whereas the body can be divided. It is the minds task todifferentiate the part of the body affiliated with a certain sensation
God hasendowed us with these natural inclinations to allow us self preservation.Descartes now dispels his dream hypothesis because he realizes that wakefulnessis the interaction of both mind and body. He leaves us with the message that "we must acknowledge the infirmity of our nature." ( )Explication It is Descartes hope in Meditation two that he is able to find hisfirst certainty. By use of the Cogito argument Descartes does just that.Having proven his existance he turns his attention toward the essence of hisnature. As the title of the second meditation suggests, he proves that areessence is of the mind and thus more known to us than the body.The Cogito argument as it looks in the Meditations runs like this:'Thus, after everything has been most carefully weighed, it must finally beestablished that this pronouncement 'I am, I exist' is necessarily true everytime I utter it or conceive it in my mind.' (P.18)Descartes Second Meditation is an attempt to find a truth that he can acceptwith certainty. In order to accomplish this, Descartes has established thathis postulate must be open to strict scrutiny as to expel all doubt to itsvalidity.
By the third paragraph of the meditation he has discovered such acertainty, the claim that "I think, therefore I exist." What he is trying tosay with this statement is that every time he thinks something in his mind, hehas proof that he exists. It is not possible to think without also existing.This proof, known as the Cogito, is Descartes first progression towards his goalof perfect knowledge. For this reason it is important that we examine thisproof so that we can have a better understanding of its meaning.To evaluate the Cogito argument, we must first understand it clearly. Thereare four key statements in meditation two that lead Descartes to the certaintythat he exists. Herewith is a summation of Descartes' argument:1) "Am I so tied to the body and to the senses that I cannot exist without them?"2) "But certainly I should exist, if I were to persuade myself of something." 3)"Then there is no doubt that I exist, if he (evil demon) deceives me.
4) "I am,I exist" or in other words "I think, therefore I am."These claims respectively suggest, that by denying, persuading, and beingdeceived; a certain faculty of thought is being used. By thinking, one can becertain that he exists.Though the argument may seem simple and straightforward, upon closer inspectionthis is not the case. There seems to be some questions concerning the Cogito'sinterpretation, the most important being: What is the first certainty thatDescartes uncovers? What perspective does he use to rationalize thiscertainty?, and how does he back it up? By examining the inferential,intuitional and epistemic interpretations, we can discover which interpretationof the Cogito was meant by Descartes in Meditation two.At first it seems obvious that Descartes had meant for the Cogito to be aninferential argument. Of the key propositions in the Meditations all seem tohave the commonality of thinking as their first premise. Similarly the secondpremise and the conclusion seem to follow the same pattern.
The second premiseposits the notion: Whatever thinks exists; followed by the conclusion:therefore, I exist.To know something by inference, is to discover something based on previousknowledge. In Descartes case, he has come to know a metaphysical certainty,existence, based on a prior metaphysical certainty, thinking. The soundness ofthis reasoning is good because know matter what we do it is impossible to denythat we think. It seems simple enough, until we consider that Descartes seemsto emphasize that his first absolute certainty is existence. Using the criteriafor inference then, it is impossible that "I exist" is the first certainty.This is a weak argument for in order for this inference to work; Descartes wouldhave to make revisions to meditation two.
However, since he feels so stronglyof this first certainty, I am not convinced that Descartes had meant for thisinterpretation.The intuitional interpretation of the Cogito, maintains that it ismetaphysically certain because Descartes has intuited it. Descartes idea ofintuition is likened to a flash of insight. It can be seen to be true, thesame way we know that that 2+3=5. He simply knows he exists based on a directunderstanding. With this interpretation, cleary the proposition "I exist" is thefirst certainty. The problem of this argument is that the idea of intuition istoo subjective an interpretation to prove that he exists.
There is no way toreplicate this procedure and obtain the same conclusion as Descartes. Theevidence for this interpretation is not strong enough to render it to be theone Descartes intended.The evidence for the epistemic interpretation of the Cogito is good. I feelthat this is the most reasonable interpretation because it seems to be incharacter with the whole of the meditations. Descartes reasoning behind hismetaphysical certainty is that he simply has no reason to doubt it. Previous tothe second meditation, Descartes had used doubt as his tool; in doing so he feltit necessary to suspend all judgment. Here he is able to scrutinize all themajor arguments of meditation two and come to the conclusion that he has noreason to doubt that "I exist." It could be conceded that Descartes did notexplore enough sources of doubt.
This objection seems inconsequentialconsidering the scope of the problems from the other interpretations.Having established his existence, Descartes finds that his essence is the mind.He places a major importance on the intellect. In further meditations it is themind, through understanding, that leads us to various conclusions. Near theend of Meditation two, Descartes demonstrates how the ideas of the mind are moreattune to finding knowledge than are senses are. The point that he makes here isthat only through the mind can we understand the essential qualities of the wax.Melted a piece of wax exhibits qualities such as extension and mutability.These are concepts that are only clear to the intellect. The main point thatDescartes was trying to get across by using this wax experiment is, that if hecan understand the wax better with his mind, then it certainly follows that heshould know himself better through the same faculty.The Meditations has given me a better understanding of philosophical issues.
Ihave learned to suspend judgment so that I may use my intellect to understandthings. Descartes presentation of the mind body problem has given me a newtopic to explore. Is it the mind that rules the body or the body that rules themind. Where does one begin, and the other end? By using some of Descartesmethods I have attempted to see his arguments, and tried to come to my ownconclusions. The mere fact that Descartes found so many certainties in theMeditations is surprising.
It is not always easy to find a hypothesis thatstands up to doubt. The Meditations have taught me to be open minded, and toacknowledge that sometimes we make mistakes. However, if we take caution anduse reason carefully we are capable of finding certainty.
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