Descartes Meditations

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In Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, we follow a pensive man distrustful of all his beliefs and notions about the world, and his existence. Throughout the book, he slowly reacquires only those beliefs that he finds to be absolutely certain through numerous philosophical arguments. He proves the existence of God and material things, and puts forth a famous dualist argument that continues to be hotly debated to this day. By the time we reach the sixth and final meditation, Descartes has deserted all of his previous beliefs, and rebuilt his idea of the world, consisting only of those beliefs he has proven to himself. In this meditation, Descartes focuses on proving the existence of material things, and that there is a distinction …show more content…

By extension, Descartes means that the essence of the body is to have spatial existence. The distinction he attempts to point out is that the mind’s sole purpose is to think, and it is not necessarily a tangible entity located in space. In his second premise, Descartes says that he conceives of minds as being capable of existing apart from all bodies, and he conceives of bodies as capable of existing without minds. He comes to this through reasoning that if he has two clear and distinct ideas of two different substances (the body and the mind), he can conceive of those substances existing without each other. Descartes goes on to state that God has the power to bring about whatever he conceives possible. His reasoning behind this is that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnibenevolent (all-good). Hence, God, being all-powerful, has the ability to do anything, including bringing about whatever one conceives possible. Since God has the power to do this, and Descartes has a clear and distinct idea of mind and body as distinct substances (one able to exist without the other), he comes to the conclusion that the mind is actually distinct from the body, and can exist apart from it. Here is what the structure of his argument looks like:
1. I …show more content…

He is stating that one’s whole essence is a thinking thing. In the first premise, he makes clear his distinction between mind and body as two independent substances. However, there is really no way for him to know that his whole essence does not include some part of his physical body. After all, as far as any human knows, we are linked to our bodies at every point we exist in this world as a thinking thing. For this reason, I find the first premise to be unsupported. It is not enough to draw a distinction between two things, and conclude that their essences are completely different when, in fact, the two substances are complexly and causally linked at all times during our lives. Perhaps Descartes has uncovered part of one’s essence in the cogito argument, but there is really no way for him to make such a lofty claim with no support other than his personal perceptions. We can observe this fault by looking at a real world situation. Let’s pretend I am running. If I am running, my mind is making my body move to run, and my body is moving. Descartes would probably agree with this statement, as he does observe a complex and close relationship between the mind and body. By defining one’s whole essence as a thinking thing (by “I”

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