Rene Descartes, author of “Meditation 1”, writes how he must erase everything he had ever learned and thought to be true and must “begin again from the first foundations” (222). One may ask how Descartes came to this conclusion. The answer is that of he “realized how many were the false opinions that in [his] youth [he] took to be true, and thus how doubtful were all the things that [he] subsequently built upon these opinions” (222). This change was to take place at the perfect time in Descartes life however, he wasted much time waiting for that moment Descartes decided to simply let go of it.
He started questioning everything he ever believed in. Descartes raised one specific question: How does one justify being awake from dreaming? He gives an example stating “that I am here, clothed in my dressing gown, seated at the fireplace, when in fact I am lying undressed between he blankets! ” (222). Descartes describes how a dream may feel so real, one might actually think their dream is in fact reality. He goes on further saying “plainly that there are no definite signs to distinguish being awake from being asleep that I am quite astonished, and this astonishment almost convinces me that I am sleeping” (222).
This all lead to Descartes coming up with a theory that “perhaps we do not even have these hands, or any such body at all” (223). He started questioning the existence of God as well, wondering whether or not he existed or if the heavens and earth were actually there. More questioning followed asking himself “how do I know that I am not deceived every time I add two and three or count the sides of a square or perform an even simpler operation? ” (203).
What Descartes became certain of was that an evil genius “as clever and deceitful as he is powerful, who had directed his entire effort to misleading me” (224) and a conclusion was made that he would “regard [himself] as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, no senses, but as nevertheless falsely believing that [he] possess[es] all these things” (224). Descartes reasoning in my opinion is false for the most part. I would have to agree with him that people should sometimes examine their belief to see whether or not it is accurate.
People dream of things that seem very realistic as if it were actually happening however, once they are awake they can distinguish what was reality and what was a dream. Sometimes being fooled by a dream doesn’t come to the conclusion that everything around us and everything we believe does not actually exist. However, it is possible to also dream that one woke up in their dreams remembering the dream they were having. The dream may have felt real but in the end they when they were awake the difference between reality and dream could be pointed out.
Someone can not be 100 percent sure of something but they can be confident about what they believe is real vs. dream. A person who has a hand is aware of it. All the physical ways to know a hand is there exists. They can see it, feel it, touch it, and use it. The question Descartes raises says that even though we can see a hand how do we know it is truly there and it isn’t our imaginations or a dream. Reality is what it is. We know we are not dreaming because of the details we see in reality and the pain we feel. It is also possible to be fooled by a dream sometimes thinking something is actually occurring when it isn’t.
I know my hand is there because I believe it is and am certain of it unless there is someone who can give evidence proving my belief is false. All rational people would agree with me. There is no sure way of proving that my hand is there because in this world there are many things that cannot be proven even though we know for a fact they exist. There is no sure way to prove if anything exists. There is no proof that we are not controlled by an evil scientist or that our brains our controlled by another making us feel and think things that actually aren’t there.
The only thing a person can rely on is there senses and experiences. They must trust that something is there and it is in fact reality. If one goes on doubting everything and anything around them then they also doubt themselves. If one believes nothing exists they themselves don’t exist which is false because they do. If they do not exist then it would not be possible for them to have these thoughts. Overall a hand is a hand. It exists. It is made up of fingers and nerves which we use day after day. If it didn’t exist no one would be capable of doing much in their lives without their hands.
How would one be able to type, or play the piano, or even write a story? Descartes believed he had no hands, then how were his thoughts and feelings written down if they do not exist? I believe that our hands do exist however, there might be a chance that my hands and other things are controlled by someone else but it is not likely the case. Nothing can be for certain unless there is actual proof and evidence proving whether it is true or not. We must trust our instincts and everything around us to guide us in believing the right and accurate things.
Descartes might say in response to my reasoning that I am false and my reasoning is unjust and inaccurate. He would most likely give counterexamples to falsify my reasoning. I would then ask him how he has been able to eat without hands or how a person might drive a car? I would be most anxious to hear what answers he would come up with . Reality is, if no one had hands the world would not exist. Descartes, Rene. “Meditation 1. ” Twenty Questions: An Introduction To Philosophy. Ed. Steve Wainwright. 5th ed. Belmont: Holly J. Allen, 2004. 221-25.