Descartes – First Meditation

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 6 November 2016

Descartes – First Meditation

In the First Meditation, Descartes presents his philosophical project, and he claims that, in order to complete this project, he needs to put into questions the truth of all his beliefs. Descartes shows that we can doubt of the truth of all our beliefs by two main arguments, the Dream Argument and the Evil Genius argument. In the Dream Argument, Descartes discusses the senses and how it can deceive. Descartes then mentions that when he is dreaming he can also sense real objects, or at least feels he can, causing him not be able to distinguish between being asleep and being awake.

This is shown in the quote from the First Meditation, “I see so plainly that there are no definitive signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep. As a result, I am becoming quite dizzy, and this dizziness nearly convinces me that I am asleep” – (19, Mediation One). Descartes also discusses the possibility of the universal dream, mentioning that his whole life could in fact be a dream with no actual world that you are awake.

Descartes mentions that dream images are images that we already experience in our waking life, they are images that we already know of. The images don’t necessarily have to be something we have seen before because it can be parts of real things we already know that create another image we have not yet seen or experienced. The dream argument that Descartes represents interprets the message that the senses are not always reliable, and we can easily be fooled by them, therefore, we should not rely on our senses to base all of our beliefs on.

Now moving on to Descartes second argument, the Evil Genius argument, it implies that everything we think we know is in fact not true and we cannot rely on our senses. In The First Meditation, Descartes presents that God is good, therefore he would not fool the beings he creates into believing false things. If someone were to believe in this suggestion then he would know that he can’t be fooled by anything. This is shown in Descartes quote “But perhaps God has not willed that I be deceived in this way, for he is said to be supremely good.

Nonetheless, if it were repugnant to his goodness to have created me such that I be deceived all the time, it would also seem foreign to that same goodness to permit me to be deceived even occasionally” (21 – Meditation One). On the other hand, Descartes mentions that there are some people who believe there is no God, if this is the point of view to be taken then there would be a very big likelihood in us being deceived. The reason for this theory is due to the argument Descartes presents that if there is no good our senses would not be perfect since it would not have been created by a perfect being, such as God.

This is shown in Descartes quote, “But because being deceived and being mistaken appear to be a certain imperfection, the less powerful they take the author of my origin to be, the more probable it will be that I am so imperfect that I am always deceived” (21 – Mediation One). In the end of the First Meditation, Descartes sees it as impossible to stop from thinking about these theories, he then tries to believe that his opinions are not true. Descartes does this for the reason to be able to keep thinking as normal without disruptions.

Descartes mentions this in his quote, “Hence, it seems to me I would do well to deceive myself by turning my will in completely the opposite directions and pretend for a time that these opinions are wholly false and imaginary” (22 – Meditation One). Descartes then concludes that an evil genius has set out to deceive him so everything he thinks he knows is not true, “I will not suppose a supremely good God, the source of truth, but rather an evil genius, supremely powerful and clever, who has directed his entire effort at deceiving me” (22 – Mediation One).

With Descartes doubting all his beliefs he makes sure that he is not led to believe in what is not real by the so called “evil genius” he mentions in the First Meditation. In regards to the question, does Descartes appear to be a sceptic? I would have to say no, the reason I say this is although Descartes does appear to be a sceptic in all his arguments, he demonstrates theories to all his doubts. When Descartes represents a reason for his doubt this cannot be viewed a scepticism anymore as scepticism as defined is the philosophical position according to which knowledge is impossible.

Descartes represents knowledge on each topic he doubts, as to why it should be doubted and for what reasons. Descartes does not constantly doubt everything for no reason, a sceptic doubts everything around them for no reason whatsoever. To prove this argument I suggested we can look at the First Meditation when Descartes denies the thought that he might be insane, which is shown in his quote, “Unless perhaps I were to liken myself to the insane, but such people are mad, and I would appear no less mad, were I to take their behavior as an example for myself” (19 – Meditation One).

In this quote it proves that all the doubts Descartes is making in the First Meditation are logical, and provide reason. Descartes is not just doubting for the sake of doubting, but for logic that causes this doubt he is experiencing. This concludes that Descartes is not a sceptic, and his arguments in fact to continue to grow, while maintaining logical reason behind them.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 6 November 2016

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