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Descartes' First Meditation Essay

1797 words - 7 pages

Descartes' First Meditation

Rene Descartes decision to shatter the molds of traditional thinking is still talked about today. He is regarded as an influential abstract thinker; and some of his main ideas are still talked about by philosophers all over the world. While he wrote the "Meditations", he secluded himself from the outside world for a length of time, basically tore up his conventional thinking; and tried to come to some conclusion as to what was actually true and existing. In order to show that the sciences rest on firm foundations and that these foundations lay in the mind and not the senses, Descartes must begin by bringing into doubt all the beliefs that come to him by the senses. This is done in the first of six different steps that he named "Meditations" because of the state of mind he was in while he was contemplating all these different ideas. His six meditations are "One:Concerning those things that can be called into doubt", "Two:Concerning the Nature of the Human mind: that it is better known than the Body", "Three: Concerning God, that he exists", "Four: Concerning the True and the False", "Five: Concerning the Essence of Material things, and again concerning God, that he exists" and finally "Six: Concerning the Existence of Material things, and the real distinction between Mind and Body". Although all of these meditations are relevant and necessary to understand the complete work as a whole, the focus of this paper will be the first meditation.

In the "Meditations", Rene Descartes attempts to work backwards. He realizes "how numerous were the false opinions that in [his] youth [he] had taken to be true".(Pg59) He secludes himself away from people and distractions and has "suitably freed [his] mind of all cares."(Pg59) It is his goal to dismantle his conventional thinking and to only acknowledge what he can determine to be wholly and undeniably true. He does this by attacking "straightaway those principals which support everything [he] once believed."(Pg60) He decides that he must not try to "show that all of his opinions are false, which is perhaps something [he] could never accomplish"(Pg59) but rather he should " withhold [his] assent no less carefully from opinions that are not completely certain and indubitable that [he] would from those that are patently false."(Pg.59) By doing this he will tear down all the false ideologies that he holds, and be subject to only the opinions that he can prove to be absolutely and necessarily true.

In the first meditation, "Concerning those things that can be called into doubt", Descartes main goal is to distinguish what it is he can take to be true, and what supposed truths hold even the smallest degree of doubt. When he reviews all of his opinions he concludes "eventually [he] is forced to admit that there is nothing among the things [he]believed to be true which it is not permissable to doubt--and not out of frivolity or lack of forethought, but for valid and...

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