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Descartes’ Ultimate Purpose Of The Meditations

1836 words - 7 pages

Descartes’ Ultimate Purpose of the Meditations

My initial approach to René Descartes, in Meditations on First Philosophy, views the third meditation’s attempts to prove the existence of God as a way of establishing a foundation for the existence of truth, falsity, corporeal things and eventually the establishment of the sciences. When viewed in this light, Descartes is accused of drawing himself into a ‘Cartesian circle,’ ultimately forcing this cosmological proof of God to defy Cartesian method, thus precipitating the failure of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth meditations. This approach to the meditations, in the order with which they are presented, allows me to state that a proof of the existence of God cannot hold due to its vulnerability to circularity. This does not, however, necessitate that the Meditations must fail. Rather, if the meditations are approached in the order with which Descartes originally created them, the circularity and many of the objections disappear. We must not loose sight of Descartes’ goal of these meditations: to unearth “the foundational science from which the whole system of science can be derived” (Menn 549) through which it cannot be denied that “[knowledge of God is] the most certain and evident of all possible objects of knowledge for the human intellect” (Descartes 11). “Descartes has decided that the Augustinian method of knowledge of God and soul is the way to knowledge of the physical world [science]” (Menn 549). I will demonstrate that this initial “ordered” perspective creates serious doubt of the existence of God, while a re-ordering of the Meditations produces a logically sound argument that facilitates an arrival at the intended goal while keeping the arguments intact.

First, I must outline the boundaries of the Cartesian circle in which Descartes immediately encloses himself from the outset of the third meditation. In my research, I have not found any critical analysis of Descartes’ meditations that cite the source of this circularity to be anything but the issue of clear and distinct perceptions. From the start of the third meditation, Descartes consults his perceptions, “So now I seem to be able to lay it down as a general rule that whatever I perceive very clearly and distinctly is true” (Descartes: 24). Descartes does acknowledge, however, that his perceptions have been wrong in the past: “through habitual belief I thought I perceived clearly, although I did not in fact do so” (Descartes: 25). This establishment of doubting that which seems obvious is the mission of the first meditation where Descartes outlines his method: Cartesian doubt. Yet, due to the conclusion of “cogito ergo sum” from the second meditation, “let whoever can do so deceive me, he will never bring it about that I am nothing” (Descartes: 25). Furthering his reasoning of the clear and distinct perception of his own existence, Descartes writes that not even a deceiver could bring...

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