Meditations On First Philosophy Essay

1570 words - 7 pages

“Cogito ergo sum;” I think therefore I am. This philosophical statement stimulated a renaissance in the field of philosophy, creating modern Western philosophy as is known today. This important notion was dictated by Rene Descartes in his 1641 metaphysics work, Mediations on First Philosophy, and influenced all modern philosophical works written after Descartes revolutionary achievement. This work was written at a time when modern physics was being developed as a mathematization of nature. The principles of metaphysics contain in Meditations were developed in order to serve as the basis for this new system of physics. In it, Descartes refutes many Aristotelian beliefs that were popular and accepted by the clergy for nearly the entirety of Christianity, most notably the idea that all knowledge originates from the senses. Descartes’ opus magnum introduces an entirely new philosophical method, radically different from the traditional Socratic Method, and uses this in order to open his eyes and see through his own false opinions. In Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes utilizes his methodology of determining the truth to doubt away the foundations of all that he knows, in order to determine that he exists, what he is, how he knows this better than he knows any physical thing, and how he knows that God exists.
First, the meditator begins by noting that as a youth he held numerous false opinions, and that all the beliefs that he had held subsequently developed into other opinions whose validity are doubtful. In order to develop firm and lasting beliefs that could have a momentous impact, he realizes that he must start anew. In order to accomplish this endeavor, he utilizes Descartes’ philosophical methodology, known hyperbolic doubt or Cartesian skepticism. Hyperbolic doubt is a systematic process of doubting the truth of one’s beliefs in order to determine which one can be certain are true. The mediator begins to employ this method, but notes that it would be completely unnecessary to show that all of his opinions are false, as this task would endless. The narrator reasons that instead of doubting all of his beliefs independently, he can cast all of his opinions into doubt if the he can doubt basic principles and foundations of his beliefs. In order to accomplish this, the meditator doubts away his body, the universe, and every other preconceived belief he had “…because undermining the foundations will cause whatever has been built upon them to crumble of its own accord, I will attack straightaway those principles which supported everything I once believed” (Descartes, 18).This allows him to seek sturdier foundations for his knowledge, one that he knows he to be true, as they cannot be doubted away if Cartesian skepticism is employed correctly. Crucial to the use of this method is trying to find doubt in one’s beliefs, as if there is any doubt whatsoever then that belief or opinion could be false. With that in mind, the meditator acknowledges...

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