René Descartes Essay

1058 words - 4 pages

René Descartes
René Descartes was a French philosopher and also mathematician. His method of doubt led him to the famous "cogito ergo sum" when translated means "I am thinking, therefore I exist". This cogito was the foundation for Descartes' quest for certain knowledge. He explored doubt and how we can prove our own existence, by taking the first steps of scepticism. His book "Meditations On First Philosophy", was written in six parts. Each representing the six days that God took to create the world. Not to upset the Church, Descartes would need to prove the existence of God, and the soul. Within Descartes' argument, we find some important areas. Two, which require focus, are his perception of "clear and distinct ideas" and the example he gives about the wax.
Descartes began on his path towards the cogito, by using the sceptical view of argument. He doubts everything. Descartes himself was not a sceptic, but saw doubt as the first step; to clear the board and start afresh. Even though he seems to be able to doubt most things, he cannot doubt that he actually doubts. This is what lead on to his cogito. Descartes cannot be sure that he isn't in fact dreaming. Even though he assumes he is sitting by the fireside, he may actually be lying naked in bed. Descartes says that dreams present us with copies of things which are real, and when we dream, we combine these things. E.g. a flying cat. We have seen, outside of dreaming, a cat and also wings. Therefore, in the dream, they have been combined. He concludes that the senses are incapable of reliability; that we shouldn't trust something, which has deceived us even once before. This seems very unreasonable as, if we mistrusted everything which deceived us once only, there would be little if no room to trust anything whatsoever. Descartes saw the method of doubt as the ideal place to start. He came to the conclusion, that to doubt is to think; and to think is to exist. An example in Russell's "Western philosophical thought" is that "anything, which doubts, understands, affirms, conceives, wills, denies, imagines and feels is something, which is thinking. And feeling, when it occurs in dreams, is thought". So therefore anything which thinks, also too exists.
In Descartes' wax example, he takes a piece of wax from the honeycomb in it's solid form. He observes that there are certain things, which are apparent towards the senses. The taste of the honey, its temperature (cold), the size, the colour, and when you tap it, it makes a sound. Yet, if we place the wax near heat, or a fire, the features and qualities change. No longer is the shape the same. It has become hot, and when you tap it there is no sound. This is the wax in its liquid form. So is the wax we see now, the same wax we saw before these changes?
Before these changes were...

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