The Folly Of René Descartes’ Discourse On Method And Meditations On First Philosophy

1488 words - 6 pages

The Folly of René Descartes’ Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy

In order to embark on his quest for truth, Descartes first devises his four rules which should serve as a solid foundation for all else that he comes to understand. Those rules are here evaluated in terms of what they fail to take into consideration. The rules are examined individually and consecutively, and are therefore also reiterated in order to be clear about them. Furthermore, the approach of using these rules is also analyzed to some degree. Ultimately, however, it is my conjecture that Descartes’ four rules are not as solid a foundation as he claims, but fail to consider key issues which are noted herein.

Descartes’ first rule deals with the notion of truth, and states it as follows.

The first [rule] was never to accept anything as true that I did not plainly know to be such; that is to say, carefully to avoid hasty judgment and prejudice; and to include nothing more in my judgments than what presented itself to my mind so clearly and so distinctly that I had no occasion to call it in doubt. (11)

In essence, we are to accept only what is true. This brings up the question of how one can even know truth. For Descartes, the certain truth is “I think, therefore I am,” which is his first principle. However, even if this is a certain truth, how can we know anything else to be true? More importantly, however, the first rule states that nothing should be accepted that can be called into doubt, or to accept only that which is indubitable. Yet how can anything be indubitable, save perhaps Descartes’ first principle, and even there some may be able to find flaws? It seems doubtful whether anything can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt.

Nevertheless, Descartes may practice a method of radically doubting the subjective information of our senses and experience, but it appears that what he holds as being objective is that which is quantifiable. For him, “the method that teaches one to follow the true order and to enumerate exactly all the circumstances of what one is seeking contains everything that gives certainty to the rules of arithmetic (12).”

Still, the notion of one’s existence as proven by thought is not something which can be measured and translated into a numerical quantity. In fact, most fundamental concepts and their corresponding emotions that make up human life, such as love, are neither indubitable nor quantifiable, though are still held as being true, sometimes more than anything else.

This leads me to find that the very first of Descartes’ rules is a shaky foundation at best. It asks for an acceptance of indubitable truth, and only that truth. But if this is to be indeed held as a standard, then nothing could actually be accepted with certainty.

The second [rule], to divide each of the difficulties I would examine into as many parts as possible and as was required in order better to resolve them. (11)


Find Another Essay On The Folly of René Descartes’ Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy

Meditations on First Philosophy, by Rene Descartes

1548 words - 6 pages with the idea of how do we know something we imagined actually happened and we did not dream it. Rene Descartes wrote this book to discover how we are constantly imagining and sensing things throughout our life; how we perceive it to be true, and how do we know that it is. He also questions how we can know that God really exists. Rene Descartes book, Meditations on First Philosophy, was an interesting read. A lot of people have thought how do we

Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

1791 words - 7 pages In Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes does and experiment with wax to try to prove that things actually exist in this world. This essay is going to prove how we can tell that things actually exist and what can perceive the wax. Rene Descartes starts off with a description of the wax so he can prove to us the changes that will happen throughout his experiment. “Let us take, for instance, this

Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

1968 words - 8 pages Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy Rene Descartes’ third meditation from his book Meditations on First Philosophy, examines Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God. The purpose of this essay will be to explore Descartes’ reasoning and proofs of God’s existence. In the third meditation, Descartes states two arguments attempting to prove God’s existence, the Trademark argument and the traditional Cosmological argument

Descartes - Discourse on Method

1127 words - 5 pages errors or unjustified opinions in his mind and taking careful note of any experiences that he might be able to build upon (Epistemology). In 1629, Descartes moved to Holland to work without interruptions. He remained in Holland for more than twenty years. While in Holland, the majority of Descartes' work was produced.Actually, he published his first work, Discourse on the Method at the age of 40 in the year 1636. Many believe the reason he waited

Meditations on First Philosophy

1570 words - 7 pages 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

A summary of "Discourse on the Method" by Rene Descartes.

758 words - 3 pages Discourse on the Method is Descartes' attempt to explain his method of reasoning through even the most difficult of problems. He illustrates the development of this method through brief autobiographical sketches interspersed with philosophical arguments. Part 1 contains "various considerations concerning the sciences." First, all people possess "good sense," the ability to distinguish truth from fiction. Therefore, it is not a lack of ability

Rene Descartes' Examination of the Nature of Mateial Things and What is Possible to Know of them Based on Passages from Meditations on First Philosophy. (the Wax example)

605 words - 2 pages "How do we know what we know?" This is a question asked by Rene Descartes as well as a host of other philosophers. A particular passage written in Meditations on First Philosophy by Descartes dubbed the "Wax Passage" examined the nature of material things, and what we really know about them. Descartes' thought process shall be followed, and his conclusion that if all attributes are stripped away, what is left is the "essence" of the wax, will be

Comparing Knowledge in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy and Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning

923 words - 4 pages Comparing Knowledge in Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy and Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Rationalists would claim that knowledge comes from reason or ideas, while empiricists would answer that knowledge is derived from the senses or impressions. The difference between these two philosophical schools of thought, with respect to the distinction between ideas and impressions, can be examined in order

Meditation on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

1545 words - 6 pages to the Greeks, Descartes account of the mind and body relationship has been considered the first and the most influential. Descartes was born in 1596 in France, from 1628 to 1649 Descartes remained in Holland, during this time he composed multiple works that set the scene for all later philosophical study of mind and body. (René Descartes and the legacy of mind/body dualism) “Meditation on First Philosophy,” is one of Descartes famous treatises

Meditations in First Philosophy

1089 words - 4 pages the beginnings of how knowledge could be unified and have absolute certain. After many questions and comments on Part IV he wrote “Meditations in First Philosophy” to expand on his ideas in 1640. “Meditations” was a very controversial book and made a lot of people outraged. Descartes went on to write more books before passing away from pneumonia in 1650. In the first meditation of “Meditations in First Philosophy”, Descartes writes about the

Mediations of First Philosophy by Descartes

1286 words - 5 pages truth, because God is not a deceiver and he must of placed these ideas in Descartes. Descartes has good reasons for searching for the answer to the question of God’s existence, now he has to come up with a good sound argument to prove it.      Throughout the “Meditations on First Philosophy” Descartes gives a couple of major arguments about the existences of god, he gives one argument in the third meditation and on in the fifth meditation. The

Similar Essays

Descartes' Meditations: Descartes' Discourse On Method

1045 words - 4 pages In Descartes' First Meditation he wants to demolish his opinions so he can decipher what is true and what is false with no biases. For example, today someone may hold beliefs in the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause but later in life will learn that these are false truths. In order to do this Descartes will reject all of his opinions. Instead of attacking each issue individually he will attack the foundation on which all of these opinions are formed

Descartes – Meditations On First Philosophy

3389 words - 14 pages pretty accurate in deciphering between what is false and what is reality. By the end of the meditation it seems as though he is right back where he began and that in fact he did not get anywhere. He was better off to just believe what he originally believed then to question it and put him through such torture. In essence it was almost as though the only thing that he proved was that his senses were intended to help him figure out the world and everything about it not lead him to discovering the truths of the universe. BibliographyDescartes, Rene. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy. 4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Company, 1998.

Descartes' Meditations On First Philosophy. Essay

644 words - 3 pages B. MitchellK. HamstraPhilosophy RGC19 June 2003"For as long as I think; for it might perhaps happen, if I totally ceased thinking, that I would at the same time completely cease to be."-Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditations I and II (Descartes, 26)I agree with Descartes' statement. In order to experience the world in its entirety, we must be able think. Without the ability to reason, human beings are just another animal

Certainty In Descartes' Meditations On First Philosophy

618 words - 2 pages thinking is that doubt itself is a form of thought. Only the intellect can organize and make sense of what we perceive (through clear and distinct perception). The senses only perceive a jumble of information: the intellect is what helps us to understand it. Even with this new understanding, however, Descartes is left pondering the certainty of everything he knows except that of his own existence. Works Cited Descartes, René. Meditations on First Philosophy. Trans. Cress. Indianapolis, U.S.A: Hackett, 1993.