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The Mind Body Problem In Descartes Meditations

1402 words - 6 pages

Many people have tried to explain and interpret cognition over time. One of the earliest such philosophers was Descartes. He wrote many works on the subject, one of his most famous being the Meditations collection. The collection is also very beneficial to theories today, even though it needs to be refined to fit more modern ideasIn the third meditation, Descartes tries to prove God's existence and that He is not a deceiver, thereby allowing us to be sure that we are not deceived when we perceive things clearly and distinctly. In the rest of the meditations, Descartes tries to prove that he himself is a thinking being and also that the mind is separate from the body.In Descartes' first meditation, he goes on to prove that nothing exists meaning that because some of our beliefs are based on false pretenses. He establishes that knowledge is built upon a foundation of lesser and simpler ideas that lead to higher levels of understanding. Each piece of knowledge rests upon some other part of knowledge. Over the course of ones life, a person establishes one piece of knowledge and builds upon that. Descartes goes on to doubt every particular set of knowledge he has.Descartes says that the most basic set of knowledge we have are our senses. He continues that the senses give us false information. For example, when we look at the sun, we cannot tell how big it is because it is only relative in our field of vision and through a well known phenomenon actually appears smaller and larger during the course of the day pending on its current location relative to the horizon and objects along it. The same is true for dreams. Senses appear to be real in dreams, but can we tell whether or not we are dreaming. Therefore, if we can never determine we are dreaming or awake then we can't rely on our senses.He believes that a supreme God has created us and has the power to deceive us. If God is perfect then he cannot deceive us. Consequently, we must assume that an evil demon is the source of our deceptions. Therefore Descartes has reason to deny the validity of his senses.From this, Descartes assumes if there is a deceiver and he himself can be deceived, then he must exist. In general it will follow from any state of thinking, whether it be imagining, sensing, feeling, or reasoning, that he exists. Since he can only be certain of the existence of himself insofar as he is a thinking thing, then he has knowledge of his existence of only a thinking thing.After he has established himself as a thinking thing, he then goes on to argue that the mind is more certainly known than the body. He goes on to say that it is possible that all knowledge of external objects, including his body, could be false as the result of the actions of an evil demon. It is not, however, possible that he could be deceived about his existence or his nature as a thinking thing. This is true because if he can be deceived about anything, then he can be certain, as he is a thinking thing.Even corporeal...

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