Descartes’ findings through skepticismThrough the entirety of “Meditations on First Philosophy” by Ren© Descartes, the concept of skepticism is brought upon its readers quite heavily. Within this text, Descartes addresses the notions of one’s self-ability to know. He utilizes multiple reasoning which can positively account for his overall ideology. The initial thought is that one cannot believe everything that is presented to them. One must have doubt in order to find the truth. Essentially, through his meditations, he suggests that an individual may not rely on his own ability or senses.Within these six meditations, Descartes presents various arguments. One which specifies in dreams. To put it simply, Descartes questions as to whether or not one is being deceived by their own dreams and potential reality. He wrote “I see so plainly no definitive signsto distinguish from being awake from being sleep” (Descartes and Cress, 1993). Through this meditation, Descartes expresses his doubtful thoughts in reference to his own dreams. He blatantly suggests that an individual cannot fully distinguish between what is real and what is not. These doubts are in accordance with images that one obtains while in slumber. How is one able to fully decide which is the true reality? Everything that an individual knows is derived from a perception or experience. He basically questions an individual’s ability to know which world is deceiving them. If colors and shapes are similar in both realms, how does one know which is true? Here Descartes suggests that one should not rely on retained knowledge. Such knowledge may often fail a being. To further explain he uses the example of himself sitting and writing beside a fireplace. How is that he may be in this specific room writing? He does not know. He believes that he will not soon.Aside from the uncertainty of dreams, Descartes also questions one’s ability to know by presenting an evil deceiver within his first meditation. He presents such deceiver as someone who can distort the reality that one may think is true. Essentially, Descartes suggests that his evil deceiver is conspiring against him. This argument implies that the deceiver is not presenting the truth towards him. Therefore, he cannot rely on what has been taught to him for it may be false. Meaning, that all humans may not rely on their own understanding. What they know, their senses, and thoughts are not true.
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The two previously discussed arguments aid Descartes’ explanation for “thinking I”. These two arguments, dreams and the evil deceiver, allow for one to understand that even though one’s knowledge is false, he still exists. This refers back to Descartes’ famous realization. He created the term “I think, therefore I am”. The term defines the fact that one does really exist even though everything else in the universe is proven incorrect. Descartes wrote “I exist is necessarily true every time I utter it” (Descartes and Cress, 1993). He, Descartes, exists in his dream scenario because he is able to doubt. He doubts whether he is really in that room, sitting and writing. Therefore, this means that even if one is dreaming it does not matter. Doubt and reasoning make humans existent. Without it, one is not able to decipher what is real. Though, that is okay. The mere ability to think makes an individual existent. Just as he wrote ” if I were to cease all thinking I would then utterly cease to exist” (Descartes and Cress, 1993) If an individual is not able to think rationally then he does not exist. Though, if he is then his body is nonexistent is soul and mind are. To Descartes, the mind and soul are all that really matter.When introducing the evil deceiver in his first meditation, Descartes also implies that there is a God. He does not try to prove his existence until the third meditation. Within the third section, Descartes notices that not only does he exist but so do other factors on earth. These factors include “arithmetic or geometry” (Descartes and Cress, 1993). Though, he also notices that they are not able to exist on their own. The reality of God and idea assist Descartes in supporting this belief by explaining so. He stated that if God really created him, an existent soul, then he must have created other existent objects. This train of thought leads to Descartes declaring that “God necessarily exists” (Descartes and Cress, 1993).
Descartes has a valid point here. If God, who is considered to be perfect, can allow for one to acquire such knowledge of arithmetic then he must exist. For one cannot break apart numbers in the same way as other forms of ideas.It would appear to be that Descartes’ idea of Gods’ existence does not lead to the problem of evil. Rather it is the free will of man that causes the error in the world. Descartes mentions this in his fourth and fifth meditations. Descartes wrote that he “certainly understands that erroris not something real that depends on God” (Descartes and Cress, 1993). He further explains that because of this free will and the ability to be deceived; individuals are prone to sin. Overall, it seems to be that this is a serious criticism. Descartes fully explains as to how God has created well and how humans strive for it but, free will gets in the way. Ultimately, this free will leads to the mid becoming deceptive. This initial thought leads some to believe that Descartes is right in this particular sense. Even though there might be individuals who disagree. Those that do not agree with the thought of free will leading to the error may use the idea that “God can be thought of as nonexistent” (Descartes and Cress, 1993). These individuals would try to completely debunk the idea of God himself. Yes, it is difficult to prove his physical and spiritual existence at times. Though, according to Descartes, it is highly evident in the creation of the mind and soul. Thus, making the idea that God does not pertain to the evil of the world a solid thought. Especially since he is not a deceiver.In conclusion, Descartes uses the idea of skepticism to explain why one should not rely on their own rationalizations for they are simply in an uncertain universe that is full of deceit. Through his short meditations he suggests that even though everything may be false, the one thing that he can be sure of is his existence and that of God.BibliographyDescartes, Ren©, and Donald A. Cress. (1993). Meditations on first philosophy. Hackett Publishing Co. Inc.
Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes. (2019, Jul 30).
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