Lao Tzu said that The journey of thousand miles begins with one step. Similarly, to prove that God exists and the independence of the soul from the body in Meditations, Descartes started his first step by doubting about everything. In other words, he built a new foundation of belief.
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To demonstrate, his first Meditation proposed three main points: the senses, the dream, and the evil demon. In this paper, I will representative for Descartes to explain the unreliable of our senses that are always trying to mislead us, the indistinct between the reality and the dream where we are living, and our habits of thinking are the evil demon who is always trying to deceive us.
To doubt about the senses, Descartes said: It’s prudent never completely to trust those who have cheated us even once. (p. 321) Descartes, as well as human beings, contact with the world through the senses. People feel, touch, hear, and see the outside world by their senses. However, that not always present the truth or the reality to their owners. Sometimes, our senses trick us. For example, we go to the park and see the green of grass and trees. We talk to our friend that this part is peaceful, but our friend reply that she feels opposite. She sees the park is dark and gray. Because our friend is a color-blind person, as a result, she cannot see green as we do. Who is right and who is wrong in this case? Whose senses are more reliable? We cannot answer those questions because each of us will experience the world differently. Indeed, our senses, the things we believe the most credible, are the first thing we should doubt.
Additionally, when Descartes realized that his senses are not always truthful with him, he led people to a new doubt, the distinction between sleeping and waking. To point out, he wrote, I see so plainly that there are no reliable signs by which I can distinguish sleeping from waking that I am stupefied. (p. 321) In other words, people could be dreaming whole their life, but they do not realize. No one could certain that at this moment, this present, they are not dreaming. They could know, maybe later, when they wake up, but at the present moment, they cannot. However, people cannot dream about the objects which they never know or see before. Dream must base on the reality as Descartes said, The things I see in sleep are like painted images. (p. 321) A dream, somehow, must link to the external world, where people are living, and must be produced from the reality. Therefore, while people are sleeping or waking, the reality, the real world, is still existing. In other words, Descartes reminded people must careful while they are using their senses to approach their external-world because that could be the lies.
Moreover, Descartes portrayed an evil demon, who always betrayed him, to answer his question about what was permanently return to my mind and take control of what I believe. (p. 322). In Descartes view, if there is a God who created Descartes as he was, He would never need to bend Descartes’s mind from his beliefs. Because God is supremely good, He certainly not treat Descartes that way. Therefore, there is an evil demon (p. 322) doing his job to curve Descartes’s judgment. That is not a stranger, that is people’ habit of beliefs. People rarely doubt their senses and beliefs. Whenever they approach the world, they think that they totally understand the objects which they are contacting. Descartes pointed that mistake out to remind people should become more rational. To demonstrate, comparing the white color in Viet Nam and the United States is a perfect example. In Viet Nam, when people die, their family will use white color to decoration and wear all the month. The white color presents for the lost or the death. On the other hand, the U.S. uses white color as the color of purifying, goodness, or perfection. The opposite displays that each of one’s cultural creates the unique in their actions and their beliefs. As a result, there might be nothing undoubtable in this world.
However, if everything is unreliable, what is the most certain thing? Descartes wrote that whether people’s senses reliable or not, the different between reality and dream exists or not, or an evil demon is deceiving people or not. There still exists a basic thing. A thing for the evil could deceive; a thing is doing the job doubt; a thing dreams; a thing contacts to the reality. That is our mind, the self-evident. I think, therefore I am. (p. 328) He cleverly destroyed the ordinary beliefs to build a new bridge between people mind and the external world.
Descartes’s Meditation I was representing for the ideas of the doubt. He wanted people to experience with doubting. Doubting about the senses because they are not always friendly as people think, they are cheaters. Doubting about the existence of people, because of people hard to find the distinction whether they are sleeping or waking. Doubting their habit of beliefs, because people ordinary thinking will always mislead them. In other words, Descartes purpose is to end people’s old believes. As a result, he could easier to build a connection across the mind and the world. Step by step, he could prove the existence of God and the distinctions between the soul and the body.
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