Descartes: Meditations 1

descartes meditations

The Meditations (or Meditations on first philosophy) is a philosophical work by René Descartes, first published in Latin in 1641. From the perspective of the history of philosophy, Mediations are one of the most influential expressions of classical rationalism. In these meditations, Descartes argues that despite the skeptical arguments against the truth and certainty, there are legitimate knowledge. Also, Descartes presents the man as being a a thinking substance (cogito), which is opposed to his body, which is a material substance (see substance dualism).

1. Descartes & The resolution to doubt [§ 1]

Finding of questionable and uncertain of the views received: the prejudices of childhood. The desire for certainty. The requirement of maturity.

2. Descartes & The method [§ 2]

Doubt will be methodical, and therefore temporary, unlike the skeptical doubt. It will therefore be:

– Hyperbolic (and therefore voluntary) to hold true this is doubtful.

– Radical attack at the base, the foundation.

3. Doubt and source of knowledge [§ 3 and § 5]

Objective: To give certainty to the sensitive model of all knowledge.

The observation: the senses are sometimes deceptive (rejection uncertainties sensitive).

Madness: a possible argument to generalize the doubt, but that would probably lose, and the company to Descartes in general, all credibility (The Meditations are not the work of a madman).

The dream of most common experience that can produce, temporarily, the same illusions that madness. This argument is not sensible to reject permanently in the field of illusion and error, but just to highlight its uncertainty. However, doubt is hyperbolic, the dubious must be considered false.

Descartes rejects any certainty about the physical world.


4. Doubt the “truths” or “obvious” rational [§ 6 and § 8]

Disqualification of the material world. But representations of the world remain as such because they are not the sensible, but of thought.

The example of painting all representation is a representation of something that should have a reality:

– The painting is figurative objects or general things that need to be a reality (hands, heads …), because the imagination does not create new representations, but can only make new connections based on representations pre-exist in our minds.

– In the absence of a reality for the content of our representations, the colors of paint, and therefore of our representations to be real …

Extending the example of painting with the thought:

– The content of representations which we are conscious can not be fictitious.

– Moreover, it is simple elements common to all offices, which must be real because universal: thus it is with the physical nature and extent: figure, size, number, quantity, location, time ….

– The rational truths, taken as universal, do not tell us of external things, but as the mold to all offices, and seem in some sense as sensitive as they are worth in themselves and for themselves same:

or falsity or uncertainty of rational truths (2 3 5 = always true in the day, as in sleep).

Hence a possible classification of sciences:

– The so-called sensitive or empirical sciences (physics, astronomy, medicine), which are the most doubtful and uncertain, because of their commitment to the sensible (we’re still not sure it exists).

– The rational sciences (arithmetic, geometry), which are necessarily true, because their purpose, independent of the sensible, is too.

The “rational evidence” resist the doubt.

5. The metaphysical doubt [§ § 9 to 12]

The hypothesis of God misleading: traditional argument used by the deniers of the right, but unworthy of God and against His sovereign goodness. Anyway, there is no God, and therefore the reason is alone and without security, or that God exists, but it is misleading, or that he does allow that sometimes I’m wrong, the result is the same in all cases, the rational truths are not guaranteed, and uncertainty and must appear to be widespread. But instead of deciding for or against the existence of God in this meditation, Descartes prefers to shelve this hypothesis (so as not to get into a discussion too long and that is not relevant at this time of reflection ) and use another argument.

The hypothesis of the evil genius, or systematic deception: The outside world is an illusion, and “rational truths” have no meaning. All our former opinions are called in question, and it is widespread.

Cite this article as: Tim, "Descartes: Meditations 1, April 19, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 19, 2012,

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