Descartes: Meditations II

descartes medidations 2

We continue the review of Descartes’ Meditations : after Meditations 1, here is an analysis of Medidations 2.

At the heart of the second Meditations : The cogito: Am I, if i doubt?

1) § 1: Am I?

End of the first paragraph that summarizes the first meditation: a summary of the second meditation starts “but as soon …” and ends at “we think clearly.” Problem: “Am I?”

What Descartes says here is that the doubt must, however, (“but”) to stop somewhere.

Because, indeed, if all my thoughts are only illusions, there is necessarily a matter of illusion, something that is deluded.

The argument could be:

– the illusion is a thought

– there is something that thinks

– he has a thinking thing

Thus: the question leads to absolutely certain, since I doubt more, the better I am sure there is something that doubt, and therefore, I am a thinking thing.


a) If yes, then it would be begging the question, since one would assume that “everything that is thinking,” and that it would require resolution by this experience the problem we set

b) if the cogito was an argument, since there might be some reason, there would be no reason not to doubt this one in particular

Therefore, it can be for Descartes to prove the existence of consciousness, but to have the intuitive evidence (see Response to second objection: “When someone says” I think, therefore I am “It does not enter into his life of his thought as by the force of a syllogism, but as something known self, he sees a simple inspection of the mind”)

2) § 2: “What am I?”

1 – I am this or I would not be, so I’m not aware of anything other than thinking, distinct from the body which I can always pretend to doubt

2-soul  is easier to find the body because I can not doubt that it is not (since that’s me) or what it is (pure thought)


The thinking substance or Cartesian dualism: what am I?

A-I am a thinking thing

1) the spirit of doubt: it seeks a subject of the verb exist.

For this he tries various topics, things, body, etc.. But each time, are good reasons to raise a question mark

2) the mind that apprehends doubt himself and goes before the verb be “me at least, am I not something?

Problem: that “something” may well work out in the world of bad things

3) which stops the doubt that the encounter with which I doubt, and against which no doubt can turn around;

Philosophically, he is interesting. The “I think, therefore I am” is the ontological unveiling of “I” of “I think”

4) I think because it is (and not vice versa): it is a reality thinking. So the question “what am I,” Descartes replies “a thinking thing”

At first thought was that the sign that I am, by which the mind frees itself from the question “am I?”. Here, it is a sign that I’m thinking (deepening of the “I”)

5) I am a thinking thing.

Initially, Descartes laid the verb to be, then, he tried every possible subject, wondering if their existence into question the bear, now he asks “I am” and tried all possible attributes by asking whether the “I” can exist without them

Result: the thought alone can not be detached from me (I have not had before thinking by chance: it is his way of being critical, but for knowledge, a detailed exploration of I was required)

6) He showed that I am, I am a thinking thing, now: what is a thinking thing?

“One thing that doubts, conceives, affirms, denies, wills, does not that also imagines and feels.”

These are the functions commonly attributed to the spirit, yet not knowing yet if the body exists, it must leave untouched the question: are there two distinct substances?

Until know, I should accustom the mind to think, to his spirituality. It is the function of the piece of wax, which supports the distinction between the sensible and the real: real object = object intelligible as essence of body size, then: whenever we talk about reality, meaning and imagination must be exceeded, even when it comes to material reality, let alone when it comes to thinking mind

Conclusion on the second Meditations: § 16-18

Descartes comes to mind, and the affirmation of his existence and the ease of his knowledge, that was the issue of all this digression on the piece of wax. It is the spirit which is the basis / foundation of all our knowledge of reality. The birth of Cartesian dualism is at the same time the birth of the so-called philosophy of the subject, which will lead to the transcendental subjectivism of Kant. This is the subject based knowledge, when we know the spirit is not subject to the world, it does not simply reflect this. It is the spirit that controls and informs the world, and is the foundation of all true knowledge of the world. See that the mind acts even when we do not expect it: in perception.


Cite this article as: Tim, "Descartes: Meditations II, April 15, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 15, 2012,

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