• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10
  11. 11
    11
  12. 12
    12
  13. 13
    13
  14. 14
    14
  15. 15
    15
  16. 16
    16
  17. 17
    17
  18. 18
    18

Preliminary Interpretation of Descartes Meditations

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Preliminary Interpretation of Descartes Meditations Ren´┐Ż Descartes was a revolutionary figure in the 17th century during the renaissance period, at a time when the way people viewed the world was changing dramatically. In the past people had described things using a mixture of colour, hot, cold, sweet tasting, hard (secondary qualities) and distance, velocity, time, mass and acceleration (primary qualities). But in a time of dramatic change, mathematical science was, through mathmaticalised theories and predictions of measurable quantities proving primary qualities to be more reliable and efficient than secondary qualities. A now scientific, world seen predominantly by primary qualities left no place for secondary qualities. Descartes was in the forefront of renaissance maths, natural philosophy (physics) and wrote many books on geometry and astronomy among many other subjects. However in his book 'Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings' he attempts to maintain his place as a mathematical scientist yet find a place for the secondary qualities, afraid that science will sweep them away. The place he finds for these secondary qualities is as part of the thinking substance. Descartes begins the first meditation of 'Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings' by introducing reasons why we can doubt everything which we have come to believe, even those things which we seem most sure are correct. "Some years ago I noticed how many false things I had accepted as true in my childhood, and how doubtful were the things that I subsequently build on them" As children we learn and accept many things without really looking deeper or challenging them; as we grow older we subsequently add more knowledge on top of this unchallenged knowledge, believing its foundations to be correct since we have always believed them and have never had reason to challenge them. Therefore Descartes suspects that he has acquired many incorrect beliefs. A building with rotten foundations, for example, might look structurally sound; nevertheless it has no stability and will eventually collapse. ...read more.

Middle

Nobody else can be conscious of what other people are thinking or are conscious of, since the mind provides such a boundary keeping all internal representations inside, therefore one person's representation of something may not be the same as another person's representation of that same thing. Descartes leads on from the mind to compare it to our knowledge of material things using a piece of wax as an example. Consider a piece of wax, something which most people would consider they understand by just looking at it, it doesn't appear a difficult object to grasp but this is exactly Descartes point. "For example, let us take this wax. It has just been extracted from its honeycomb. It has not yet completely lost the taste of honey and it still retains some of the scent of flowers from which it was collected. Its colour, shape and size are obvious. It is hard, cold, easy to touch and, if tapped with a finger, it emits a sound. Thus it has everything that seems required for a body to be known as distinctly as possible" In spite of this when the wax is moved closer to the fire, it looses what remains of its taste and smell, the colour changes, it looses its shape, increases in size, becomes a liquid, becomes hot and can barely be touched and does not emit a sound if tapped. Yet no one can deny that it is still the same wax, so what exactly was it about the wax that was perceived and understood so clearly when it was first considered, since everything that we first assigned as a part which made the wax, wax has now changed or disappeared. So what exactly is the wax and how do you tell wax from anything else? Descartes answer to this is that the wax is an extended matter i.e. despite a number of changes it still takes up space and time. ...read more.

Conclusion

I can also use memory, which links present sensations with previous sensations, as well as my understanding which has already looked into all causes of error. Therefore I should no longer fear that those things are false which my senses reveal to me on a daily basis" The extreme doubt from the beginning of the meditations which resulted from Descartes inability to distinguish between being awake and being asleep, should be disregarded. Descartes now realises that dreams are never joined by memories with all other activities in life, compared with when he is awake. For when things occur in such a way that Descartes can see distinctly where they came from, when and where they occur and how they link in with the rest of his life without having to interpret them, then he can be certain that he is awake and not dreaming. He can now also never doubt the truth since, if he can call upon all his senses, memory and understanding to examine something and receives no sign that it is false, then he has no reason to doubt that thing. Descartes concludes the meditations by saying that since God is not a deceiver, then, if we use our senses, memory and understanding carefully then we will never be wrong in our judgements. However the fast pace of life does not always allow us enough time to judge things carefully enough therefore the nature of human life often leads us to be mistaken. "For the fact that God is not a deceiver it follows that, in such cases, I am completely free from error. But the urgency of things to be done does not always allow us time for such a careful examination; it must be granted, therefore, that human life is often subject to mistakes about particular things, and the weakness of out nature must be acknowledged." Michelle Saunders Page 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Existence of God section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Existence of God essays

  1. Good and Evil

    believe and this is not to sin and not to do what the devil says. Jesus refers to good and evil together on many occasions throughout the Bible as he taught people to accept the evil that other people imposed on them, he said "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

  2. Critically Discuss D.Z. Phillips Conception of Immortality.

    to give meaning to people's lives, to give to act morally, and to mitigate against death anxiety.

  1. T H E C O S M O L O G ...

    DOES THE COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT REST ON A MISTAKE? ===================================================== Perhaps the whole idea of the Cosmological argument is misconceived; some philosophers have taken this view. 'I believe in God' may not work according to the same logic as saying 'I believe in an undiscovered planet between earth and Mars'.

  2. Truth and unconditional truth

    Nevertheless, when a liar tells the truth, then this truth becomes a lie, or does it? This is an absurd problem because every time you try to find out what is the real truth you end up contradicting yourself. Albert Einstein once said, "The search for truth is more precious

  1. Explain the Ontological argument.

    Craig refute infinite regress because it would mean that past events, would form a collection of events, in which for example, there would be just as many wars as other events. Therefore the finite universe had a beginning and whatever caused the universe into being could not have caused themselves.

  2. Explain the Ontological argument from Anslem and Gaunillo's objection 9s?

    Kant saw Anselms argument as merely a word game, playing on words and not reality. In this sense, Kant sees the Ontological argument as an exercise in verbal analysis, the means where anyone can anaylse the meaning of a word or concept, and draw a logical explanation from it.

  1. Aristotle believed that everything has a cause. He saw four different explanations for ...

    Is there any evidence for Aristotle's contention that true knowledge is established in the material world? Aristotle believed that everything has a final cause. However, Bertrand Russell argued that "the universe is just there, and that's that". Sigmund Freud argued that our perception of order and purpose in the universe is simply "wishful thinking".

  2. Summary On Descartes Meditation

    my eyes, my hand, my body etc, that they are not imaginary things, but things really existent. And that it could be God or just a demon that tries to deceive us about our existent, but in the end he realizes that he cannot doubt his own existent, that he was put on earth to think and to be deceived.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work