DESCARTES MEDITATIONS PDF
Meditations On First Philosophy. René Descartes. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, This file is of the edition of The Philosophical Works of. Meditations 1 & 2 by René Descartes () translated by John Cottingham ( ). FIRST MEDITATION. What can be called into doubt. Some years ago I was. R ené Descartes () is generally regarded as the “father of modern philosophy.” He stands as one of the most important figures in Western intellectual.
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𝗣𝗗𝗙 | This new introduction to a philosophical classic draws on the Catherine Wilson examines the arguments of Descartes' famous Meditations, revealing. Meditations on First Philosophy in which are demonstrated the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and body. René Descartes. Rene Descartes Meditations. Introduction to the text and full-text pdf Ebook. Translated by J. Veitch and published under a Creative Commons.
For I have supposed these things to be nothing. The assumption still stands; yet nevertheless I am something. But is it perhaps the case that these very things which I take to be nothing, because they are unknown to me, nevertheless are in fact no different from that "me" that I know? This I do not know, and I will not quarrel about it now. I can make a judgment only about things that are known to me.
I know that I exist; I ask now who is this "I" whom I know? Most certainly, in the strict sense the knowledge of this "I" does not depend upon things of whose existence I do not yet have knowledge. Therefore it is not dependent upon any of those things that I simulate in my imagination.
But this word "simulate" warns me of my error. For I would indeed be simulating were I to "imagine" that I was something, because imagining is merely the contemplating of the shape or image of a corporeal thing. But I now know with certainty that I am and also that all these images—and, generally, 66 everything belonging to the nature of the body—could turn out to be nothing but dreams. Once I have realized this, I would seem to be speaking no less foolishly were I to say: "I will use my imagination in order to recognize more distinctly who I am," than were I to say: "Now I surely am awake, and I see something true; but since I do not yet see it clearly enough, I will deliberately fall asleep so that my dreams might represent it to me more truly and more clearly.
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Moreover, I realize that I must be most diligent about withdrawing my mind from these things so that it can perceive its nature as distinctly as possible. But what then am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and that also imagines and senses.
Indeed it is no small matter if all of these things belong to me. But why should they not belong to me? Is it not the very same "I" who now doubts almost everything, who nevertheless understands something, who affirms that this one thing is true, who denies other things, who desires to know more, who wishes not to be deceived, who imagines many things even against my will, who also notices many things which appear to come from the senses?
What is there in all of this that is not every bit as true as the fact that I exist—even if I am always asleep or even if my creator makes every effort to mislead me?
Which of these things is distinct from my thought? Which of them can be said to be separate from myself? For it is Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—8 so obvious that it is I who doubt, I who understand, and I who will, that there is nothing by which it could be explained more clearly. But indeed it is also the same "I" who imagines; for although perhaps, as I supposed before, absolutely nothing that I imagined is true, still the very power of imagining really does exist, and constitutes a part of my thought.
Finally, it is this same "I" who senses or who is cognizant of bodily things as if through the senses. For example, I now see a light, I hear a noise, I feel heat. These things are false, since I am asleep. Yet I certainly do seem to see, hear, and feel warmth. This cannot be false. Properly speaking, this is what in me is called "sensing.
From these considerations I am beginning to know a little better what I am. But it still seems and I cannot resist believing that corporeal things—whose images are formed by thought, and which the senses themselves examine—are much more distinctly known than this mysterious "I" which does not fall within the imagination. And yet it would be strange indeed were I to grasp the very things I consider to be doubtful, unknown, and foreign to me 67 more distinctly than what is true, what is known—than, in short, myself.
But I see what is happening: my mind loves to wander and does not yet permit itself to be restricted within the confines of truth. So be it then; let us just this once allow it completely free rein, so that, a little while later, when the time has come to pull in the reins, the mind may more readily permit itself to be controlled.
Let us consider those things which are commonly believed to be the most distinctly grasped of all: namely the bodies we touch and see. Not bodies in general, mind you, for these general perceptions are apt to be somewhat more confused, but one body in particular.
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Let us take, for instance, this piece of wax. It has been taken quite recently from the honeycomb; it has not yet lost all the honey flavor. It retains some of the scent of the flowers from which it was collected. Its color, shape, and size are manifest. It is hard and cold; it is easy to touch.
If you rap on it with your knuckle it will emit a sound. In short, everything is present in it that appears needed to enable a body to be known as distinctly as possible.
But notice that, as I am speaking, I am bringing it close to the fire. The remaining traces of the honey flavor are disappearing; the scent is vanishing; the color is changing; the original shape is disappearing. Its size is increasing; it is becoming liquid and hot; you can hardly touch it. And now, when you rap on it, it no longer emits any sound. Does the same wax still remain? I must confess that it does; no one denies it; no one thinks otherwise. So what was there in the wax that was so distinctly grasped?
Certainly none of the aspects that I reached by means of the senses.
For whatever came under the senses of taste, smell, sight, touch or hearing has now changed; and yet the wax remains. Perhaps the wax was what I now think it is: namely that the wax itself never really was the sweetness of the honey, nor the fragrance of the flowers, nor the whiteness, nor the shape, nor the sound, but instead was a body that a short time ago manifested itself to me in these ways, and now does so in other ways.
But just what precisely is this thing that I thus imagine? Let us focus our attention on this and see what remains after we have removed everything that does not belong to the wax: only that it is something extended, flexible, and mutable. But what is it to be flexible and mutable? Is it what my imagination shows it to be: namely, that this piece of wax can change from a round to a square shape, or from the latter to a triangular shape?
Not at all; for I grasp that the wax is capable of innumerable changes of this sort, even though I am incapable of running through these innumerable changes by using my imagination. Therefore this insight is not achieved by the faculty of imagination. What is it to be extended? Is this thing's extension also unknown? For it becomes greater in 68 wax that is beginning to melt, greater in boiling wax, and greater still as the heat is increased.
And I would not judge correctly what the wax is if I did not believe that it takes on an even Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—9 greater variety of dimensions than I could ever grasp with the imagination. It remains then for me to concede that I do not grasp what this wax is through the imagination; rather, I perceive it through the mind alone.
The point I am making refers to this particular piece of wax, for the case of wax in general is clearer still. But what is this piece of wax which is perceived only by the mind?
Surely it is the same piece of wax that I see, touch, and imagine; in short it is the same piece of wax I took it to be from the very beginning. But I need to realize that the perception of the wax is neither a seeing, nor a touching, nor an imagining.
Nor has it ever been, even though it previously seemed so; rather it is an inspection on the part of the mind alone. This inspection can be imperfect and confused, as it was before, or clear and distinct, as it is now, depending on how closely I pay attention to the things in which the piece of wax consists.
But meanwhile I marvel at how prone my mind is to errors. For although I am considering these things within myself silently and without words, nevertheless I seize upon words themselves and I am nearly deceived by the ways in which people commonly speak.
For we say that we see the wax itself, if it is present, and not that we judge it to be present from its color or shape. Whence I might conclude straightaway that I know the wax through the vision had by the eye, and not through an inspection on the part of the mind alone.
But then were I perchance to look out my window and observe men crossing the square, I would ordinarily say I see the men themselves just as I say I see the wax. But what do I see aside from hats and clothes, which could conceal automata? Yet I judge them to be men. Thus what I thought I had seen with my eyes, I actually grasped solely with the faculty of judgment, which is in my mind.
But a person who seeks to know more than the common crowd ought to be ashamed of himself for looking for doubt in common ways of speaking. Let us then go forward and inquire when it was that I perceived more perfectly and evidently what the piece of wax was. Was it when I first saw it and believed I knew it by the external sense, or at least by the so- called common sense, that is, the power of imagination?
Or do I have more perfect knowledge now, when I have diligently examined both what the wax is and how it is known? Surely it is absurd to be in doubt about this matter. For what was there in my initial perception that was distinct?
What was there that any animal seemed incapable of possessing? But indeed when I distinguish the wax from its external forms, as if stripping it of its clothing, and look at the wax in its nakedness, then, even though there can be still an 69 error in my judgment, nevertheless I cannot perceive it thus without a human mind.
But what am I to say about this mind, that is, about myself? For as yet I admit nothing else to be in me over and above the mind.
What, I ask, am I who seem to perceive this wax so distinctly? Do I not know myself not only much more truly and with greater certainty, but also much more distinctly and evidently? For if I judge that the wax exists from the fact that I see it, certainly from this same fact that I see the wax it follows much more evidently that I myself exist. For it could happen that what I see is not truly wax. It could happen that I have no eyes with which to see anything.
But it is utterly impossible that, while I see or think I see I do not now distinguish these two , I who think am not something. Likewise, if I judge that, the wax exists from the fact that I touch it, the same outcome will again obtain, namely that I exist. If I judge that the wax exists from the fact that I imagine it, or for any other reason, plainly the same thing follows.
But what I note regarding the wax applies to everything else that is external to me. Furthermore, if my perception of the wax seemed more distinct after it became known to me not only on account of sight or touch, but on account of many reasons, one has to admit how much more distinctly I am now known to myself. For there is not a single consideration that can aid in my perception of the wax or of any other body that fails to make even more manifest the nature of my mind. But there are Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—10 still so many other things in the mind itself on the basis of which my knowledge of it can be rendered more distinct that it hardly seems worth enumerating those things which emanate to it from the body.
But lo and behold, I have returned on my own to where I wanted to be. For since I now know that even bodies are not, properly speaking, perceived by the senses or by the faculty of imagination, but by the intellect alone, and that they are not perceived through their being touched or seen, but only through their being understood, I manifestly know that nothing can be perceived more easily and more evidently than my own mind.
But since the tendency to hang on to long-held beliefs cannot be put aside so quickly, I want to stop here, so that by the length of my meditation this new knowledge may be more deeply impressed upon my memory. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, 4th ed. Translated by Donald A. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, The numbers in the margins refer to the page numbers of this translation and edition.
Indeed I now know that they can 92 exist, at least insofar as they are the object of pure mathematics, since I clearly and distinctly perceive them. For no doubt God is capable of bringing about everything that I am capable of perceiving in this way. And I have never judged that God was incapable of something, except when it was incompatible with my perceiving it distinctly.
Moreover, from the faculty of imagination, which I notice I use while dealing with material things, it seems to follow that they exist.
For to anyone paying very close attention to what imagination is, it appears to be simply a certain application of the knowing faculty to a body intimately present to it, and which therefore exists. To make this clear, I first examine the difference between imagination and pure intellection. So, for example, when I imagine a triangle, I not only understand that it is a figure bounded by three lines, but at the same time I also envisage with the mind's eye those lines as if they were present; and this is what I call "imagining.
For this figure is really no different from the figure I would represent to myself, were I thinking of a myriagon or any other figure with a large number of sides. Nor is this figure of any help in knowing the properties that differentiate a chiliagon from other polygons. But if the figure in question is a pentagon, I surely can understand its figure, just as was the case with the chiliagon, without the help of my imagination.
But I can also imagine a pentagon by turning the mind's eye both to its five sides and at the same time to the area bounded by those sides. At this point I am manifestly aware that I am in need of a peculiar sort of effort on the part of the mind in order to imagine, one that I do not employ in order to understand.
This new effort on the part of the mind clearly shows the difference between imagination and pure intellection. Moreover, I consider that this power of imagining that is in me, insofar as it differs from the power of understanding, is not required for my own essence, that is, the essence of my mind.
For were I to be lacking this power, I would nevertheless undoubtedly remain the same entity I am now. Thus it seems to follow that the power of imagining depends upon something distinct from me. And I readily understand that, were a body to exist to which a mind is so joined that it may apply itself in order, as it were, to look at it any time it wishes, it could happen that it is by means of this very body that I imagine corporeal things.
As a result, this mode of thinking may differ from pure intellection only in the sense that the mind, when it understands, in a sense turns toward itself and looks at one of the ideas that are in it; whereas when it imagines, it turns toward the body, and intuits in the body something that conforms to an idea either understood by the mind or perceived by sense. To be sure, I easily understand that the imagination can be actualized in this way, provided a body does exist.
And since I can think of no other way of explaining imagination that is equally appropriate, I make a probable conjecture from this that a body exists. But this is only a probability. And even though I may examine everything carefully, nevertheless, I do not yet see how the Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—12 distinct idea of corporeal nature that I find in my imagination can enable me to develop an argument which necessarily concludes that some body exists.
But I am in the habit of imagining many other things, over and above that corporeal nature which is the object of pure mathematics, such as colors, sounds, tastes, pain, and the like, though not so distinctly. And I perceive these things better by means of the senses, from which, with the aid of the memory, they seem to have arrived at the imagination.
Thus I 94 should pay the same degree of attention to the senses, so that I might deal with them more appropriately. I must see whether I can obtain any reliable argument for the existence of corporeal things from those things that are perceived by the mode of thinking that I call "sense.
Next I will assess the causes why I later called them into doubt. Finally, I will consider what I must now believe about these things. So first, I sensed that I had a head, hands, feet, and other members that comprised this body which I viewed as part of me, or perhaps even as the whole of me. I sensed that this body was found among many other bodies, by which my body can be affected in various beneficial or harmful ways.
I gauged what was opportune by means of a certain sensation of pleasure, and what was inopportune by a sensation of pain. In addition to pain and pleasure, I also sensed within me hunger, thirst, and other such appetites, as well as certain bodily tendencies toward mirth, sadness, anger, and other such affects.
And externally, besides the extension, shapes, and motions of bodies, I also sensed their hardness, heat, and other tactile qualities. I also sensed light, colors, odors, tastes, and sounds, on the basis of whose variety I distinguished the sky, the earth, the seas, and the other bodies, one from the other. Now given the ideas of all these qualities that presented themselves to my thought, and which were all that I properly and immediately sensed, still it was surely not without reason that I thought I sensed things that were manifestly different from my thought, namely, the bodies from which these ideas proceeded.
For I knew by experience that these ideas came upon me utterly without my consent, to the extent that, wish as I may, I could not sense any object unless it was present to a sense organ. Nor could I fail to sense it when it was present. And since the ideas perceived by sense were much more vivid and explicit and even, in their own way, more distinct than any of those that I deliberately and knowingly formed through meditation or that I found impressed on my memory, it seemed impossible that they came from myself.
Thus the remaining alternative was that they came from other things. Since I had no knowledge of such things except from those same ideas themselves, I could not help entertaining the thought that they were similar to those ideas.
Moreover, I also recalled that the use of the senses antedated the use of reason. And since I saw that the ideas that I myself fashioned were not as explicit as those that I perceived through the faculty of sense, and were for the most part composed of parts of the latter, I easily convinced myself that I had absolutely no idea in the intellect that I did not have beforehand in the sense faculty.
Not without reason did I judge that this body, which by a certain special right I called "mine," 95 belongs more to me than did any other.
For I could never be separated from it in the same way I could be from other bodies. I sensed all appetites and feelings in and on behalf of it. Finally, I noticed pain and pleasurable excitement in its parts, but not in other bodies external to it.
But why should a certain sadness of spirit arise from some sensation or other of pain, and why should a certain elation arise from a sensation of excitement, or why should that peculiar twitching in the stomach, which I call hunger, warn me to have something to eat, or why should dryness in the throat warn me to take something to drink, and so on?
I plainly had no explanation other than that I had been taught this way by nature. For there is no Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—13 affinity whatsoever, at least none I am aware of, between this twitching in the stomach and the will to have something to eat, or between the sensation of something causing pain and the thought of sadness arising from this sensation.
But nature also seems to have taught me everything else as well that I judged concerning the objects of the senses, for I had already convinced myself that this was how things were, prior to my assessing any of the arguments that might prove it.
Afterwards, however, many experiences gradually weakened any faith that I had in the senses. Towers that had seemed round from afar occasionally appeared square at close quarters.
Very large statues mounted on their pedestals did not seem large to someone looking at them from ground level. And in coundess other such instances I determined that judgments in matters of the external senses were in error. And not just the external senses, but the internal senses as well. Far what can be more intimate than pain?
But I had sometimes heard it said by people whose leg or arm had been amputated that it seemed to them that they still occasionally sensed pain in the very limb they had lost. Thus, even in my own case it did not seem to be entirely certain that some bodily member was causing me pain, even though I did sense pain in it. To these causes for doubt I recently added two quite general ones. The first was that everything I ever thought I sensed while awake I could believe I also sometimes sensed while asleep, and since I do not believe that what I seem to sense in my dreams comes to me from things external to me, I saw no reason why I should hold this belief about those things I seem to be sensing while awake.
The second was that, since I was still ignorant of the author of my origin or at least pretended to be ignorant of it , I saw nothing to prevent my having been so constituted by nature that I should be mistaken even about what seemed to me most true. As to the arguments that used to convince me of the truth of sensible things, I found no difficulty responding to them.
For since I seemed driven by nature toward many things about which reason tried to dissuade me, I did not think that what I was taught by nature deserved much credence. And even though the 96 perceptions of the senses did not depend on my will, I did not think that we must therefore conclude that they came from things distinct from me, since perhaps there is some faculty in me, as yet unknown to me, that produces these perceptions. But now, having begun to have a better knowledge of myself and the author of my origin, I am of the opinion that I must not rashly admit everything that I seem to derive from the senses; but neither, for that matter, should I call everything into doubt.
First, I know that all the things that I clearly and distinctly understand can be made by God such as I understand them. For this reason, my ability clearly and distinctly to understand one thing without another suffices to make me certain that the one thing is different from the other, since they can be separated from each other, at least by God. The question as to the sort of power that might effect such a separation is not relevant to their being thought to be different.
For this reason, from the fact that I know that I exist, and that at the same time I judge that obviously nothing else belongs to my nature or essence except that I am a thinking thing, I rightly conclude that my essence consists entirely in my being a thinking thing.
And although perhaps or rather, as I shall soon say, assuredly I have a body that is very closely joined to me, nevertheless, because on the one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, insofar as I am merely a thinking thing and not an extended thing, and because on the other hand I have a distinct idea of a body, insofar as it is merely an extended thing and not a thinking thing, it is certain that I am really distinct from my body, and can exist without it. Moreover, I find in myself faculties for certain special modes of thinking, namely the faculties of imagining and sensing.
I can clearly and distinctly understand myself in my entirety without these faculties, but not vice versa: I cannot understand them clearly and Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—14 distinctly without me, that is, without a substance endowed with understanding in which they inhere, for they include an act of understanding in their formal concept. Thus I perceive them to be distinguished from me as modes from a thing.
I also acknowledge that there are certain other faculties, such as those of moving from one place to another, of taking on various shapes, and so on, that, like sensing or imagining, cannot be understood apart from some substance in which they inhere, and hence without which they cannot exist.
But it is clear that these faculties, if in fact they exist, must be in a corporeal or extended substance, not in a substance endowed with understanding. For some extension is contained in a clear and distinct concept of them, though certainly not any understanding. Now there clearly is in me a passive faculty of sensing, that is, a faculty for receiving and knowing the ideas of sensible 97 things; but I could not use it unless there also existed, either in me or in something else, a certain active faculty of producing or bringing about these ideas.
But this faculty surely cannot be in me, since it clearly presupposes no act of understanding, and these ideas are produced without my cooperation and often even against my will. Therefore the only alternative is that it is in some substance different from me, containing either formally or eminently all the reality that exists objectively in the ideas produced by that faculty, as I have just noted above.
Hence this substance is either a body, that is, a corporeal nature, which contains formally all that is contained objectively in the ideas, or else it is God, or some other creature more noble than a body, which contains eminently all that is contained objectively in the ideas.
But since God is not a deceiver, it is patently obvious that he does not send me these ideas either immediately by himself, or even through the mediation of some creature that contains the objective reality of these ideas not formally but only eminently. For since God has given me no faculty whatsoever for making this determination, but instead has given me a great inclination to believe that these ideas issue from corporeal things, I fail to see how God could be understood not to be a decdver, if these ideas were to issue from a source other than corporeal things.
And consequently corporeal things exist. Nevertheless, perhaps not all bodies exist exactly as I grasp them by sense, since this sensory grasp is in many cases very obscure and confused. But at least they do contain everything I clearly and distinctly understand—that is, everything, considered in a general sense, that is encompassed in the object of pure mathematics.
As far as the remaining matters are concerned, which are either merely particular for example, that the sun is of such and such a size or shape, and so on or less clearly understood for example, light, sound, pain, and the like , even though these matters are very doubtful and uncertain, nevertheless the fact that God is no deceiver and thus no falsity can be found in my opinions, unless there is also in me a faculty given me by God for the purpose of rectifying this falsity offers me a definite hope of reaching the truth even in these matters.
And surely there is no doubt that all that I am taught by nature has some truth to it; for by "nature," taken generally, I understand nothing other than God himself or the ordered network of created things which was instituted by God. By my own particular nature I understand nothing other than the combination of all the things bestowed upon me by God.
There is nothing that this nature teaches me more explicitly than that I have a body that is ill-disposed when I feel pain, that needs food and drink when I suffer hunger or thirst, and the like. Therefore, I should not doubt that there is some truth in this.
By means of these sensations of pain, hunger, thirst and so on, nature also teaches 98 not merely that I am present to my body in the way a sailor is present in a ship, but that I am most tightly joined and, so to speak, commingled with it, so much so that I and the body constitute one single thing.
For if this were not the case, then I, who am only a thinking thing, would not sense pain when the body is injured; rather, I would perceive the wound by means of the pure intellect, just as a sailor perceives by sight whether anything in his ship is Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—15 broken.
And when the body is in need of food or drink, I should understand this explicitly, instead of having confused sensations of hunger and thirst.
For clearly these sensations of thirst, hunger, pain, and so on are nothing but certain confused modes of thinking arising from the union and, as it were, the commingling of the mind with the body. Moreover, I am also taught by nature that various other bodies exist around my body, some of which are to be pursued, while others are to be avoided. And to be sure, from the fact that I sense a wide variety of colors, sounds, odors, tastes, levels of heat, and grades of roughness, and the like, I rightly conclude that in the bodies from which these different perceptions of the senses proceed there are differences corresponding to the different perceptions—though perhaps the latter do not resemble the former.
And from the fact that some of these perceptions are pleasant while others are unpleasant, it is plainly certain that my body, or rather my whole self, insofar as I am comprised of a body and a mind, can be affected by various beneficial and harmful bodies in the vicinity.
Granted, there are many other things that I seem to have been taught by nature; nevertheless it was not really nature that taught them to me but a certain habit of making reckless judgments. And thus it could easily happen that these judgments are false: for example, that any space where there is absolutely nothing happening to move my senses is empty; or that there is something in a hot body that bears an exact likeness to the idea of heat that is in me; or that in a white or green body there is the same whiteness or greenness that I sense; or that in a bitter or sweet body there is the same taste, and so on; or that stars and towers and any other distant bodies have the same size and shape that they present to my senses, and other things of this sort.
But to ensure that my perceptions in this matter are sufficiently distinct, I ought to define more precisely what exactly I mean when I say that I am "taught something by nature. For this combination embraces many things that belong exclusively to my mind, such as my perceiving that what has been done cannot be undone, and everything else that is known by the light of nature. That is not what I am talking about here.
There are also many things that belong exclusively to the body, such 99 as that it tends to move downward, and so on. I am not dealing with these either, but only with what God has bestowed on me insofar as I am composed of mind and body. Accordingly, it is this nature that teaches me to avoid things that produce a sensation of pain and to pursue things that produce a sensation of pleasure, and the like.
But it does not appear that nature teaches us to conclude anything, besides these things, from these sense perceptions unless the intellect has first conducted its own inquiry regarding things external to us. For it seems to belong exclusively to the mind, and not to the composite of mind and body, to know the truth in these matters.
Thus, although a star affects my eye no more than does the flame from a small torch, still there is no real or positive tendency in my eye toward believing that the star is no larger than the flame. Yet, ever since my youth, I have made this judgment without any reason for doing so. And although I feel heat as I draw closer to the fire, and I also feel pain upon drawing too close to it, there is not a single argument that persuades me that there is something in the fire similar to that heat, any more than to that pain.
On the contrary, I am convinced only that there is something in the fire that, regardless of what it finally turns out to be, causes in us those sensations of heat or pain. And although there may be nothing in a given space that moves the senses, it does not therefore follow that there is no body in it.
But I see that in these and many other instances I have been in the habit of subverting the order of nature.
For admittedly I use the perceptions of the senses which are properly given by nature only for signifying to the mind what things are useful or harmful to the composite of which it is a part, and to that extent they are clear and distinct enough as Introduction to Western Philosophy Selections from Descartes—16 reliable rules for immediately discerning what is the essence of bodies located outside us. Yet they signify nothing about that except quite obscurely and confusedly.
I have already examined in sufficient detail how it could happen that my judgments are false, despite the goodness of God. But a new difficulty now arises regarding those very things that nature shows me are either to be sought out or avoided, as well as the internal sensations where I seem to have detected errors, as for example, when someone is deluded by a food's pleasant taste to eat the poison hidden inside it.
In this case, however, he is driven by nature only toward desiring the thing in which the pleasurable taste is found, but not toward the poison, of which he obviously is unaware. Academic leave from the University of Pennsylvania greatly aided my writing of the book.
Last but not least, Holly, Sam, and Tiny were constant companions, cheerleaders, and sources of inspiration. Since all citations in the text of the present book are to the pagination in AT, I have dropped those initials and have given volume and page numbers only, as in for volume 7, page Where CSM provides only selections, or no translation at all, additional translations are listed below.
All my citations using AT numbers can be located using numbers printed in the margins of these or other translations with two exceptions, noted below. In the few cases where I cite a passage for which there is no translation, the citation is italicized. Although the context often indicates the work cited, the AT volume and page numbers can serve as a sure guide, as follows: AT vol. A literal and accurate translation of the front matter and six Meditations, with facing-page Latin, is provided by G.
Heffernan ed. The Meteorology appears only in Paul J. Olscamp ed. Most of my citations to the Principles may be found in CSM, which gives selections only for Parts 2—4; for a complete translation, consult V. Miller and R. Miller eds.
Cottingham ed. References to additional discussion or alternative interpretations, and citations providing factual support, are collected at the end of each chapter. Secondary works are referred to by author, or author and short title, after their first mention.
A selected list of recent English-language works on Descartes may be found at the end of this volume. First philosophy is another name for metaphysics, the study of the basic principles of everything there is. Descartes understood metaphysics to ground all other knowledge, of the self, of God, and of the natural world; and he intended his Meditations to enable its readers to discover the one true metaphysics for themselves.
It was a very ambitious work. And indeed it argues that God exists and that the soul or mind is distinct from the body.
Rene Descartes, Meditations, pdf Ebook
In preparation for these arguments, it raises and then overturns skeptical challenges to the very possibility of knowledge. On the surface, it appears to be a work about the possibility of knowledge concerning theological topics. His talk of God and the soul was interlaced with metaphysical foundations for a revolutionary new physics or natural philosophy. His aim was to overturn the prevailing theory of the natural world, which put humankind at the center of things, and replace it with a radically new vision of nature as a grand but impersonal machine.
To understand what Descartes wanted to do in the Meditations, we need to place that work in the context of his life and other writings. His intellectual career did not begin with aspirations in metaphysics but in mathematics and natural philosophy. His earliest efforts in those fields encouraged him to believe that he had discovered a special method.
His thoughts on method changed and developed as he gained interest in metaphysics. These changes contributed to his ambitious vision for the Meditations. In Part II, we will examine the six Meditations, one by one. Finally, in Part III we will consider his revolution in science as supported by the Meditations, and sum up his philosophical legacy for us today.
Not long after completing his schooling, he discovered some mathematical results for which he is justly famous. He decided that by comparison with such clarity, philosophy was badly in need of reform, and he was the person for the job. His father, the son of a physician, was a member of the landed gentry and a councillor in the parliament at Rennes.
His mother, who came from a family of land-owning merchants, died in childbirth thirteen months after Descartes was born. The college had been established in by Henry IV, the former leader of the Calvinist Huguenots, who nominally converted to Catholicism in to undermine Catholic opposition to his kingship. In , following an assassination attempt by a Jesuit student, Henry expelled the order from Paris and closed their colleges in other French cities. Their mission was to improve the spiritual character of humankind, with a special emphasis on education.
The order founded new colleges and universities and assumed control of many existing schools in France and elsewhere throughout the seventeenth and into the eighteenth century. Jesuit schools, renowned for their quality, drew students of various backgrounds and aspirations, including prospective clergy, students preparing for law or medicine, and future civil servants, military officers, and merchants.
The first six years of study focused on grammar and rhetoric. Students learned Latin and Greek and studied selections from classical authors, especially the ancient Roman orator Cicero, whose works were read as models of style and eloquence but also contained surveys of philosophical positions.
Descartes was apparently satisfied with his choice of school, for later in life he advised an inquiring father that none offered better philosophical instruction, even for those wanting to transcend traditional philosophy The primary curriculum for the arts degree, earned in the final three years of instruction, consisted in the branches of philosophy: logic, natural philosophy also called physics , metaphysics, and morals.
The official Jesuit curriculum required that philosophical instruction follow Aristotle. These commentaries and treatises sometimes departed significantly from Aristotle and the major medieval Christian interpreters, such as Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, although most of them contained core areas of agreement. Descartes knew such commentators both from school and from later reading; he explicitly mentioned Francisco Toledo, Antonio Rubio, and the Coimbran commentators who included Peter Fonseca.
He also knew the work of Francisco Suarez and admired the philosophy textbook of Eustace of St. Paul , a member of the Cistercian Order and so not a Jesuit. He studied Aristotelian philosophy intensively during his final three years of college, and up to The early study of Cicero introduced him to ancient atomists, Plato and Aristotle, skeptics, and Stoics. Although rejecting Platonic theories of knowledge, they described in some detail the view that knowledge arises from the purely intellectual apprehension of Forms distinct from the sensory world.
Jesuit school mathematics comprised the abstract branches geometry and arithmetic and various applied branches, including not only astronomy and music from the quadrivium , but also optics and perspective, mechanics, and civil or military architecture. The sixteenth-century astronomer Nicholas Copernicus opposed the previous geocentric astronomy by hypothesizing that the Earth moves around the Sun.
Johannes Kepler published works in mathematical optics in and that contradicted ancient theory by showing that the eye forms an image on the retina; Descartes was familiar with these results by the s.
His father wanted him to pursue law, so that the family could gain a title of nobility which they finally received in , but Descartes was reluctant, and after turning twenty-one he enlisted in the army. When Descartes joined the army at Breda, the United Provinces were in the ninth year of a twelve-year truce with Spain.
Rene Descartes Meditations II, VI: real distinction argument)
Breda was located just north of the border with the Spanish-held provinces of the Netherlands presentday Belgium and was the residence of Maurice as well as his mathematicians and engineers. In July, Maurice led part of the army north to Utrecht and its environs to intercede for one Calvinist faction against another. As part of the defensive force arrayed against the Spanish, Descartes stayed in Breda and did not see military action. While garrisoned outside Breda, Descartes met the Dutch natural philosopher Isaac Beeckman, an event that changed his life.
The two first conversed on 10 November in front of a placard stating a mathematical problem. Descartes was already interested in applied problems in mathematics and may well have been studying military architecture.
Both men were happy to find someone else who spoke Latin and knew mathematics. Beeckman was soon challenging Descartes with problems in mathematics, musicology, kinematics, and hydrostatics.
These problems encouraged Descartes to think of material things as composed of small round spheres, or atoms, of matter. In December he completed his first book, the Compendium on Music, written in Latin and dedicated to Beeckman published posthumously in A new method Early in , Descartes solved the long-standing mathematical problem of trisecting an angle, using a proportional compass of his own devising, and he discovered algebraic solutions to several classes of cubic equations.
This work gave him new insights into the relation between geometrical constructions and algebraic equations. His proportional compass was constructed of rigid straight edges that hinged and slid over one another to create fixed proportions in a continuous manner, as the device opened and closed.
By treating the lengths of the arms and cross-pieces as values of the constants and unknowns in an equation, he could treat the curves traced by their interaction as values of equations expressing those constants and unknowns. These techniques for treating algebraic equations as relations among straight lines became the basis for analytic geometry. Lull claimed that his method, which manipulated words or concepts organized under headings, could solve problems of any kind.
Descartes considered it a sham , —5. His own new method would be limited to relations of quantity. There is no evidence that Descartes had originally intended to find a new method of any sort. He and Beeckman were working on very specific problems. His discoveries typically extended previous mathematical methods involving proportions, making them more general. But this initial breakthrough foreshadowed a lifetime of fascination with method shared by his contemporaries , eventually extending beyond mathematics to philosophy and metaphysics.
Mathematics typically was not formulated using syllogistic logic. Geometrical works stated axioms, definitions, and postulates, from which theorems were proved. Proofs took the form of instructions for constructing figures using compass and straight edge. Algebra and arithmetic proceeded by using equations constructed with arithmetic operators.
Equations were not part of the structure of syllogistic logic. Syllogisms and mathematical demonstration are discussed in the Appendix. Descartes considered the syllogism too cumbersome for original reasoning, though useful for presenting known results e. Sometimes syllogisms were used in presenting mathematical results, although Descartes did so only rarely , and not in his famous Geometry.
In the meantime, the Protestant Frederick V had been crowned king of Bohemia by the Calvinist nobles, and war was brewing. Descartes was returning to the army in Bavaria after the coronation when winter caught him in Neuburg, a peaceful Catholic principality on the Danube north of Munich. While there, he settled on a new course in life.
His reflections convinced him that he should extend the clarity of his new science of proportion to the other sciences —1. He would now seek clear and distinct connections among ideas in other fields to match the perspicuity of algebra and geometry — His decision to reform the sciences was partly inspired by three dreams during the night of 10 November By his own account, it was nine years before he discovered a new foundation for philosophy His early notebooks offer some hints about his philosophical ideas near the time of the dreams.
He favored a sense-based epistemology. The comparison of spirit with wind or fine matter was similar to the ancient philosophies of Democritus, Epicurus, and the Stoics. Descartes reports that in the stove-heated room he worked out the provisional moral code set down in Part Three of the Discourse. A source for part of the code has recently been discovered. Charron was a philosophical skeptic, who said he knew nothing.
He treated many of his opinions as doubtful, as skeptics also do. But his aim was to eradicate incorrect opinions by retaining only those that were certain. They seek to use various arguments to place themselves in a state of sustained doubt, in which they suspend judgment about any theoretical knowledge going beyond mere appearances.
Descartes was not troubled or challenged by such skepticism. He used the skeptical technique of suspending judgment in order to bracket, for further investigation, areas of potential knowledge now lacking the clarity and evidence found in mathematics. In fact, he did not merely roam. During , he continued to work on scientific and mathematical problems. He may have visited Ulm west of Neuburg on the Danube, in presentday Wurttemberg and consulted with the mathematician Johannes Faulhaber, who taught at the military college.
He may also have been present at the Battle of White Mountain in November, when Frederick was defeated and forced into exile at The Hague, where Descartes later in befriended his daughter, the Princess Elizabeth only two years old in After visiting France in he spent two years in Italy, — Upon his return or just prior to leaving in , he fought a duel disarming but sparing his foe and perhaps composed his lost treatise on fencing near that time.
The uncompleted manuscript, published in Latin in as the Rules for the Direction of the Mind, contained twenty-one out of a projected thirty-six Rules. This search for simple natures or simple ideas lay at the heart of his generalized method, extended beyond mathematics. The generalized method of the Rules was later summarized in the Discourse, now distilled into only four rules: The first was never to accept anything as true if I did not have evident knowledge of its truth: that is, carefully to avoid precipitate conclusions and preconceptions, and to include nothing more in my judgments than what presented itself to my mind so clearly and so distinctly that I had no occasion to doubt it.
The second, to divide each of the difficulties I examined into as many parts as possible and as may be required in order to resolve them better. The third, to direct my thoughts in an orderly manner, by beginning with the simplest and most easily known objects in order to ascend little by little, step by step, to knowledge of the most complex, and by supposing some order even among objects that have no natural order of precedence.
And the last, throughout to make enumerations so complete, and reviews so comprehensive, that I could be sure of leaving nothing out.
The second and fourth read as a summary of procedures that might be followed in solving a problem in algebra e. The third states a more general principle of method, to start with simple and easily known objects and to think of the complex objects as knowable through the simple ones. What are these simple natures?
Rule Twelve finally provides examples of three sorts of simple nature: things known by the mind about the mind, such as the notions of knowledge, doubt, ignorance, and volition or willing; things known as present in bodies, such as shape, extension, and motion; and things common to minds and bodies, such as existence, unity, and duration But in that work Descartes does not claim that bodies have only the properties of spatial extension, such as shape and motion, as he would claim later.
The generalization of this method requires that other fields be reducible to correspondingly simple ideas and entities. A nice method, if we can find the simple ideas, and if they and their combinations actually fit the way the world is. He subsequently remained in Paris until , joining a group of mathematicians and intellectuals that included Marin Mersenne, another advocate of mathematical descriptions of nature, and Guillaume Gibieuf, a theologian at the Sorbonne. During this time, he discovered the sine law of refraction and performed experiments in optics.
Rumor of his method spread among French intellectuals, and he endeavored to finish the Rules. Perhaps he gave up when the limitations of his scheme to represent all mathematical problems through relations among line segments became apparent. In any event, the thrust of his investigations now turned toward metaphysics and a new science of nature as a whole.
Metaphysical turn In and , Descartes again reformulated his intellectual agenda. Late in , he attended a public lecture by a chemist named Chandoux, which had been arranged by the Papal Nuncio in Paris. Those in attendance all applauded, except Descartes. He proclaimed that he himself possessed a universal method for separating the true from the false with certainty. He eventually published four major books — covering geometry, optics, the physical world, the human body and human emotions, and metaphysics — and others were left unpublished when he died in In the course of his development, he retained his method of searching for simple notions, but his account of the cognitive basis for his method changed.
Prior to his return to the Dutch Netherlands late in , his work had focused on mathematics pure and applied and method. Now he undertook for the first time a sustained investigation of metaphysical topics. During his first nine months in the Netherlands he worked on nothing else. In April , he wrote to Mersenne about the results of this work. For someone who previously regarded mathematics as providing the ultimate standard of certainty, this statement marks a significant change.
We shall soon see evidence that by he had rejected the sensebased epistemology of and adopted a position closer to the Platonic theory that primary truths are known through purely intellectual non-sensory contemplation.
In April, Christopher Scheiner had observed an impressive set of false suns, or parhelia, near Rome. A report circulated among natural philosophers. When Descartes learned of it, he immediately set to work to explain this optical phenomenon.
Descartes advanced the theory that the highest clouds are made of ice crystals and snow, which circular winds melt and refreeze so as to form a solid, transparent ring of ice that acts as a lens to produce the parhelia Although this solution is fanciful a solid lens is not formed in the sky , the attempt to explain this complex natural phenomenon drew Descartes into general physics more fully than before.
One year became three. The project developed into a major work, which Descartes modestly entitled The World. It was to have three parts: a treatise on light which would contain a general physics , a treatise on man covering human physiology , and a treatise on the soul or mind. These two parts contain a new comprehensive vision of material nature.Indeed I now know that they can 92 exist, at least insofar as they are the object of pure mathematics, since I clearly and distinctly perceive them.
When the Principles appeared in it had four parts. The point I am making refers to this particular piece of wax, for the case of wax in general is clearer still.
Is it what my imagination shows ' y, that this iece of wax can change from a round to a s P a triangular shape? For long-standing opinions keep returning, and, almost against my will, they take advantage of my credulity, as if it were bound over to them by long use and the claims of intimacy.
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