Descartes' Contributions to Philosophy Have Essay

  • Length: 7 pages
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  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #88674246

Excerpt from Essay :

1) and a boy who woke up one day to realise the world was not the world anymore, but something paper-ish. Flowers looked like flowers but were not, Milly, his friend, resembled Milly but was not the Milly of yesterday. Through his example, Bouwsma thought to illustrate that illusions may create similar perceptions to reality but ultimately the former can be depicted, as Tom, the boy, balked the phantasy that was deceiving him. And Tom managed to separate what he was experiencing because "he knew the difference between flowers and paper, and that when presented with one or the other, he can tell the difference." (Bouwsma, p. 2)

How can we know if what we are experiencing is dream or reality? Whether or not all man's experiences are products of man's own dreams can be illustrated in matters of what man knows to be real and what man knows to be an illusion. In this respect, man must be certain that his perceptions are valid, however, in this respect, it is not the intellect that holds the capacity to distinguish reality from illusion, but man's insight and further meditations.

"I think, therefore I am" served Descartes foremost in demonstrating that possibility to attain certain knowledge exists. Moreover, that knowledge can be rendered as certain. In this respect, if the Evil Demon were to try to convince man of his existence when the latter does not exist, still man would have to exist in order for the demon to conduct his deception. Decartes states that although he is uncertain of what he is, he knows for sure that he exists (M2, para. 4). That is because man is logically constraint to admit that thinking exists because man would not be able to postulate something unless that something is associated with existence. Descartes states that thinking and its existence is the only thing we can be certain of because, as human beings, we identify ourselves with our thoughts. Because existence is something that remains unaltered despite of all other transformations, much like a substance, Descartes defined man as rex cogitans, that is to say, thinking thing. He emphasizes that the issue is something interior to all man and that its value is to establish all logical operations of thinking in terms of its original insight. Outside of the self, there is nothing but logical deductions extracted by our mind. Therefore, the world seen outside thought can be perceived as strictly an illusion. Ultimately, Descartes states that whenever and wherever thought exists, the mind exists and, because a thought exists, then the mind exists. But is rather focused to illustrate on how he can know that a certain thought is his own thought and thus, that his mind exists. However, his argument that his mind exists because his thoughts exist are too ambiguous to demonstrate his existence. This is something Hobbes has illustrated in his objection towards "The Nature of the Human Mind." He argued that, such as Descartes presented his case, a thinking thing would appear something corporeal (Hobbes, 2006, p. 43), but Descartes defended his statements in saying that those faculties that deliver man the ability to think are not to be understood in terms of merely actions, but of the substance of those actions, that is to say, not of matter-matter, but of "metaphysical matter."

After deciding on his own existence, Decartes is uncertain as to what he is. He submits himself to the same process as in "Meditation 1," regarding all thoughts he now has reason to doubt as false. He starts from initially thinking that he has all the bodily members to prove himself he is a body. But he moves to questioning such claims on grounds of a deceiver existing to make him believe that he has a body when, in fact, he does not. but, if he does not have a body, then what is he?

Assuredly it is not little, if all these properties belong to my nature. But why should they not belong to it? & #8230;Is there also any one of these attributes that can be properly distinguished from my thought, or that can be said to be separate from myself? For it is of itself so evident that it is I who doubt, I who understand, and I who desire, that it is here unnecessary to add anything by way of rendering it more clear. And I am as certainly the same being who imagines. & #8230;in fine, I am the same person who perceives, that is, who apprehends certain objects as by the organs of sense, since, in truth, I see light, hear a noise, and feel heat. (M2, para. 9)

Although not obvious from this second meditation, Descartes will come to believe that his body and mind are separated, but that he, nevertheless, identifies with his mind. This is where he acknowledges himself as a thinking thing, a statement that can easily lead to the assumption that his body may very well be that thinking thing. Ultimately, the thinking thing is what scrutinizes one's understanding of things such as they come to him through the intermediary of thoughts, senses, acknowledgements, denials, in other words, all of the actions that thinking makes available to man.

To Descartes, in order for man to be able to use his imagination and senses, a body is required. Thus, imagination is something visually pictured by the mind, but, in his understanding, these pictures are inscribed in man's brain, making it unable to exist without a body. Because of this, Descartes reassures himself that he does think, therefore is able to deny, affirm, and so on.

Another argument in Descartes' vision is how senses work in terms of a body. Because he seems to imagine things and he also seems to sense objects, Descartes is able to understand that he alone does the thinking, because he alone is who seems to be experiencing the situations now. He is certain more of his existence than that of the wax because wax is something comprehensible only by intellect, and thus not through senses and imagination. What wax is represents knowledge that has been passed on, something in the senses of learned behaviour.

Descartes finally realised that his experiences had failed as a rule of certainty because he was able to acknowledge that all is exposed to a subjective experience of certainty. The truths he can now hold for certain are related to the representation of theorizing perception. Thus, the manner in which we perceive the truth is determined by the causality of the objects predominant in the external world.

Reference List

Bouwsma, O.K., 1949. Descartes' Evil Genius. In E. Sesonske and N. Fleming, eds. 1965. Meta-meditations. Available at <> [Accessed 5 June 2013]

Crome, K., 2005. Descartes' Evil Demon. Richmond Journal of Philosophy, 11, pp.: 1-8. Available at <> [Accessed 4 June 2013]

Descartes, R., 1901. Meditations of First Philosophy [trilingual HTML edition]. Translated from Latin by John Veitch. Available through: Descartes' Meditations Home Page

[Accessed 4 June 2013]

Descartes, R. 2006. Objections of the Meditations and Descartes' Replies. Available at <> [Accessed 5 June 2013]

Turan, H., 1999. The Cartesian Doubt Experiment and Mathematics. The Paideia Project Online, Available at [Accessed…

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