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René Descartes (1596—1650) Essay

Edwin Arthur Burtt (essay date 1925)

❶After the candle is melted down to a glob of wax, it loses these attributes. Darwin argued that the continuity between humans and other species opened the possibilities that animals did not have dissimilar properties to suffer.


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But does the supposed falsehood of this belief mean that I do not exist? Moreover, even if I am being deceived by an evil demon, I must exist in order to be deceived at all. The Nature of the Mind and its Ideas.

In the Principles, part I, sections 32 and 48, Descartes distinguishes intellectual perception and volition as what properly belongs to the nature of the mind alone while imagination and sensation are, in some sense, faculties of the mind insofar as it is united with a body. So imagination and sensation are faculties of the mind in a weaker sense than intellect and will, since they require a body in order to perform their functions. Now, since extension is the nature of body, is a necessary feature of body, it follows that the mind is by its nature not a body but an immaterial thing.

Therefore, what I am is an immaterial thinking thing with the faculties of intellect and will. It is also important to notice that the mind is a substance and the modes of a thinking substance are its ideas.

For Descartes a substance is a thing requiring nothing else in order to exist. Hence the mind is an immaterial thinking substance, while its ideas are its modes or ways of thinking. Descartes continues on to distinguish three kinds of ideas at the beginning of the Third Meditation, namely those that are fabricated, adventitious, or innate. Fabricated ideas are mere inventions of the mind. Accordingly, the mind can control them so that they can be examined and set aside at will and their internal content can be changed.

Adventitious ideas are sensations produced by some material thing existing externally to the mind. But, unlike fabrications, adventitious ideas cannot be examined and set aside at will nor can their internal content be manipulated by the mind.

For example, no matter how hard one tries, if someone is standing next to a fire, she cannot help but feel the heat as heat.

She cannot set aside the sensory idea of heat by merely willing it as we can do with our idea of Santa Claus, for example. She also cannot change its internal content so as to feel something other than heat—say, cold. Finally, innate ideas are placed in the mind by God at creation. These ideas can be examined and set aside at will but their internal content cannot be manipulated. Geometrical ideas are paradigm examples of innate ideas.

For example, the idea of a triangle can be examined and set aside at will, but its internal content cannot be manipulated so as to cease being the idea of a three-sided figure. This is the main point of the wax example found in the Second Meditation. Here, Descartes pauses from his methodological doubt to examine a particular piece of wax fresh from the honeycomb: It has not yet quite lost the taste of the honey; it retains some of the scent of flowers from which it was gathered; its color shape and size are plain to see; it is hard, cold and can be handled without difficulty; if you rap it with your knuckle it makes a sound.

CSM II 20 The point is that the senses perceive certain qualities of the wax like its hardness, smell, and so forth. But, as it is moved closer to the fire, all of these sensible qualities change. However, despite these changes in what the senses perceive of the wax, it is still judged to be the same wax now as before. To warrant this judgment, something that does not change must have been perceived in the wax.

This reasoning establishes at least three important points. First, all sensation involves some sort of judgment, which is a mental mode.

Based on this principle, the mind is better known than the body, because it has ideas about both extended and mental things and not just of extended things, and so it has discovered more modes in itself than in bodily substances. The shape and size of the wax are modes of this extension and can, therefore, change.

But the extension constituting this wax remains the same and permits the judgment that the body with the modes existing in it after being moved by the fire is the same body as before even though all of its sensible qualities have changed. One final lesson is that Descartes is attempting to wean his reader from reliance on sense images as a source for, or an aid to, knowledge.

Instead, people should become accustomed to thinking without images in order to clearly understand things not readily or accurately represented by them, for example, God and the mind. So, according to Descartes, immaterial, mental things are better known and, therefore, are better sources of knowledge than extended things.

From these intuitively grasped, absolutely certain truths, Descartes now goes on to deduce the existence of something other than himself, namely God. Descartes begins by considering what is necessary for something to be the adequate cause of its effect. Here Descartes is espousing a causal theory that implies whatever is possessed by an effect must have been given to it by its cause. For example, when a pot of water is heated to a boil, it must have received that heat from some cause that had at least that much heat.

Moreover, something that is not hot enough cannot cause water to boil, because it does not have the requisite reality to bring about that effect. In other words, something cannot give what it does not have. Descartes goes on to apply this principle to the cause of his ideas. This version of the Causal Adequacy Principle states that whatever is contained objectively in an idea must be contained either formally or eminently in the cause of that idea.

Definitions of some key terms are now in order. Second, the formal reality contained in something is a reality actually contained in that thing. For example, the sun itself has the formal reality of extension since it is actually an extended thing or body. Finally, a reality is contained in something eminently when that reality is contained in it in a higher form such that 1 the thing does not possess that reality formally, but 2 it has the ability to cause that reality formally in something else.

For example, God is not formally an extended thing but solely a thinking thing; however, he is eminently the extended universe in that it exists in him in a higher form, and accordingly he has the ability to cause its existence.

The main point is that the Causal Adequacy Principle also pertains to the causes of ideas so that, for instance, the idea of the sun must be caused by something that contains the reality of the sun either actually formally or in some higher form eminently. Once this principle is established, Descartes looks for an idea of which he could not be the cause.

Based on this principle, he can be the cause of the objective reality of any idea that he has either formally or eminently. He is formally a finite substance, and so he can be the cause of any idea with the objective reality of a finite substance.

Accordingly, a finite substance is not formally but eminently a mode, and so he can be the cause of all his ideas of modes. But the idea of God is the idea of an infinite substance. This is because a finite substance does not have enough reality to be the cause of this idea, for if a finite substance were the cause of this idea, then where would it have gotten the extra reality?

But the idea must have come from something. In all sciences, we find self-evident truths, just like mathematicians find laws. The mind discovers these innate ideas, which were implanted in the mind by nature or God, when some experience triggers the potentiality of the idea in the mind.

If we only reason from these ideas, says Descartes, we can only come to true conclusions and logic will never fail us. In order to come to these ideas, we must free ourselves of all prior prejudices; Descartes says we must doubt everything, including our very own existence and the existence of everything around us.

The point of hyperbolic, or exaggerated, doubt is not to doubt every single thought or belief one holds, but to doubt the very foundation on which these beliefs lie. Just as the method says, we break down our thoughts, reducing complex belief systems into the simplest parts. We must doubt all previous philosophy that we know as well as the information that comes to us through the senses.

Once we've come to the first clear and distinct idea, we can start to reconstruct our knowledge slowly and methodically, so that nothing false ever enters the equation. The first clear and distinct idea of Descartes, found in Meditation II, is the famous Cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.

A similar argument first shows up in St. Augustine's Critique of Skepticism from City of God, in which Augustine explains that even if I am deceived, I must exist in order to be deceived, and thus I can't be deceived into thinking I exist. This makes it a true, clear, distinct, and innate idea, one which cannot be further broken down.

The cogito of Descartes at first appears to be a syllogism with the conclusion I exist following from the premise I am a thinking thing and the hidden premise Thinking things exist. In Descartes' Reply to the Second Set of Objections, he says it's not a deductive syllogism at all because the premise Thinking things exist would have to have been known previously; this would contradict his method of hyperbolic doubt.

The cogito is not deduced; it is recognized by an act of mental intuition. Because of his intense fascination with these two studies, he decided to devote the rest of. Descartes first major work was Essais philosophoqies Philosophical Essays ,. It consisted of four parts: Sadly, Descartes died on February 11, of. Descartes made an effort to apply the rational inductive methods of mathematics to.

Before his time, the method of "Scholasticism" ruled philosophy. Page 1 of 3. Rene Descartes Rene Descartes was one of the most influential thinkers in the history of the philosophy. Born in , he lived to become a great mathematician, scientist, and philosopher. In fact, he became one of the central intellectual figures of the sixteen hundreds.

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- Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy Rene Descartes’ third meditation from his book Meditations on First Philosophy, examines Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God. The purpose of this essay will be to explore Descartes’ reasoning and proofs of God’s existence.

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Philosophy term papers don't have to become what Rene Descartes referred to as an "evil demon " ENTER YOUR TOPIC BELOW: In his book Meditations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes presents the concept of an "evil demon," as powerful as God but deceptive, as an explanation for why his senses sometimes gave him unreliable information about the nature of reality.

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Descartes argued that philosophy must be based on a clear, rational method of inquiry. In order to establish a firm basis for this method, he subjected popularly-held assumptions concerning the nature of the self and the universe to a process of rigorous doubt. Rene Descartes Essay Examples. total results. A Critique of Meditation One by Descartes. words. 2 pages. An Overview of the Age on Enlightenment in Europe. 1, words. An Analysis of the Exploring the Epistemologies of Rene Descartes and David Hume in .

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In meditation III, Rene Descartes says that he is certain that imagination and perception do exist since they exist inside his mind as consciousness modes. However, Descartes says that he can never certain whether his perceptions and imaginations have any truth basis. Rene Descartes Rene Descartes When the term modern philosophy is mentioned, it is usually to make a distinction from ancient and medieval philosophy therefore it does not only mean the philosophy of the 21st century, it means, the philosopher Rene Descartes.