Doubt and the Meditations Essay

Doubt and the Meditations Essay

Length: 1443 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Within Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes undertakes a worthy goal: the discovery of the sources of doubt with the ultimate result being more truthful opinions, assertions, and arguments. Descartes was well ahead of his times, forging a pathway to more rigorous scholarship through the casting of doubt upon his “opinions”. Unfortunately, however, Descartes was either unable or unwilling to cast doubt upon his primary source of fallibility: his exaltation of all things cerebral and his concurrent disdain for the physical body. Because of this, he was either unable or unwilling to rigorously scrutinize his opinion/belief regarding the existence of God. Instead, he chose to focus his doubt-casting (skepticism) upon his senses, going so far as to suggest that since dreaming can mimic the “real world”, he cannot trust what his eyes see, or his hands uncover.
His focus upon the senses as the primary source of doubt is typical of Descartes, given that he asserted that it was his thoughts which were his essence, the very definition of who he was (who we all are). Yet, I argue that it was his inability to cast doubt upon his intellectual reasoning vis-à-vis the existence of supernatural entities (God) in any substantive way that led to his ultimately controversial approach to finding and resolving sources of doubt. Further, I argue that because Descartes insisted upon limiting his pool of useful knowledge to that which he, himself, uncovered (or thought about), he missed an obvious way to find and fix any possible errors stemming from faulty sensory perceptions; namely, the testing and validation (or elimination) of hypotheses by other researchers. If I perceive that a ball falls at the same rate as a block of wood as the...

... middle of paper ...

... the reader, in turn, that even if Descartes' god does not exist, his demon does. Because both of these deities fall into the category of the utterly unprovable, their very presence in the argument as anything remotely resembling factual entities weakens the whole thing. It is difficult to take seriously the admonition that we doubt everything when possibly the most debatable “thing” of all is taken pretty much at face value.
In the end, Descartes' Meditations led to, among other things, the scientific method, and there can be little argument that this was a desirable outcome. Unfortunately, however, his First Meditation misses the mark in some crucial ways in formulating a solid argument that such a method should be utilized in scholarly pursuits. That doubt should be cast is not the issue; how one justifies this assertion, however, is very much the issue.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Beliefs Beyond Doubt, What All Other Respond To: Rene Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy"

- Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy is considered to be one of the most important works in modern philosophy. John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and countless other philosophers wrote largely in response to Descartes. Yet there are serious doubts related to the treatise's major argument. In the Objections and Replies, a collection of objections to the work along with Descartes personal and often very detailed replies to said objections, the philosopher Antoine Arnauld raises the question of whether or not Descartes was guilty of circular reasoning....   [tags: Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy,]

Powerful Essays
2010 words (5.7 pages)

Descartes' Meditations Essay

- Descartes' Meditations In Descartes’ meditations, Descartes begins what Bernard Williams has called the project of ‘pure enquiry’ to discover an indubitable premise or foundation to base his knowledge on, by subjecting everything to a kind of scepticism now known as Cartesian doubt. This is known as foundationalism, where a philosopher basis all epistemological knowledge on an indubitable premise. Within meditation one Descartes subjects all of his beliefs regarding sensory data and even existence to the strongest and most hyperbolic of doubts....   [tags: Philosophy Doubt Meditations Descartes Essays]

Powerful Essays
2133 words (6.1 pages)

Analysis of Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy Essay

- Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy Rene Descartes set the groundwork for seventeenth century rationalism, the view opposed by the empiricist school of thought. As a rationalist, Descartes firmly believed in reason as the principal source of knowledge. He favoured deduction and intellect over the senses and because of this he did not find comfort in believing that his opinions, which he had developed in his youth, were credible. It is for this reason that Rene Descartes chose to “raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations,” (13)....   [tags: rationalism, doubt, knowledge]

Powerful Essays
1319 words (3.8 pages)

Essay on Meditations On First Philosophy By George Orwell

- In the book "Meditations on First Philosophy", author talks about knowledge and doubt. He considers doubt and knowledge a very strong tool and thus, states a philosophical method which is actually an extraordinarily powerful investigation of mind, body and rationalism. He formulates six meditations in this book, where he first discards all of his previous beliefs where things are not completely certain and then he tries to build things that can be surely known. He believed that people should do their own discerning and by using the process of simple mathematics, they could proceed on a path to an unquestioned knowledge....   [tags: Mind, Ontology, Meditations on First Philosophy]

Powerful Essays
1031 words (2.9 pages)

Essay on An Examination of The Meditations, by Descartes

- Descartes overall objective in The Meditations is to question knowledge. To explore such metaphysical issues as the existence of God and the separation of mind and body, it was important for him to distinguish what we can know as truth. He believed that reason as opposed to experience was the source for discovering what is of absolute certainty. In my explication, I will examine meditation two in order to discover why knowledge was so important to Descartes. Meditation One The first meditation acts as a foundation for all those that follow....   [tags: The Meditations Essays]

Free Essays
2784 words (8 pages)

Essay on Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

-      Descartes believes that knowledge comes from within the mind. This is a single indisputable fact to build on that can be gained through individual reflection. While seeking true knowledge, Descartes writes his Six Meditations. In these meditations, Descartes tries to develop a strong foundation, which all knowledge can be built upon. In the First Meditation, Descartes begins developing this foundation through the method of doubt. He casts doubt upon all his previous beliefs, including “matters which are not entirely certain and indubitable [and] those which appear to be manifestly false.” (Descartes, p.75, par.3) Once Descartes clears away all beliefs that can be called into doubt, he c...   [tags: Meditations on First Philosophy Essays]

Powerful Essays
2108 words (6 pages)

Essay on Meditations on First Philosophy

- ... With that in mind, the meditator acknowledges that his senses can be deceived. Although most of the time his sensory knowledge is true, he notes that while dreaming, he is often convinced that what he senses is real. As he reflects on this, he remarks, “I see so plainly that there are no definitive signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep” (Descartes, 19). The sensations he feels and the images he sees in dreams are all derived from real life experiences. The narrator links this to art; the composite image consists of numerous real things....   [tags: Descartes, perception, proving God's existence]

Powerful Essays
1300 words (3.7 pages)

Essay on Descartes - Meditations

- In the Meditations, Rene Descartes attempts to doubt everything that is possible to doubt. His uncertainty of things that existence ranges from God to himself. Then he goes on to start proving that things do exist by first proving that he exists. After he establishes himself he can go on to establish everything else in the world. Next he goes to prove that the mind is separate then the body. In order to do this he must first prove he has a mind, and then prove that bodily things exist. I do agree with Descartes that the mind is separate from the body....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1633 words (4.7 pages)

Essay on Descartes’ Ultimate Purpose of the Meditations

- Descartes’ Ultimate Purpose of the Meditations My initial approach to René Descartes, in Meditations on First Philosophy, views the third meditation’s attempts to prove the existence of God as a way of establishing a foundation for the existence of truth, falsity, corporeal things and eventually the establishment of the sciences. When viewed in this light, Descartes is accused of drawing himself into a ‘Cartesian circle,’ ultimately forcing this cosmological proof of God to defy Cartesian method, thus precipitating the failure of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth meditations....   [tags: Philosophy Religion Essays]

Powerful Essays
1766 words (5 pages)

Preliminary Interpretation of Descartes' Meditations Essay

- Preliminary Interpretation of Descartes' Meditations René 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....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
4568 words (13.1 pages)