Analysis of Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

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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). On page thirteen of his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes made the claim that these opinions from his youth were false, and therefore those opinions that he had built upon them were also false. In this book, Descartes claims to have freed his mind of all those false opinions and begins by believing nothing, because he is attempting to obtain an objective view of the truth, and this is something he cannot do if he is being influenced by his previous misconceptions. On page fourteen, just before nineteen in the margins, Descartes discusses the deceptive nature of the senses. He claims that “whatever I had admitted until now as most true I received either from the senses or through the senses” (14), and because Descartes believes that we should never put our trust in anything that has deceived us even once (14), he concludes that he cannot trust anything he has known as true up until now. This is Descartes’ reasoning behind doubting everything he once thought he knew, and from this conclusion, he goes on to arrive at the one absolute certainty that he exists. To arrive at this certainty, he first mentions that in order to determine that we know anythi... ... middle of paper ..., and thinking implies existence. Therefore, he has discovered one indubitable belief so far—that he exists. In Mediation III he proves God’s existence as yet another indubitable idea with his first two arguments for God’s existence, and yet another time with his third argument in Mediation V. He continues on and establishes the possibility of acquiring knowledge about the world based on deduction and perception, creating an unshakeable ground upon which all other knowledge can be based. One final conclusion Descartes comes up with is that it is acceptable to trust that our senses communicate accurate information to our brains, as long as we apply our intellect and our deductive reasoning to that information. Therefore, he arrives at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt, and acquires a firm foundation for genuine knowledge.
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