Comparing Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy and Plato's The Republic

Comparing Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy and Plato's The Republic

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In the field of philosophy there can be numerous answers to a general question, depending on a particular philosopher's views on the subject. Often times an answer is left undetermined. In the broad sense of the word and also stated in the dictionary philosophy can be described as the pursuit of human knowledge and human values. There are many different people with many different theories of knowledge. Two of these people, also philosophers, in which this paper will go into depth about are Descartes and Plato. Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy and Plato's The Republic are the topics that are going to be discussed in this paper.

In Meditations, Descartes brings doubt to everything he believes because it is human nature to believe that which is false. He states that most of what he believes comes from the senses and that a lot of times those senses can be deceived. His conclusion of doubting everything is based on his example of a basket of apples. It goes as follows; you have a basket of apples but you fear that some apples have gone bad and you don't want them to rot the others, so you throw all the apples out of the basket. Now that the basket is empty you examine each apple carefully and return the good apples to the basket. This is what he does with his beliefs, he follows and keeps only those beliefs of which he is sure of. Our beliefs as a whole must be discarded and then each individual belief must be looked at carefully before we can accept it. We must only accept those beliefs we feel are good.

Descartes does realize, though, that we can't throw every belief out because they are a part of us, unlike the apples. If the beliefs were not a part of us we would have no basis for recovering any ...


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...r what they really are. Descartes also believed that we must look for an object's uniqueness without relying on sense-perception.

The views of Plato and Descartes are in many ways similar and also in many ways different. According to Plato we see shadows and not the real objects. To be a philosopher one must strive to see the object and what makes that object unique. Also one must be able to see the idea of the object. According to Descartes one must also find the uniqueness of the object through reason, but his approach differs. He casts doubt on what he feels isn't certain and rebuilds his foundation of knowledge with himself as the base. Plato is not looking to cast doubts on one's beliefs but instead trying to expand one's knowledge of it. Both Descartes and Platos ends are the same, to try and reach the Good or God, but their means are different.

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