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2. Descartes, Meditations (1-3).pptx - Ren Descartes(1596...

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René Descartes (1596- 1650) Descartes was a French philosopher and mathematician. His writings include Discourse on Method (1637), Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), and Principles of Philosophy (1644). The Meditations is considered to be one of the foundational source texts for the emergence of modern philosophy.
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1. What can be called into doubt. 2. The nature of the human mind, and how it is better known than the body. 3. The existence of God. 4. Truth and falsity. 5. The essence of material things, and the existence of God considered a second time. 6. The existence of material things, and the real distinction between mind and body . The Meditations contains 6 “meditations.”
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Overview of the next two weeks We will discuss Descartes’ Meditations for the next two classes. Main themes: Descartes’ Method of Doubt The Existence of Material Things Mind/Body Dualism
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Two Substances Descartes claims that reality consists of two substances: Thought and Extension We will spend today’s class focusing on Descartes’ argument for the existence of thought . For the following class (Feb. 20 th ), we will focus on Descartes’ further argument that extension and material things exist as well. We will also look at Descartes’ conclusion about the relationship between these two substance in what is often called “Descartes’ Mind-Body Dualism.”
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Socratic and Cartesian Doubt Very much in the tradition of Socrates, who went around Athens disrupting common assumptions, Descartes’ project in the Meditations also begins from the attitude of radical doubt.
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Calling everything into doubt “Some years ago I was struck by the large number of falsehoods that I had accepted as true in my childhood, and by the highly doubtful nature of the whole edifice that I had subsequently based on them. I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last.”
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The principle of a modicum of doubt Descartes is not only suggesting that we doubt obvious falsehoods or contestable hypotheses. He is suggesting that if there is even the slightest reason to doubt that something is certain, then we should doubt it completely. He describes this attitude as a once in a lifetime thought experiment. “Anything which admits of the slightest doubt I will set aside just as if I had found it to be wholly false; and I will proceed in this way until I recognize something certain, or, if nothing else, until I at least recognize for certain that there is no certainty.” (from the Second Meditation )
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Two stages of Cartesian Doubt As a reading strategy, for the sake of clarity, let’s divide what Descartes says in the “First Meditation” into two stages of Cartesian doubt.
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