Final Study Guide - 1. Descartes first begins the...

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1. Descartes first begins the meditation by explaining that he needs to go straight to the foundation instead of going through each topic because it would take too long. Without a sturdy foundation, everything on top of it will fall. Descartes accepts that he believes in things that are false and has done so since childhood. In his method of doubt, Descartes says that his senses can deceive him about what is small or far away, but he cannot doubt that he is sitting next to a fire. He would only have grounds to deny this if he was a madman. He wonders how we know that we are actually sleeping and not just in a realistic dream. Many times he has been convinced he was sitting next to the fire when actually he was fast asleep in his bed. The things that he sees in his dreams are actually based on real things such as hands and colors. He uses the example a painter can come up with something never seen before that is totally unreal, but the painter would still have to use real colors. So, not everything in dreams is fictitious, because two plus three will always equal five, even while we are unconscious. Descartes also wonders if God is a deceiver and therefore maybe God makes us believe that two plus three equals five when it actually doesn’t. However, this would suggest that God wouldn’t be all good if he were to deceive us, so Descartes decides to believe there is a good God and an evil demon that works hard to deceive him. So, he decides to perceive himself as not having hands, eyes, etc but the false believe that he has all these senses. In the second meditation, Descartes discovers “I am, I exist” because if he can be deceived, then he exists. Therefore, Descartes can now say that he does exist. 2. At the end of the second meditation, Descartes decides that he wants to use a particular example of a physical object we can see and touch. He decides to use a piece of wax and describes it as cold, hard, having a definite shape and taste, making a noise when rapped, and having a distinct smell. However, when he walks towards the fire it loses its taste and smell, changes color, becomes warm, flexible, and no longer makes a noise when struck; is it the same piece of wax? Of course you believe it is, no one would deny that because a physical object can appear one way and then another which you define by your senses. It is an a priori argument because it can be understood or proven without experience or observations about the world. This example is used to show that rationalism is superior over empiricism. If you were to believe in empiricism, you wouldn’t believe the wax was the same in a different state
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This note was uploaded on 03/26/2008 for the course PHIL 26:061 taught by Professor Depoe during the Winter '07 term at University of Iowa.

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Final Study Guide - 1. Descartes first begins the...

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