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Ungraded assignment online. You should have downloaded and You printed out the handout for today’s lecture. lecture. Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy - Meditation 3 again Philosophy Reading for next time: Rene Reading Descartes Review From Last Time Descartes launches the Meditations in Descartes a quest for certainty. quest In order to achieve certainty he must In first tear down the edifice of his current doubtful beliefs and then go on to build up a surer foundation of beliefs. beliefs. Tearing down those beliefs is the task of Tearing Meditataion #1 Meditataion Review From Last Time In what branch of philosophy are the In questions and issues that Descartes has been addressing in Meditation #1 considered? considered? Epistemology - the study of knowledge A skeptic is one who holds that we don’t skeptic know anything about a particular sphere of facts. facts.
An external world skeptic An external A moral skeptic moral Examples of kinds of skeptics: Review From Last Time At the end of Meditation #1 Descartes At has torn down the edifice of his belief and he is looking, at the beginning of Meditation #2 to see if anything remains. remains. Descartes hits upon one thing that, it Descartes seems, he can know for certain. seems, Review From Last Time “But there is a supremely powerful and But cunning deceiver who deliberately deceives me all the time! me Even then, if he is deceiving me I Even undoubtedly exist: let him deceive me all he can, he will never bring it about that I am nothing while I think I am something. So after nothing think So thoroughly thinking the matter through I conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, am must be true whenever I assert it or think it.” must Review From Last Time 1. 2. Recall the Evil Demon Argument: I don’t know that I am not being deceived in don’t everything I believe by an evil demon. everything If I don’t know that I am not being deceived in If everything I believe by an evil demon, then nothing I believe do I know to be true. believe Therefore, nothing I believe do I know to be true. 1,2 MP Descartes would declare that the previous Descartes reasoning shows this argument to be unsound in virtue of having a false premise. virtue Which premise would he claim is false? 3. Review From Last Time Are we out of the skeptical woods? Certainly not! The only indubitable and certain thing that Descartes has The hit upon is that he exists--nothing more, as of yet. hit We still don’t have an a reply to the Dreaming Argument. We Or to the following Revised Evil Demon Argument: Or 1. 2. 3. I don’t know that I am not being deceived in everything I don’t believe--except my belief that I exist--by an evil demon. believe--except If I don’t know that I am not being deceived in everything I If believe--except my belief that I exist--by an evil demon, then nothing I believe--other than my belief that I exist--do I know to be true. to Therefore, nothing I believe--other than my belief that I exist-do I know to be true. 1,2 MP Meditation #2 After establishing, indubitably, that he exists, Descartes turns to After the question: what kind of thing is he that he has just proven to exist. exist. “But this ‘I’ that must exist--I still don’t properly understand what But it is; so I am at risk of confusing it with something else, thereby falling into error in the very item of knowledge that I maintain is the most certain and obvious of all. To get straight about what this ‘I’ is, I shall go back and think some more about what I believed myself to be before I started this meditation. I will eliminate from these beliefs anything that could be even slightly called into question by the arguments I have been using, which will leave me with only beliefs about myself that are certain and unshakable.” So Descartes is going to employ the very same method he So employed in arriving at the indubitable belief that he exists--the method of only believing things for which there can’t possibly be the slightest ground for doubt--in trying to discover what he can know indubitably about what kind of thing he is. know Meditation #2 He used to think he was a man, a rational He animal. animal. Descartes thinks there’s no hope going in this Descartes direction: “for then I shall have to ask what an animal is, and what rationality is--each question would lead me on to other still harder ones, and this would take more time than I can spare.” this He’ll focus instead on the beliefs about He’ll himself that “spontaneously and naturally came to me whenever I thought about what I was”. was”. Meditation #2 So, what beliefs about himself came So, spontaneously to him whenever he thought about what he was? about He believed that he had a body. He believed that he moved about and did things. He believed that he sensed the world. He believed that he engaged in thinking. He believed that he had a soul which caused his He moving about, his sensing of the world, and his thinking. thinking. He believed that his soul was “something thin and He filmy--like a wind or fire or ether--permeating my more solid parts”. more Meditation #2 “But now that I am supposing there is a supremely But powerful and malicious deceiver who has set out to trick me in every way he can--now what shall I say trick that I am? Can I now claim to have any of the now features that I used to think belong to a body? When I think about them really carefully, I find that they are all open to doubt…. Now, what about the features that I attributed to the soul? Nutrition or movement? Since now I am pretending that I don’t have a body, these are mere fictions. Sense-perception? One needs a body in order to perceive; and besides, when dreaming I have seemed to perceive through the senses many things that I later realized I had not perceived in that way. Thinking? perceived At last I have discovered it--thought! This is the one This thing that can’t be separated from me.” thing Meditation #2 By using the very same kind of reasoning as By he used to arrive at the conclusion that he is certain that he exists, Descartes arrives at the conclusion that the only thing about himself of which he can be certain is that he is a thinking thing--i.e., a thing that thinks. thinking
Well just as a deceiver couldn’t deceive him into Well thinking that he exists when he doesn’t exist, such a deceiver can’t deceive him into thinking he is a thing that can think when he can’t in fact think. thing How so? Meditation #2 What is a thinking thing? “Well, then, what am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A Well, thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wants, refuses, and also imagines and senses.” refuses, What does Descartes mean when he says that his What thinking involves his sensing? Because of the dreaming argument, doesn’t he deny that he (knows that) he senses anything? that) “Lastly, it is the same ‘I’ who senses, or is aware of bodily Lastly, things seemingly through the senses. Because I may be dreaming, I can’t say for sure that I now see the flames, hear the wood crackling, and feel the heat of the fire; but I certainly seem to see, hear, and to be warmed. This cannot seem be false; what is called ‘sensing’ is strictly just this seeming, seeming and when ‘sensing’ is understood in this restricted sense of the word it too is simply thinking.” Meditation #2 So, though he can’t be sure that he So, actually perceives things in the world around him, he can be sure that he seems to perceive things in the world seems around him. around These sensory seemings, like his beliefs, These his doubts, his affirmings, his wantings, etc., for Descartes, are all parts of his thinking. thinking. Meditation #2 After concluding that he can be sure of both the fact After that he exists and that he is a thinking thing, he next turns to the question, how, if indeed he does have any knowledge of the external world, he does have it. any So in the last part of Meditation #2 he asks: if I do have knowledge of the world around me, do I have do that knowledge through my senses? that Important: in this part of the Meditations, he is not yet Important: granting that he does have knowledge of an external world around him; rather he is just inquiring whether, if he does have such knowledge, he has it because of his senses. have In the famous “wax passage” he endeavors to show In that if he does have knowledge/understanding of the world around him he does so not through his senses. not Meditation #2 “Let us consider the things that people ordinarily think they Let understand best of all, namely the bodies that we touch and see…this piece of wax, for example. It has just been take from the honeycomb; it still tastes of honey and has the scent of the flowers from which the honey was gathered; its colour, shape and size are plain to see; it is hard, cold, and can be handled easily; if you rap it with your knuckle it makes a sound. In short, it has everything that seems to be needed for a body to be known perfectly clearly. But as I speak these words I hold the wax near to the fire, and look! The taste and smell vanish, the colour changes, the shape is lost, the size increases; the wax becomes liquid and hot; you can hardly touch it, and it no longer makes a sound when you strike it. But is it the same wax? Of course it is; no one denies this. So what was it about the wax that I understand so clearly? Evidently it was not any of the features that the senses told me of: for all of them--brought to me through taste, smell, sight, touch, or hearing--have now altered, yet it is still the same wax.” altered, Meditation #2 1. The Wax Argument
If I can recognize that things persist even when all If of the properties I perceive them to have with my senses have changed, then my knowledge of things (if I have knowledge of them at all) does not come from my senses. from I can recognize that things persist even when all of can the properties I perceive them to have with my senses have changed. senses Therefore, my knowledge of things (if I have Therefore, knowledge of them at all) does not come from my senses. senses. 1,2 MP 2. 3. Meditation #2 Descartes is a rationalist. Descartes rationalist A rationalist is someone who thinks that our rationalist (fundamental) knowledge of the world does not come from our senses, but from the mental power of reason. from An empiricist is someone who thinks that our An empiricist (fundamental) knowledge of the world does come from our senses and not from the mental power of reason. our The famous early modern rationalists included: Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza The famous early modern empiricists included: Hume, Berkeley, and Locke
The dichotomy between these two philosophical camps can be a bit The overblown for the rationalists did accept that some understanding of the world is gotten via the senses, and the empiricists granted that some knowledge could be acquired via pure reason. knowledge Meditation #2 Recap In Meditation #2 Descartes takes In himself to have established: himself
1. 2. 3. That it is certain that he exists. That it is certain that he is a thing that That thinks. thinks. That, if he has knowledge or That, understanding of the world around him, understanding he has it not in virtue of his senses, but, rather, in virtue of his understanding through his mind alone. through ...
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