10 - Rene Descartes: Meditation II and III I. Meditation...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–2. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Rene Descartes: Meditation II and III I. Meditation II: The Cogito and Certainty In Meditation II Descartes proposes a truth that cannot be undermined by the skeptical arguments of the previous meditation. The certain truth is: "I am, I exist." Or more completely (as stated in the Discourse on Method), I think, therefore I am. Descartes recognizes that with respect to any belief that p, either he is deceived in believing p or he is not deceived. But in either case, he must exist. So the one truth that is certain is that I exist . Even if there is an all-powerful demon who controls me and implants false beliefs in my mind, he can never deceive me with respect to my own existence. My existence is a precondition for my being deceived. But Descartes asks, " what I am?" This is crucial. For it might be possible to doubt one's own existence if one conceived of oneself in terms or under categories that could be doubted. For instance, if one thought of oneself as a human person with a particular physical structure and biological processes. One could be mistaken about all of this. The evil demon could make you believe that you are a male person with two arms and legs, etc, even though this is false. Hence, Descartes rejects the Aristotelian definition of the self as a rational animal just because it raises further questions the answers to which can be doubted. Only a conception of self as thought can circumvent being subject to doubt. Only if one conceives of oneself as thought does it follow that one's own existence is indubitable or certain, for one cannot doubt that one is a thinking thing since doubt itself presupposes thought. So the one certain truth is that I exist, I exist as a thinking thing. Certainty about All Introspective Beliefs Other way of seeing how it is that we can be certain of our own existence is the mind is transparent to itself in a way that the (external) world is not transparent to the mind. Detached from matters of the external world, the mind can find certainty with respect to itself. Hence, we can be certain, not just that we exist as a thinking thing, but of every truth about our own mind. More specifically, we can be certain of all our immediate states of consciousness. It seems to me that there is a car in the driveway. I feel tired. I am sad. These are all examples of truths that cannot be doubted for the same reason that one cannot doubt whether one thinks or exists as a thinking thing. Although one may be mistaken about whether there is a car in one's driveway, one can't be mistaken about it seeming to one that this is so. Compare the two different propositions: [A] It seems to me that there is a car in the driveway => truth about one's own mind [B] There is a car in the driveway => truth about something external to one's own mind. Descartes thinks that we can be certain of [A], though [B] can be doubted.
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

This note was uploaded on 11/04/2011 for the course PHIL 101 taught by Professor Delevati during the Fall '08 term at S.F. State.

Page1 / 4

10 - Rene Descartes: Meditation II and III I. Meditation...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 2. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online