Free Reflection on Descartes’ Meditations Essay Sample
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1. How does Descartes portray his own search for truth? Does he see himself as dependent on the knowledge he has acquired through his education and schooling? What has he learned from the world? Is there anything about which he can be certain?
Descartes’ searches start from the point when he realizes that he is deceived by the outer world and by his own knowledge. Such experience leads him to a new way of searching the truth; not trusting the common knowledge and his senses. Thus Descartes finds his truth with the help of skeptical doubts. However, he is sure that, people can doubt composite things, but simple one are doubtless for they are universal parts, from which everything is constructed. Due to such thoughts Descartes brings us to a very important conclusion, truth has to be simple, especially if we mean the truth in universal understanding.
2. The cogito ergo sum is Descartes most celebrated contribution to the history of ideas. How does he explain how he arrived at the assurance of his own existence in? What kind of self is he left with? Why, according to him, could you doubt you had a body, and doubt that there was an external world, but you could not doubt the existence of a conscious self? In your view, can the soul be distinct from the body?
Cogito ergo sum means, “I think, therefore I am”. Descartes arrives at this assurance because he realizes that he has been deceived. His thoughts deceived him. And if he is the one deceived, it means that he exists. If there are thoughts, there is certainly someone, who produces them. And Descartes perceives himself as the one, who produces his own thoughts. But how can we be sure in fact that the thoughts we think are ours and are produced by us, and are not just put in our heads by someone else? However, no matter what the thoughts are, we are conscious of them. Thus, may be what Descartes tried to say is “I am conscious of my thoughts, therefore I am”. As Descartes points out, we can’t be sure of the fact that we have a body or something else, we only have ourselves, and our consciousness. Consequently it is the only real thing in the universe. I believe that body makes no more than a perfect container for the spirit. Even though material and spiritual (mental) world are entwined, Descartes came very close to the fact that one of them is primary. And primary is the one, which does not cause doubts, the real one, and the true one, the one, which our soul and consciousness belong to, the spiritual world.
3. Consider Descartes’ address to a piece of wax (Med.2). What is his example intended to demonstrate? Why do I ‘know’ through mental contemplation but not through the senses of the imagination? How do I know that there are men in the street and not dressed-up mechanical dolls?
As Descartes shows us, piece of wax may change his material form, but its essence stays the same. However, as we perceive the changes in its appearance, our mind might assume that it is a completely different object. Consequently, if our mind trusts only senses, it can be easily deceived; therefore there is something else in us we have to listen to in order to be more aware of the true essence of things in the surrounding world. According to Descartes, we unfortunately can not be sure of the fact that people, walking around us are not dressed-up mechanical dolls. We can, however, be sure that we are not.
4. Look closely at Descartes’ accounts of dreaming. Is there any way to distinguish between dreams and waking thoughts, and between dreams and hallucinations or delusions? What, in your view, is the point of reference to dreaming?
Descartes ascertains that he usually is convinced that he is sensing, smelling, seeing, tasting and touching real things and objects when he is dreaming. Sometimes, he is sure that he is not dreaming and is sitting and watching at the fire. Descartes states that usually he was dreaming about something but still was confident that it was real. According to Descartes’ statement and experience, it is almost impossible to distinguish between dreams and waking thoughts, hallucinations and delusions. In my view, the point of reference to dreaming is to make parallel with life. How do we know that life is not a hallucination? Amongst all this variety of dreams, and penetrations the only thing, which remains stable and doubtless is the soul.