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Meditations on First Philosophy

Rene Descartes

Study Questions

Sixth Meditation, Part 3: Primary and secondary qualities

Quiz

In the First Meditation, does the Meditator want to suggest the possibility of a universal dream or the universal possibility of dreaming? In other words, is he suggesting that all life might be one big dream or simply that we could be dreaming at any given moment for all we know?

There is no definite answer to this question, and it is debated among interpreters. Perhaps the interpretation more consistent with Descartes' wider project is the universal possibility of dreaming. We could see this idea, this measure of doubt, as meant to question the Aristotelian reliance on the senses without doing away with knowledge and the world altogether. If he were suggesting the possibility of a universal dream, the Meditator would be sweeping away a great deal more than just Aristotelian epistemology. Also, the Painter's Analogy which follows the Dream Argument seems to rely on the fact that there are things in this world that we can derive images from, which would suggest to us that the Meditator has not yet fully abandoned the notion of a material world.

What stops the doubt of the First Meditation? What kind of reasoning supports the cogito?

This crucial question is infuriatingly difficult to answer. While the classic formulation of "I think, therefore I am" is easy to read as a syllogism, that reading is probably inaccurate. After all, it comes at a time when the Meditator has cast even rational thought into doubt. More likely, the cogito is meant as an intuition rather than an inference. Part of the puzzle lies in the fact that the Meditator calls the cogito a "clear and distinct perception," but then goes on to suggest that we can only be certain of our clear and distinct perceptions once we have established that God exists. If that is the case, then the cogito is not confirmed at all until a bit later in the Meditations.

What does the Wax Argument show? What is it meant to show? Does it succeed?

The Wax Argument is meant to show that the mind is better known than the body. It does so by suggesting that everything "I" know about bodies "I" know through intellectual perception rather than through the senses. Since every act of thought reinforces the cogito that also suggests that "I" am a thinking thing, every act of thought brings me closer to understanding my own mind. We might question how accurate this assessment is, however. Every act of thought may reinforce the cogito, but that doesn't mean it brings me closer to an understanding of my mind every time. It just reinforces the same one piece of knowledge--that I exist. But perhaps Descartes is not thinking of items of knowledge when he says that the mind is better known than the body. Perhaps he simply means that it is known more distinctly, and a constant reinforcement of the mind's existence might help to give the distinct knowledge.

Explain and analyze the Cartesian Circle. Is Descartes guilty of circular reasoning?

Explain the distinction between formal and objective reality. What things have what kind of reality?

Analyze and evaluate the two proofs of God's existence. How are they different? Is one more convincing than the other? Why did Descartes think he needed two proofs? Do they do different work for him?

Explain the relationship between intellect and will, according to Descartes, and how it is possible that we err.

Does Descartes give a satisfactory account of human error, given a perfect and divine creator? Are Descartes' arguments convincing, or does it still seem unnecessary and less than perfect that God created us with flaws?

How do mind and body interact? How does the body affect the mind? And how does the mind affect the body?

Explain the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. How do we perceive them and what kind of knowledge do we have of them?

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Modern Philosophical Clarification

by mj1492, May 01, 2013

"No "proof" of the existence of God is widely accepted today, and the search for such a proof is no longer a hot philosophical topic. While there is still disagreement over whether or not God exists and what God's nature is, it is generally agreed that God's existence cannot be proved through a feat of the intellect."

This is just a false statement. It is true that there is no widely accepted proof of God's existence, but it is not true to say that it's no longer a relevant philosophical topic. It's actually increasingly relevant. Som

1 Comments

11 out of 22 people found this helpful

Meditations

by Angelxzq, September 19, 2013

.

lazy

by johnnywhisper, December 12, 2013

just copied and pasted straight from wikipedia

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