The Meditator

The narrative voice of Meditations on First Philosophy. The Meditator is left gender neutral. The opinions expressed in Meditations are no doubt Descartes' opinions, and it is significant that he writes in meditational form with a distinct and carefully chosen voice. (The style and narrative are imitative of the Jesuit founder Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises.) The voice is not that of Descartes so much as it is the voice of guidance to lead the reader through the six meditations.


Ancient Greek philosopher (484-322 BCE). Aristotle is less a person or character in Meditations on First Philosophy than the progenitor of many of the long-established ideas (which had served as the cornerstone of Western thought for two millennia) that Descartes’ Meditations question and—to a significant degree—refute. Among other things, Descartes breaks down the Aristotelian notion that all knowledge comes through the senses and that mental states must in some way resemble what they are about.

The Scholastics

Those who practiced the dominant school of philosophy in medieval western Europe up until about 1500, but whose ideas still held much sway in Descartes’ time. Indeed, while Descartes’ Meditations in many crucial ways seek to replace the thinking of the Scholastics with more modern approaches, his proofs for the existence of God as well as some other ideas reveal his reliance on some Scholastic models.

Popular pages: Meditations on First Philosophy