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Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy: Second Meditation

1 Sep

This is the second writing about the meditations on my site, the writing on the first meditation is in the Rene Descartes category to your right (as well as a paper I wrote 2 years ago about all 6 dialogues together). The second meditation by Descartes is about the nature of the human mind. The theme that Descartes drives towards in the whole meditation is that the thing we can be sure to exist is ourself.  Many smaller arguments are mildly taken up by Descartes within the mediation, but all lead up to his justification for the existence of the thinking thing.

Descartes stated towards the beginning of the meditation that ” .. I cannot perceive without the body.” Descartes states this after discussion of the deceiving God, and about the self, mind, and body in general. I choose to take up this statement because it is paramount in discussing the deceiving or nondeceiving characteristic of God (I discuss the deception further in the discussion on the first meditation). This argument does  360 degree turn back into the argument about how God deceives us, and leading up to, I think, I am. Going on to the quote above’s argument, I think that Descartes statement about  perception without a body is somewhat false, and somewhat true. Lets clarify that the body, in all the cosmos, is just a material limitation that we are destined to reside in during our occupation of earth. God (not Descartes’ deceiving god) made the body a temple for us to respect and reside in. Lets also clarify that the soul, or our individual spirit that either becomes a tortured spirit or an angel after death, is a person’s immaterial spirit that is of no substrata, and has all abilities of perception when not limited by God. The material body is a limit that is put on the soul (and as I have said multiple times on this website, we are only here to serve God and pass the test to find salvation amongst all the evil we are presented) because of how God places the soul within this body. To fulfill God’s purpose for us living on this earth for a short time (here to either find God’s salvation or go to hell for eternity after life on earth), He must limit the soul’s perceptions. I am quite sure that the soul without a body is able to perceive things  because of the things angels have done in biblical times and beyond. This understanding of the bodiless soul having all possible perception falsifies Descartes claim that there must be a body to perceive. There is, however, a difference between the perceptions the naked soul has, and perceptions the body limited soul has in the creatum. Contrasting with the bodiless soul, the body limited soul has perceptions because of the sense organs God created for the body. These sense organs are created by God to purposefully distort the images we see. God distorts our sense organs in the body limited soul because we are to go against the ‘seeing is believing’ standard, and put faith in God regardless of what we see. So, without a body we cannot have normal perceptions. I use this term to state what most beings in the cosmos have:  perceptions with sense organs within a body that are distorted purposefully by God to test the soul to find Him.  To correct Descartes, normal perceptions cannot be had without a body, but his original statement is wrong, because perceptions of infinite value can be had only when without a body.

To do that ‘360 degree’ turn with the previous argument into the theme of the second meditation, it is Descartes paramount view that God deceives and tricks him, therefore he thinks that the only thing that can be known to exist is the oneself because I think, and I am. It is my understanding that Descartes is lead to think that he is tricked by God because of the normal perceptions he has. He states that a perception cannot be had without a body because ‘I think therefore I am” would not work without that aforesaid statement. The sense organs are the way God deceives him, and those sense organs are within the body, so by this he justifies the statement stated in the previous paragraph. Descartes uses these justifications to lead to stating only the self can be known to exist, and without these his argument would fall apart (for example with my tearing apart his argument).  Finally, before going on to discussing the main argument of ‘I think therefore I am’, Descartes creates uncertainty of all other things besides the self because of how he believes he is being tricked by God and other things that mislead him. The ruling out of certainty of most things lead him to the oneself.  Wittgenstein and the solipsists did the same thing without the presence of a deceiving God.  Setting aside now all of the things that lead up to Descartes stating the justification for self existence, lets go on to the main argument.

The main theme of the second meditation that I have been talking about all throughout Descartes’ justification for this theme, is when he states that because he thinks, he has evidence enough that he exists, and this goes for all people: “I think, therefore I am.”  It is my opinion, but not what I ultimately want to discuss at this point, that stating that ‘I think’ is a great way to link yourself to sure existence. We are thinking things, and because of how we carry out the somewhat advanced process for anything, we can be sure to exist. If we have no other evidence for our own existence, the process of constant thinking is a great one to rest your case upon. How can there possibly be something that thinks but does not exist?  Just contemplate that opposing question a bit. After my own contemplation on the matter, I cannot come up with an answer. If there is any thought that goes on in any of the cosmos, it is directly linked to some conscious being. There is no way around it. “I think, therefore I am” is a ground breaking statement and is true in all cases. It is however not what we should finally come to when searching for evidence of our own existence. Things rested in God and His processes should come first in our search for evidence for our own existence before finally coming to “I think therefore I am.”

Descartes’ process he came through to get to “I think, therefore I am” is not a good or truthful one, and he postulated a lot of false things before coming to it. Regardless, however, of how false Descartes’ precedences for this statement are, the final proposition is entirely true.

This writing was somewhat disorganized in that I went from one remote part of Descartes argument and finally funneled into the main one, but hopefully it is understandable enough to understand why Descartes’ precedences to the main theme are wrong, and why “I think therefore I am’ is correct.

Thanks for the support.

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Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy: First Meditation

26 Aug

Rene Descartes published a ground breaking set of meditations on his philosophy including 6 meditations that presented great thoughts. My aim is to talk about each meditation and its philosophy in detail. Previously I posted a writing of mine of a synopsis and discussion about all meditations together (which actually was a paper I did almost 2 years ago) and that can be found amongst the Archives and the Rene Descartes category to your right. Here I only want to talk about the first Meditation and what it says about  concerning things that can be doubted.

Descartes begins the meditation by looking back on his previous opinions and states them to have doubt and therefore to be false. A big statement in the beginning of the meditation is when he says that anything that can have some ground for doubt, can be immediately rejected. He looks for complete truth, and stating this is a good start, but goes a little bit to far in my opinion. If I recognize something to have doubt, it would be my opinionated decision to get to the root of those doubts about it, and possibly modify my hypotheses to resolve the doubts. Often the resolution of doubts can lead to ultimate rejection of what is discussed, and in this case Descartes would be right. This rejection of all doubted things is too broad and should be specialized to certain doubts, while excluding other doubts for further discussion and exploration towards a resolution of it. Doubting things is good because it leads to further understanding, and should not be a shortcut to abandonment of the whole hypotheses.

After having said this Descartes discusses the instances of dreams and perceived reality and how we cannot be sure which is which. He clearly states that he previously strictly relied on the senses. But now stating that senses having deceived him before, it cannot be a certain action to rely on something that has deceived us even once. Descartes questions here if he is awake in a certain space and time, because he has some question of his senses because they have deceived him. He goes on to say that a God exists that is all powerful and all knowing, as he states the deception of his senses. The meditation ends by him stating the powerfulness and goodness of God, but with an evil spirit within God. And that God uses the senses and creates illusions to appear to them, simply to deceive him.  He further states that knowing this he can circumvent this deception of God by not accepting any falsities into his beliefs and therefore defeating God’s purpose in deceiving him.

I can understand Descartes’ recognition of the senses deceiving him because our sensory organs are not reliable and can often deceive us simply by mistake. There is not a real purpose behind the mistakes our sensory organs make other than it is something that can often confuse us. Our senses using sight can produce mirages, hallucinations, epistemologically false sense data and others, but it is only a mistake our distorted sensory organs make. My end point is that God does not deceive us, but He distorts our understanding in a lesser form of deception which I get to. This paragraph is not of Descartes’ philosophy by the way, it is of my own. The distortion God put unto our senses is not because he wants to deceive us, and Descartes’ view of God is totally false. However, what Descartes perceived was the distortion we all experience causing us simply to have questions and seek out understanding.

The key to the difference between Descartes’ reality and the real reality is in God’s identity as a deity.  Descartes sees him as powerful, and mostly good, but having evil spirit in him. Saying that a good God has evil spirit in him is a blatant contradiction. In the real world God is sympathetic, loving, caring, generous, and amazing. God also does not deceive anyone, that is Satan’s business.  Our purpose on earth is to worship God, and to find Him amongst the evils. Without the senses we have being distorted, there would be no purpose in life because we would know everything, and God’s purpose for putting us here on this earth would be nullified. So the real God’s distortion of the human’s senses is justified because if this distortion were not existent, our purpose for being here would not exist. But this distortion of our sense is not deception as Descartes understands it. Deception involves tricking a person to lead them down an evil, dead, horrific path that if a person goes down this path, the deceiving would have won, and the deceived would be led to ultimate demise. Satan works in this business, and often leads many down this very path, and they end up in the fires of Hell. God does not do this deception. God’s distortion of our senses and understanding is to lead us towards the narrow path towards  eternal salvation. Descartes fails to recognize that God is entirely good and has all good intentions for his choice to distort our sensory understanding. God does this distortion to our senses because he wants us to eventually seek Him for guidance, where in the event of one doing that, they are rewarded with eternal salvation. For example if one aims to see what is in heaven and hell and at first seeks no help in God, he will be led nowhere in his investigation. God uses this being led nowhere to lead people to His teaching, and to realize (in this specific example) that heaven and hell are to be totally understood when we get to heaven by eternal salvation. Descartes endorses the common misconception of God in that people see God as the fear mongering, angry, acting, and wrath enacting God which is false in all areas. God really is loving, saddened (not angry) at sin, generous, forgiving and great. Descartes misunderstanding of God falsifies his whole argument about doubts and the illusions the sensory data he says it to be.

Based on his false misunderstandings, he states that he can defeat the deceiving God by not admitting any falsities into his philosophy. If he does this he wins against the deceptions. Now, odd as it is, a true statement came out of a false one in that upon his false misunderstandings, he states that no falsities should be admitted into ones own philosophy. This is entirely true in that we should never admit falsities into our philosophy if we can see ever that a certain proposition is false.

It saddens me to see that someone sees God in such a way, but the meditation provoked my thought in the inferences that were somewhat true in their nature. I plan on discussing the next 5 meditations in Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy.

Thanks for the support.

Rene Descartes’: Meditations on First Philosophy

20 May

The constant process of philosophy allowing individuals to give their own unique ideas concerning our origin or the existence of God gave Rene Descartes a large opportunity to give his philosophy to solve these ongoing questions. Plato and other philosophers had ideas concerning the mind and thought processes within it. Descartes presented his own ideas about the mind. ‘I think, therefore I am’ was his philosophy to give proofs of our existence and the existence of God. Most would agree with Descartes’ separation between mind and body along with his other groundbreaking philosophy. Rene Descartes’ “Meditations on First Philosophy” solved problems that many people contemplated upon without the resurgence of more questions.

Questions for the existence of God are created by the occurrence of deception of humans by the Supreme Being. Descartes addresses skepticism as a result of the things that go on in this world and why the Supreme Being does not address or prevent them. He talks about the occurrence of deception of humans by God. Christians would address this issue by saying that the bad spirit is what deceives but Descartes comes up with an explanation almost as good. The skepticism that existed is allowed to freely exist due to the ideas of pain and suffering in the world (pain and suffering that a real Supreme Being would not allow), temptation and deception toward sin and lack of certainty of what is real. Dreams are a great example to show deception and lack of distinction between real and imaginary. Later, Descartes gives justifications for why reality is more distinct than dreams but skepticism is allowed due to people not understanding the difference between real and fake. Descartes’ ideas to explain God are amazing breakthroughs.

Descartes states a few things that create his foundation for the existence of God. He discusses the statement that if a person exists, there must be a cause for his or her existence. He gives five causes for a person’s existence and discredits four of them. The first one discusses the possibility that the person is responsible for his or her existence. Descartes states that this cannot be possible due to the fact that if we created our own selves, we would not add all the temptation, deception and sin that continues to exist. If we create ourselves we would make ourselves to live without pain and suffering. The next explanation states that the person has always existed.  Descartes disproves this argument because each person’s existence today does not reflect upon the person’s previous existence. To just assume that we have always existed is an ignorant excuse for explaining our origin. This explanation probably came from a lazy philosopher who did not care enough to pursue answers like Descartes did. The next explanation for existence is the person’s parents. Most would agree that this explanation probably came from a lazy philosopher that did not care enough to pursue answers. Everyone knows the process of birth and the physical explanation of how a human being gets here. There is something beyond assuming that the physical explanation for existence is the only explanation. Descartes states that this explanation leads to an ‘infinite regress’. If one would search upon the family tree of a person, you would just keep going backward to another parent and you would never get anywhere because of how long humans have existed and that there cannot be a human alone responsible for existence of the whole human race. If they went back long enough they would get to how a Supreme Being created Adam and Eve. The next explanation states that existence from is from a being less perfect than God.  If there is a being less perfect than God, this lesser being came from God leading Descartes to the solution to state that God is the reason for existence. The most amazing quote from Descartes discusses existence itself.

With proving the existence of God to explain the existence of humans, the existence of humans being distinct from imagination must also be addressed.  He proves the existence of humans (opposed to everything being imaginary) by saying “I think, therefore I am”. This idea states that if one can perceive and think about perceptions the being must exist and the being is not entirely imaginary. Mental images are only images created by the brain of external things or ideas. Descartes states that if one can think and create images of external things (not just images confined to the brain being imaginary), the being must exist. Descartes often described himself and humans as being ‘thinking things’. Many might connect Descartes’ ideas to the ideas of Parmenides due to how Parmenides stated that one cannot think upon ‘what is not’. If one is thinking, they are thinking about ‘what is’. Descartes says that if this is possible, the existence in reality is factual. Along with the concept of “I think, therefore I am”, an idea explaining deception and temptation is offered. Descartes splits the mind and senses into three areas. The first being senses (all things real that we take in and contemplate upon), imaginary (all things the mind creates itself without the aid of external ideas, an example being how we sometimes have the weirdest and goofiest dreams we have ever thought up) and the evil demon hypothesis. The evil demon hypothesis can be paired with Christianity’s belief in Lucifer or Satan because of how Satan tempts us into sin and tries to lead us downward. The evil demon hypothesis is stated by Descartes to show that God does not deceive us. The idea that God deceives us fueled skepticism a lot and the evil demon hypothesis allowed the proofs for the existence of God to surface and make breakthroughs in philosophy. This large spectrum of thought most likely benefited the lives of people who longed for answers from philosophers about their lives.

Descartes’ idea that he is a ‘thinking thing’ to prove the existence of God, allowed him to elaborate upon the entire structure of the mind very different from Plato’s structure of the mind. Descartes says that the mind is made up of ideas and ideas in action. This spectrum includes ideas so distinct and graspable to understand that they are reality and ideas that are more blurry and much less real. Ideas themselves are separated into three categories including innate ideas, ideas acquired from the outside and ideas produced by the person. Innate ideas can be described as common sense or common knowledge. Innate ideas are knowledge that every human has without any influence from the outside. If you were in a whole universe without anyone with you, you would have these innate ideas because they are a part of the existent brain. The other two categories describe everything else. Ideas acquired from the outside include every mental image and idea that the person had seen outside of the mind. Having a mental image of a bed is not a bed itself but it is an idea of something that exists. Ideas produced by the person are where the phenomenon of dreams fall into.  Most would think that waking up thinking about a dream concerning thousands of elves attacking you is definitely an idea created by the mind itself. No one has seen real elves and elves certainly would not attack a person. The other part of the mind (ideas in action) includes judgments, volitions and emotions. Descartes’ attempt at dividing pure ideas and judgments, volitions and emotions shows the difference in the nature of these parts of the spectrum. Judgments are only opinions. Judgments usually are without proof of facts. Judgments are separate from ideas because judgments are only feelings or opinions upon certain ideas. Volitions and emotions are also separate from ideas because these two things are also feelings upon them. Judgments, volitions and emotions are ideas in action because these points involve action in the mind concerning ideas. Descartes also presents an idea that can be paired with the innate ideas. Some would believe that elements of a Supreme Being, light of nature and an evil demon are included in innate ideas. Light of nature by Descartes is when the light is shown upon the subject. The light is what can be relied upon (such as dialectic as Plato puts it) is revealed in the concept of the light of nature. Learning by the light of nature is the best way to learn anything but learning by nature itself is not the best option (as dialectic can be compared to the light of nature, science can be compared with nature itself) because nature itself is only a secondary source to the light of nature.  It may be true that ideas acquired from the outside and ideas produced by the person are cluttering the space in the mind where innate ideas should really reside. The problems causing questions may be a result of this.

Descartes creates the argument about res extensa and res cognitans from his proof for the existence of god and human reality. Res cognitans is described as mind. Res extensa is described the body. He argues that God can create things that are distinctive from each other that can be fully understood by humans. Throughout the meditations, Descartes describes himself as a ‘thinking thing’.  Res cognitans is the mind or the soul that is able to process and create thought as described in his other meditations. He says that res cognitans can be created because if two distinct things can be created, res cognitans (thinking thing) can be created separately from an essence. The essence is the res extensa. The material substance is the essence of the res cognitans. The mind most likely is better off with an essence or extension. Res extensa is the extended thing because it is a place for the res cognitans. The proofs for the existence of God are influenced by the separation of res cognitans and res extensa. God usually does not have the res extensa but God has a soul enough to be the creator and the all loving being. At some points, res cognitans is helped by the extension or res extensa but it usually happens that res cognitans exists by itself. When one passes away from this world the res cognitans is transported to another universe while the res extensa is lifeless and little happens to it and it does nothing. The concepts of res extensa and res cognitans clearly wrap up the best so far proof of the existence of God.

After reading Descartes’ meditations, one might wonder how many skeptics contemplated again upon their belief against the existence of God. Obviously, skepticism still exists today because people have valuable and valid points as to why they do not believe in God but many may ask how much skepticism declined. Descartes’ ideas make a lot of sense and Christians might not endorse all of his ideas but they would endorse the foundation of his principles. The quote “I think, therefore I am” would definitely be something that Christians agree with even if they would come up with their own final positions that would most likely not be equal to Descartes’.  Maybe if skeptics today read Descartes’ meditations, they would then have to come up with new defenses as to how God does not exist