Raef Meditations is to suspend judgement about



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            Descartes goal in Meditations is to suspend judgement
about any belief that is even slightly doubtful. This includes everything that
he believes about the physical world as well as himself. He wants to build his
knowledge on more certain grounds. The Meditator recounts the number of falsehoods
that he believed over the course of his life. He wants to sweep away the
faultiness of the body of knowledge that he has built up from these falsehoods.
Instead of thinking that he can find any shred of doubt in all his opinions,
the Meditator turns to doubt the foundations and basic principles on which the
opinions are founded. He begins by saying that the bulk of his knowledge was
gained from or through his senses. This leads the Meditator to acknowledging
that the senses can be deceived but only with objects that are tiny or far
away. The Meditator also acknowledges that insane people might be more deceived
by their senses than most, however, he puts his worries to rest by saying he is
not insane. Another problem arises when the Meditator feels that his dreams are
real. He feels certain that he is awake and sitting by the fire, but remembers
that he has often dreamed this very sort of thing and been wholly convinced by
it. He then says that dreams and their contents are drawn from waking experience.
He explains further by saying that painters who paint new objects, such as
mermaids are still pulling from real, composite things: a fish and a woman. Thus,
the Meditator concludes that while he can doubt composite things, he cannot
doubt the simple and universal parts they are constructed from such as shape,
quantity, and size. While he can doubt studies based on composite things, like
medicine, astronomy, or physics, he concludes that he cannot doubt studies
based on simple things, like arithmetic or geometry.


The Meditator realizes that even simple, basic things
can have the shadow of doubt cast on it. An all-powerful God could possibly
make the conception of mathematics false. It could be said that God would not
deceive him; that God is supremely good. If the Meditator supposes there is no
God, then there is even greater chance that he is being tricked because his
imperfect senses would not have been created by a perfect being. He supposes
that instead of God, but some evil demon has made it their duty to deceive him
so that everything he thinks he knows is false. By doubting everything, he can
at least be sure not to be misled into the lies told by this evil entity.

Descartes cannot doubt his own existence for the very
reason that to doubt or to think, there must be someone doing the doubting or
thinking. In this case, he is the one thinking about the doubts there are in
the physical world. While he may be deceived about other things, he is forced
to establish the fact that he exists. Since his existence is a result of the
fact that he is thinking, Descartes concludes that he knows at least that he is
a thing that thinks. He further comes to an agreement that he comes to know
this fact by means of his intellect. Since it was said that wax was determined
to be what it was through the intellect, then the same must be of people. The
self, is not determined by what people sense of themselves such as the body
parts: the hands, feet, and nose, but by simply the things one thinks. Thus, Descartes
says that one cannot grasp anything as easily or plainly as their own mind
showing proof that he exists.

Descartes provides an argument of the mind’s intellect
and distinction from the body by using a block of wax. He realizes that wax
isn’t wax because of its color, texture, shape, or smell because these things
can change, and yet the substance will still be wax. Rather, he understands
that wax is perceived by the intellect alone. Descartes can change the waxes
shape and structure and physical appearance in his imagination, so it would
appear to be more likely that his imagination is the cause of recognizing the
wax as wax. However, he believes that it is more accurate to say that the wax
is acknowledged as wax with his mind alone; his mind judges the wax to be what
it is. It becomes apparent here that the senses of the body are not nearly as
crucial to the understanding of something as the intellect is. This is because
the senses are how the body gain knowledge. So, when the concept of
mathematical principles of the substance is understood, such as the waxes
expansion under heat, figure and motion, the knowledge of the wax can be clear
and distinct.

Descartes wants to prove that God exists, so he can be
sure that his clear and distinct are not misplaced. His solution to this
problem is brought about by including God in his thoughts. By showing that God
is the cause of his clear and distinct perception, and that, further, God is
perfect in every way, he will be able to secure lasting certainty for clear and
distinct perceptions. Therefore, he is determined to prove that God exists.

Descartes proposes that there are three types of
ideas: innate, fictitious, and adventitious. Innate ideas come from within us,
it has always been and always will be that way. Fictitious ideas are inventive
ideas and comes from the imagination; adventitious ideas come from the
experiences of the world. He argues that the idea of God is an innate idea and
was placed there by Him. This way of thinking rejects the possibility that the
idea of God is fictitious or adventitious. Descartes begins by saying how
nothing comes from nothing. It is not possible to create something when there
is nothing to create it from. He continues by saying that what is more real
cannot come from something that is less real. In other words, if a line were
created to be five inches long and another line was ten inches long, the line
that is ten inches could not come from the five-inch-long line because the
other five inches are not accounted for. Thirdly, Descartes states that he, as
a substance, is as real as his finite ideas of substances and accidents and no
substance or accident has more reality than the mind. He is who he is because
he thinks. This is basically saying that he is real because he is a being that
can think and a being that can think is a being that exists. One’s
consciousness implies one’s existence. He then elaborates further by saying
that he can be the cause of his ideas of substances and accidents. This means
that he can create these finite ideas of substances and accidents because he is
a finite being. Afterwards, he says that his idea of God has infinite
“objective” reality and how he cannot be the cause of that, only God, an
infinitely perfect being, can be capable of creating the idea of himself and
putting into the minds of finite people. Thus, God must exist. Overall, the
main points are that people are finite beings and can think of finite things.
However, the idea that God is infinitely perfect cannot have come from a finite
mind because it was proven that something more real cannot come from what is
less real. The idea of infinite could not be conjured up by a finite mind.
Therefore, someone must have put it there: in this case, God.

            Descartes goes further and proves
that God is benevolent and not a deceiver. By stating that God is an infinitely
perfect being, it can be said that perfect in every way means perfectly good.
Thus, the agreement is formed that God is benevolent and would not deceive
Descartes or not permit him to err without giving him a way to correct the
errors he made. 


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