Meditations On First Philosophy. René Descartes. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, This file is of the edition of The Philosophical Works of. Meditations on First Philosophy in which are demonstrated the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and body. René Descartes. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, 4th Ed Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy in Focus (Philosophers in Focus).
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Free PDF, epub, site ebook. By Rene Descartes. Meditations on First Philosophy (subtitled In which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are. From the time that I first recognized this fact, I have realized that if I Excerpts from Meditations on First Philosophy, by René Descartes, translated by Laurence . Meditations on a First Philosophy. Rene Descartes. Page 1 of Translated by. John Veitch. Meditation I. Of the Things of Which We May Doubt. Several years.
Similarly, the natural impulses that I have been talking about, though they seem opposed to my will, come from within me; which provides evidence that I can cause things that my will does not cause. Indeed, I think I have often discovered objects to be very unlike my ideas of them.
For example, I find within me two different ideas of the sun: one seems to come from the senses — it is a prime example of an idea that I reckon to have an external source — and it makes the sun appear very small; the other is based on astronomical reasoning, and it shows the sun to be several times larger than the earth.
Obviously these ideas cannot both resemble the external sun; and reason convinces me that the idea that seems to have come most directly from the sun itself in fact does not resemble it at all.
Perhaps, though, there is another way of investigating whether some of the things of which I have ideas really do exist outside me. Considered simply as mental events, my ideas seem to be all on a par: they all appear to come from inside me in the same way. But considered as images representing things other than themselves, it is clear that they differ widely.
Undoubtedly, the ideas that represent substances amount to something more — they contain within themselves more representative reality — than do the ideas that merely represent qualities. Again, the idea that gives me my understanding of a supreme God — eternal, infinite, unchangeable, omniscient, omnipotent and the creator of everything that exists except for himself — certainly has in it more representative reality than the ideas that represent merely finite substances.
Now it is obvious by the natural light that the total cause of something must contain at least as much reality as does the effect. For where could the effect get its reality from if not from the cause? And how could the cause give reality to the effect unless it first had that reality itself?
Thus, for example, although God is obviously not himself hot, he can cause something to be hot because he contains heat not straightforwardly but in a higher form. But it is also true that the idea of heat or of a stone can be caused in me only by something that contains at least as much reality as I conceive to be in the heat or in the stone. An idea need have no intrinsic reality except what it derives from my thought, of which it is a mode.
But any idea that has representative reality must surely come from a cause that contains at least as much intrinsic reality as there is representative reality in the idea. It might be thought that since the reality that I am considering in my ideas is merely representative, it might be possessed by its cause only representatively and not intrinsically. That would mean that the cause is itself an idea, because only ideas have representative reality.
But that would be wrong. The longer and more carefully I examine all these points, the more clearly and distinctly I recognize their truth. But what is my conclusion to be?
If no such idea is to be found in me, I shall have no argument to show that anything exists apart from myself; for, despite a most careful and wide-ranging survey, this is the only argument I have so far been able to find. As regards my ideas of other men, or animals, or angels, I can easily understand that they could be put together from the ideas I have of myself, of bodies and of God, even if the world contained no men besides me, no animals and no angels.
For if I examine them thoroughly, one by one, as I did the idea of the wax yesterday, I realize that the following short list gives everything that I perceive clearly and distinctly in them: size, or extension in length, breadth and depth; shape, which is a function of the boundaries of this extension; position, which is a relation between various items possessing shape; motion, or change in position.
To these may be added substance, duration and number. If they are false — that is, if they represent non-things — then they are in me only because of a deficiency or lack of perfection in my nature, which is to say that they arise from nothing; I know this by the natural light. With regard to the clear and distinct elements in my ideas of bodies, it appears that I could have borrowed some of these from my idea of myself, namely substance, duration, number and anything else of this kind.
For example, I think that a stone is a substance, or is a thing capable of existing independently, and I also think that I am a substance. Again, I perceive that I now exist, and remember that I have existed for some time; moreover, I have various thoughts that I can count; it is in these ways that I acquire the ideas of duration and number that I can then transfer to other things. As for all the other elements that make up the ideas of bodies — extension, shape, position and movement — these are not straightforwardly contained in me, since I am nothing but a thinking thing; but since they are merely modes of a substance, and I am a substance, it seems possible that they are contained in me in some higher form.
That is, I am not myself extended, shaped etc. The more carefully I concentrate on these attributes, the less possible it seems that any of them could have originated from me alone. So this whole discussion implies that God necessarily exists. It is true that my being a substance explains my having the idea of substance; but it does not explain my having the idea of an infinite substance. That must come from some substance that is itself infinite. I am finite.
It might be thought that this is wrong, because my notion of the infinite is arrived at merely by negating the finite, just as my conceptions of rest and darkness are arrived at by negating movement and light. That would be a mistake, however. I clearly understand that there is more reality in an infinite substance than in a finite one, and hence that my perception of the infinite, i.
God, is in some way prior to my perception of the finite, i. Whenever I know that I doubt something or want something, I understand that I lack something and am therefore not wholly perfect.
How could I grasp this unless I had an idea of a perfect being, which enabled me to recognize my own defects by comparison? On the contrary, it is utterly clear and distinct, and contains in itself more representative reality than any other idea; that is, it stands for something that is grander, more powerful, more real, than any other idea stands for; so it is more true — less open to the suspicion of falsehood — than any other idea.
Meditations On First Philosophy Summary
The idea is, moreover, utterly clear and distinct. It is enough that I understand the infinite, and that I judge that all the attributes that I clearly perceive and know to imply some perfection — and perhaps countless others of which I am ignorant — are present in God either straightforwardly or in some higher form. This is enough to make the idea that I have of God the truest and most clear and distinct of all my ideas. Here is a possible objection to that line of thought.
My knowledge is gradually increasing, and I see no obstacle to its going on increasing to infinity.
I might then be able to use this increased and eventually infinite knowledge to acquire all the other perfections of God. But all this is impossible for three reasons. First, though it is true that my knowledge is increasing, and that I have many potentialities that are not yet actual, this is all quite irrelevant to the idea of God, which contains absolutely nothing that is potential.
And, thirdly, strictly speaking potential being is nothing; what it takes to cause the representative being of an idea is actual being.
If one concentrates carefully, all this is quite evident by the natural light. But when I relax my concentration, and my mental vision is blurred by the images of things I perceive by the senses, I lose sight of the reasons why my idea of more perfect being has to come from a being that really is more perfect.
My hope is that the answer to this will yield a new proof of the existence of a perfect being — a proof that it will be easier for me to keep in mind even when I relax my concentration. It would have to come from myself, or from my parents, or from some other beings less perfect than God a being more perfect than God, or even one as perfect, is unthinkable.
If I had derived my existence from myself, I would not now doubt or want or lack anything at all; for I would have given myself all the perfections of which I have any idea. So I would be God. Here is a thought that might seem to undercut that argument. Perhaps I have always existed as I do now.
No, it does not follow.
Anyone who thinks hard about the nature of time will understand that what it takes to bring something into existence is also needed to keep it in existence at each moment of its duration. Thus there is no real distinction between preservation and creation — only a conceptual one — and this is one of the things that the natural light makes evident. So I have to ask myself whether I have the power to bring it about that I, who now exist, will still exist a minute from now.
For since I am nothing but a thinking thing — or anyway that is the only part of me that I am now concerned with — if I had such a power I would undoubtedly be aware of it.
But I experience no such power, and this shows me quite clearly that I depend for my continued existence on some being other than myself. Perhaps this being is not God, though.
Meditations On First Philosophy
Perhaps I was produced by causes less perfect than God, such as my parents. No; for as I have said before, it is quite clear that there must be at least as much reality or perfection in the cause as in the effect.
And therefore, given that I am a thinking thing and have within me some idea of God, the cause of me — whatever it is — must itself be a thinking thing and must have the idea of all the perfections that I attribute to God.
What is the cause of this cause of me? If it is the cause of its own existence, then it is God; for if it has the power of existing through its own strength, then undoubtedly it also has the power of actually possessing all the perfections of which it has an idea — that is, all the perfections that I conceive to be in God. If on the other hand it gets its existence from another cause, then the question arises all over again regarding this further cause: Does it get its existence from itself or from another cause?
Eventually we must reach the ultimate cause, and this will be God. One might think this: Several partial causes contributed to my creation; I received the idea of one of the perfections that I attribute to God from one cause, and the idea of another from another.
Each perfection is to be found somewhere in the universe, but no one thing has them all. Lastly, as regards my parents, even if everything I have ever believed about them is true, it is certainly not they who keep me in existence. Insofar as I am a thinking thing, indeed, they did not even make me; they merely brought about an arrangement of matter that I have always regarded as containing me that is, containing my mind, for that is all I now take myself to be.
Thus, I conclude that the mere fact that I exist and have within me an idea of a most perfect being — that is, God — provides a clear proof that God does indeed exist. It remains for me only to ask how I received this idea from God. The only remaining alternative is that my idea of God is innate in me, just as the idea of myself is innate in me.
It is no surprise that God in creating me should have placed this idea in me, to serve as a mark of the craftsman stamped on his work not that he needed any mark other than the work itself.
But the mere fact that God created me is a good reason for thinking that I am somehow made in his image and likeness, and that I perceive that likeness in the same way that I perceive myself.
This shows clearly that it is not possible for him to be a deceiver, since the natural light makes it clear that all fraud and deception depend on some defect.
But before examining this point more carefully and investigating other truths that may be derived from it, I want to pause here and spend some time contemplating God; to reflect on his attributes and to gaze with wonder and adoration on the beauty of this immense light, so far as the eye of my darkened intellect can bear it.
For just as we believe through faith that the supreme happiness of the next life consists in contemplating the divine majesty, so experience tells us that this same contemplation, though much less perfect, provides the greatest joy we can have in this life.
So now I find it easy to turn my mind away from objects of the senses and the imagination, towards objects of the intellect alone; these are quite separate from matter, whereas the objects of sense and imagination are mostly made of matter. Indeed, none of my ideas of corporeal things is as distinct as my idea of the human mind, considered purely as a thinking thing with no size or shape or other bodily characteristics.
Now, when I consider the fact that I have doubts — which means that I am incomplete and dependent — that leads to my having a clear and distinct idea of a being who is independent and complete, that is, an idea of God. And from the mere fact that I exist and have such an idea, I infer that God exists and that every moment of my existence depends on him.
And now that I can take into account the true God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie hidden, I think I can see a way through to knowledge of other things in the universe. To begin with, I see that it is impossible that God should ever deceive me. Only someone who has something wrong with him will engage in trickery or deception. That someone is able to deceive others may be a sign of his skill or power, but his wanting to deceive them is a sign of his malice or weakness; and those are not to be found in God.
Next, I know from experience that I have a faculty of judgment; and this, like everything else I have, was given to me by God.
That would settle the matter, except for one difficulty: what I have just said seems to imply that I can never be in error. Well, I know by experience that I am greatly given to errors; but when I focus on God to the exclusion of everything else, I find in him no cause of error or falsity.
In looking for the cause of my errors, I am helped by this thought: as well as having a real and positive idea of God a being who is supremely perfect , I also have what you might call a negative idea of nothingness that which is furthest from all perfection. I realize that I am somewhere in between God and nothingness, or between supreme being and non-being. Now, the positive reality that I have been given by the supreme being contains nothing that could lead me astray in my beliefs.
I make mistakes, not surprisingly, because my nature involves nothingness or non-being — that is, because I am not myself the supreme being, and lack countless perfections. There is, therefore, nothing positively error-producing in the faculty of judgment that God gave me.
That is still not quite right. I have lacks of that kind too, mere negations such my lack of the ability to fly, or to multiply two digit prime numbers in my head. Rather, it is a privation, that is, a lack of some knowledge that I should have, which means that I still have a problem about how it relates to God.
When I think hard about God, it seems impossible that he should have given me a faculty that lacks some perfection that it should have. The more skilled the craftsman, the more perfect the thing that he makes; so one would expect something made by the supreme creator to be complete and perfect in every way.
It is clear, furthermore, that God could have made me in such a way that I was never mistaken; and there is no doubt that he always chooses to do what is best.
Does this show that my making mistakes is better than my not doing so? Thinking harder about this, three helpful thoughts come to me.
I may well find other things he has done whose reasons elude me; and that is no reason to doubt his existence. Something that might seem very imperfect if it existed on its own has a function in relation to the rest of the universe, and may be perfect when seen in that light. If that is so, then judgments about what is perfect or imperfect in me should be made on the basis not just of my intrinsic nature but also of my role or function in the universe as a whole.
When I look more closely into these errors of mine, I discover that they have two co-operating causes — my faculty of knowledge and my faculty of choice or freedom of the will. My errors, that is, depend on both a my intellect and b my will. Let us consider these separately. I can give no reason why God ought to have given me more ideas than he did.
I can easily see that my faculty of understanding is finite, to put it mildly; and I immediately conceive of a much greater understanding — indeed, of a supremely great and infinite one; and the fact that I can form such an idea shows me that God actually has such an understanding. Similarly, if I examine memory and imagination and the rest, I discover that in my case these faculties are weak and limited, while in God they are immeasurable.
But these comparisons — having to do with the amount of knowledge that accompanies and helps the will, or with the number of states of affairs to which it is applied — do not concern the will in itself, but rather its relations to other things.
More accurately: the freedom of the will consists in the fact that when the intellect presents us with a candidate for acceptance or denial, or for pursuit or avoidance, we have no sense that we are pushed one way or the other by any external force.
I can be free without being inclined both ways. Indeed, the more strongly I incline in one direction the more free my choice is — if my inclination comes from natural knowledge that is, from my seeing clearly that reasons of truth and goodness point that way or from divine grace that is, from some mental disposition that God has given me.
Freedom is never lessened — indeed it is increased and strengthened — by natural knowledge and divine grace. When no reason inclines me in one direction rather than another, I have a feeling of indifference — that is, of its not mattering which way I go — and that is the poorest kind of freedom.
What it manifests is freedom considered not as a perfection but rather as a lack of knowledge — a kind of negation. If I always saw clearly what was true and good, I should never have to spend time thinking about what to believe or do; and then I would be wholly free although I was never in a state of indifference.
So the power of willing that God has given me, being extremely broad in its scope and also perfect of its kind, is not the cause of my mistakes. Nor is my power of understanding to blame: God gave it to me, so there can be no error in its activities; when I understand something I undoubtedly understand it correctly.
Well, then, where do my mistakes come from? In such cases there is nothing to stop the will from veering this way or that, so it easily turns away from what is true and good.
That is the source of my error and sin. What happened was just this: a great light in the intellect was followed by a great inclination in the will.
I was not in a state of indifference, feeling that I could as well go one way as the other; but this lack of indifference was a measure of how spontaneous and free my belief was.
It would have indicated unfreedom only if it had come from the compulsion of something external, rather than coming from within myself. I take it that my intellect has not yet found any convincing reason for either answer; so I am indifferent with regard to this question — nothing pushes or pulls me towards one answer or the other, or indeed towards giving any answer.
With a confirmed existence of God, all doubt that what one previously thought was real and not a dream can be removed. Having made this realization, Descartes asserts that without this sure knowledge in the existence of a supreme and perfect being, assurance of any truth is impossible. Thus I plainly see that the certainty and truth of all my knowledge derives from one thing: my thought of the true God. Before I knew Him, I couldn't know anything else perfectly. But now I can plainly and certainly know innumerable things, not only about God and other mental beings, but also about the nature of physical objects, insofar as it is the subject-matter of pure mathematics.
First, he asserts that such objects can exist simply because God is able to make them. Therefore, our assumption of the physical world outside of ourselves in non theoretical sense.
Insofar as they are the subject of pure mathematics, I now know at least that they can exist, because I grasp them clearly and distinctly. For God can undoubtedly make whatever I can grasp in this way, and I never judge that something is impossible for Him to make unless there would be a contradiction in my grasping the thing distinctly.
Knowing that the existence of such objects is possible, Descartes then turns to the prevalence of mental images as proof. To do this, he draws a distinction between imagination and understanding—imagination being a non-linguistic "faculty of knowledge to the body which is immediately present to it [ He uses an example of this to clarify: When I have a mental image of a triangle, for example, I don't just understand that it is a figure bounded by three lines; I also "look at" the lines as though they were present to my mind's eye.
And this is what I call having a mental image. When I want to think of a chiliagon , I understand that it is a figure with a thousand sides as well as I understand that a triangle is a figure with three, but I can't imagine its sides or "look" at them as though they were present Thus I observe that a special effort of mind is necessary to the act of imagination, which is not required to conceiving or understanding ad intelligendum ; and this special exertion of mind clearly shows the difference between imagination and pure intellection imaginatio et intellectio pura.
At this point, he has only shown that their existence could conveniently explain this mental process. To obtain this proof, he first reviews his premises for the Meditations — that the senses cannot be trusted and what he is taught "by nature" does not have much credence. However, he views these arguments within a new context; after writing Meditation I, he has proved the existence of himself and of a perfect God.
Thus, Descartes jumps quickly to proofs of the division between the body and mind and that material things exist: Proof for the body being distinct from the mind It is possible for God to create anything I can clearly and distinctly perceive. If God creates something to be independent of another, they are distinct from each other.
I clearly and distinctly understand my existence as a thinking thing which does not require the existence of a body. So God can create a thinking thing independently of a body. I clearly and distinctly understand my body as an extended thing which does not require a mind. So God can create a body independently of a mind.
So my mind is a reality distinct from my body. So I a thinking thing can exist without a body. Proof of the reality of external material things I have a "strong inclination" to believe in the reality of external material things due to my senses. God must have created me with this nature. If independent material things do not exist, God is a deceiver.
But God is not a deceiver. So material things exist and contain the properties essential to them. After using these two arguments to dispel solipsism and skepticism , Descartes seems to have succeeded in defining reality as being in three parts: God infinite , minds, and material things both finite. He closes by addressing natural phenomena that might appear to challenge his philosophy, such as phantom limbs , dreams, and dropsy.
Objections and replies[ edit ] Descartes submitted his manuscript to many philosophers, theologians and a logician before publishing the Meditations.
Their objections and his replies many of which are quite extensive were included in the first publication of the Meditations. In the Preface to the Meditations, Descartes asks the reader "not to pass judgment on the Meditations until they have been kind enough to read through all these objections and my replies to them. The seven objectors were, in order of the sets as they were published : The Dutch theologian Johannes Caterus Johan de Kater — first set of objections.
Various "theologians and philosophers" gathered by Descartes' friend and principal correspondent, Friar Marin Mersenne — second set of objections The theologian and logician Antoine Arnauld — fourth set The philosopher Pierre Gassendi — fifth set Descartes wrote that all of these could be easily dismissed.
Other objections are more powerful, and in some cases it is controversial whether Descartes responds to them successfully refer to Hobbes' objections. Archimedes, that he might transport the entire globe from the place it occupied to another, demanded only a point that was firm and immovable; so, also I shall be entitled to entertain the highest expectations, if I am fortunate enough to discover only one thing that is certain and indubitable.
Descartes There is, Descartes claims, one thing that can be known with complete certainty, and from which further knowledge can be derived.
Descartes argues that, on the assumption that there were a deceiver who managed to deceive me into believing a great many things, such a deceiver could not deceive me as to my existence: Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something. Specifically, Descartes appears to take what is essential to the subject to include all and only its conscious thoughts.
He points out that it seems quite natural to think of ourselves as having thoughts of which we are not conscious: The author lays it down as certain that there can be nothing in him, in so far as he is a thinking thing, of which he is not aware, but it seems to me that this is false.
But all of us can surely see that there may be many things in our mind of which the mind is not aware.The Science of Right Immanuel Kant. Perhaps this being is not God, though. All that I have, up to this moment, accepted as possessed of the highest truth and certainty, I received either from or through the senses.
At last I have discovered it — thought! A thing that thinks. Indeed, I believed this for so long that I wrongly came to think that I perceived it clearly. My hope is that the answer to this will yield a new proof of the existence of a perfect being — a proof that it will be easier for me to keep in mind even when I relax my concentration.
I may well find other things he has done whose reasons elude me; and that is no reason to doubt his existence. But the mere fact that God created me is a good reason for thinking that I am somehow made in his image and likeness, and that I perceive that likeness in the same way that I perceive myself.
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