Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Overview of Rene Descartes Meditation on First Philosophy

Overview of Rene Descartes Meditation on First Philosophy

Rene Descartes was a French philosopher who was highly influential. He was also a writer, mathematician, and scientist. Rene Descartes or Renatus Cartesius was named as the Father of Modern Philosophy.

Descartes more often contrasted his point of view among his predecessors. He always consider his writing unique, a work that nobody has ever written before. However, many of his philosophical elements revealed influences of Augustine and Aristotle which tackles about the 16th century stoicism revisions.

Descartes natural philosophy is different from what is taught in schools on two aspects. First, he rejected the corporeal substance analysis of forms and matters. Second, he rejected any appeal to natural or divine ends which explain natural phenomena. Even in Descartes theology, he insisted on God's absolute freedom regarding creation.

Descartes is commonly regarded as a modern thinker who first provided philosophical frameworks of natural sciences. In his work Meditations on First Philosophy, he attempted to arrive at an original set of ideologies which can be accepted as true by anyone without doubts. He then employed methodological skepticism wherein he doubted any idea that appears to be doubtful just to create a solid foundation for authentic knowledge.

Initially, Rene Descartes had arrived to only one principle that thought exists. It is the main proof of existence because thoughts cannot be entirely separated from a person. In Meditations on First Philosophy, this is called as cogito ergo sum. Therefore, he concluded that he really exists.

He based his conclusions on perceiving his body by using his senses, although in the past studies, these are proven unreliable. So he concludes that the thinking thing in him is the only knowledge which is not doubtful at all. Thus he defined thought as becoming immediately conscious of what is happening in him and he is conscious about it. Thinking is an activity of every person that gets immediate conscious.

He further demonstrated the limitations of his senses through the Wax Argument. Descartes uses wax as an example, his senses has informed him about its specific characteristics including texture, shape, color, smell, and others. When the wax is brought towards the flame, these characteristics completely change. But still, it appears to be the same wax although his senses have already informed him that the characteristics are now different. So, for him to grasp the wax's nature properly, he doesn't use his senses instead he uses his mind. Thus what he thought he had seen with his eyes, he actually grasped it solely with his power of judgment that is in his mind.

In this way, Rene Descartes continues his construction of a knowledge system which discards perceptions as unreliable and admits deductions as a technique. In the middle of Meditation on First Philosophy, he also offered ontological proofs of God's benevolence. He believed that his sensory system and working mind are provided by God. And God never desires in deceiving him. But this became a controversial argument because his benevolent notions about God were also developed from his arguments which are doubting perceptions. In this supposition, he finally established the possibility of obtaining knowledge regarding the world through perception and deduction.

In the system of Descartes, knowledge can take the forms of ideas while philosophical investigation contemplates these ideas.

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