An Analysis of Descartes’ First Meditation

1466 words 6 pages
Brian Snelgrove
Introduction to Philosophy (Phil 100)
Prof. Michael Rosenthal
November 13th, 2012

An Analysis of Descartes’ First Meditation In Descartes’ First Meditation, Descartes’ overall intention is to present the idea that our perceptions and sensations are flawed and should not be trusted entirely. His purpose is to create the greatest possible doubt of our senses. To convey this thought, Descartes has three main arguments in the First Meditation: The dream argument, the deceiving God argument, and the evil demon “or evil genius”. Descartes’ dream argument argues that there is no definite transition from a dream to reality, and since dreams are so close to reality, one can never really determine whether they are dreaming
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Everything else is subject to doubt. Although the deceiving God argument is fairly sound, Descartes finds there is one crucial flaw. If God is flawless and a symbol for the utmost good, then some would say that humans would never be deceived, but this is obviously not true. A perfect God would not deceive people, for that is bad. This is why Descartes concludes with the evil genius argument. Descartes proposes that rather than God deceiving us, it is a separate entity (an evil genius) that wishes to falsify our perceptions and senses. By creating this new party, Descartes makes his argument consistent. The prior arguments Descartes presents would not be sufficient without this last argument. God does not intend to take advantage of people, but this equally omnipotent deceiver does. Consequently, Descartes devices a method to overcome this tricky devil. Towards the end of the First Meditation, Descartes realizes what he must do. He realizes that one must “raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations... to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences”, an understandable technique to use to have an unbiased mind. What he means by this is to throw out composite ideas (ideas that are constructed from prior ideas) and to start from the basic and innate ideas (such as colors, shapes, mathematics, and quantities). He realizes that some things in


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