An Enquiry on Human Understanding Rene Descartes is considered to be the initiator of metodological skepticism, the principles of which he described in his books, such as Meditations on First Philosophy and Discourse on the Method. The book Meditations on First Philosophy consists of 6 meditations. It begins with Descartescalling into doubt all beliefs in things which are not absolutely certain, and then going on trying to reveal what can be known for sure. The First Meditation titled Concerning Those Things That Can Be Called into Doubt begins with the doubt Descartes expresses towards what his senses may communicate to him. As he remembers that his senses have once deceived him, it is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once.” Then he continues proposing other reasons to doubt that his beliefs are true using the method of skeptical hypotheses. Descartes considers the possibility of him being mad, dreaming or deceived by an evil demon.
If someone is dreaming or misled, then his beliefs are not true. In the First Meditation Descartes main intention is to make readers doubt every belief, including even those about the physical world. He begins with skepticism and gradually leads the reader towards finding a possible solution. In the Second Meditation the philosopher affirms that the human mind is better known than a human body. Responding to the doubts expressed in the Meditation I Descartes proposes 5 thoughts meant to prove the above affirmation: 1. We only have access to the world of our ideas; things in the world are only accessed indirectly. 2.
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These ideas are understood to include all of the contents of the mind, including perceptions, images, memories, concepts, beliefs, intentions, decisions, etc. 3. The ideas represent things that are separate from themselves. 4. These represented things are many times “external” to the mind. 5. It is possible for these ideas to constitute either accurate or false representations.
According to Descartes ones consciousness implies ones existence. I must finally conclude that the statement “I am, I exist” must be true whenever I state it or mentally consider it. Once he determined his existence, Descartes goes on trying to understand what I is. But what then am I? A thinking thing. And what is that? Something that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses, and also sense and has mental images. Thus, the self is determined simply by the fact that one thinks. In the Third Meditation Concerning God, That He Exists Descartes suggests that there are three types of ideas: Innate (ideas that are always within us), Invented (ideas coming from our imagination), and Adventitious (coming from experience of the world).
Proposing these three types of ideas he argues that the idea of God is Innate and can not be Invented or Adventitious. There are two arguments of the existence of God presented in the Third Meditation, both structured as conclusions put in consecutive order and leading to finding the proof that God exists. After he has received the proof that I and God both exist Descartes sets the following problem: if God is perfectly good and the source of all that is, how is there room for error or falsehood? In the Meditation IV he tries to find the answer to it.
As a human being is not perfect and has a limited knowledge, it prevents him from understanding of why God created him so that he could make mistakes. God has the ability to create a chain of things in which humans are only little components. Thus, Descartes arrived to the conclusion that what we consider to be an error looking at the individual may be correct looking at the whole. Finally, Descartes sees the cause of error in incorrect usage of two divine gifts: understanding and will. Understanding, he says, is given to everyone in different amounts, while will can be either given or not given at all. The divine gifts are good and only ones choosing to act out of them is error.
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Meditation V is titled Concerning the Essence of Material Things, and Again Concerning God, That He Exists. In addition to God and self which have been in the center of attention in previous meditations Descartes now introduces outside material objects. But as he wrote in the Meditation I everything must be called into doubt: Before asking whether any such objects exist outside me, I ought to consider the ideas of these objects as they exist in my thoughts and see which are clear and which confused. Descartes considers that all external objects can be divided into two parts: those that are clear and distinct and those that are confused and abscure. Then he realizes that he is just as certain about God as he is about certain mathematical facts. Along the way, Descartes finds another proof of Gods existence.
After the two proofs he found out before, this one lets him leave the previously defined clear and distinctcriteria for truth. With the confirmed existence of God it is certain that everything one thought was true but not a dream. Having made this conclusion, Descartes affirms that without this sure knowledge in the existence of a supreme and perfect being, assurance of any truth is impossible. In the Sixth and the last Meditation Descartes goes on with trying to prove the existence of material things. He assets that such objects can exist by simple reason that God has an ability to make them. Then, basing on the fact that his senses strongly indicate him on the existence of external objects he comes to the conclusion that God must have created him with this nature.
But if it is so, and indipendent material things do not exist, then God is a deceiver. But as God is not a deceiver, it means that material things exist and contain the properties essential to them. Thus, after having created this logical chain Descartes proved that external material things exist. The work Discourse on the Method, too, begins with doubting everything in order to be able to have a fresh vision of the world. Then, talking about how to think correctly Descartes proposes that the core principle is that one must not seek to build on old foundations of knowledge, but should look for new fertile land to build knowledge upon. The Method of Science itself is characterized by four maxims: 1.
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Filter away all that may be in doubt; 2. Divide difficulties to as many small pieces as necessary; 3. Start with the simplest problems, moving step by step towards more complex things; 4. Make lists, tables, diagrams. Using the method of doubt Descarts finds a proof of God and the Soul. Despite the presence of arguable points in them Meditations on First Philosophy and The Discourse on the Method had a great influence on future science and some of Descartes ideas created a solid background for many modern natural sciences..