Descartes Meditation

A masterpiece created in 1641 by philosopher and scholar Rene Descartes, Descartes Meditation is a philosophical piece or treatise which expounds Descartes’ opinions and thoughts on meta-physical system and philosophy.

Owing to its popularity and in-depth philosophical analysis, Descartes Meditation, written in Latin originally, was translated into French in 1647 and consequently, into English. Composed of six parts otherwise called ‘meditations’, Descartes Meditation describes in detail the philosophical thoughts and principles of Rene Descartes.

In the first piece of Descartes Meditation, Descartes attempts to reanalyse the beliefs he has held since his childhood in order to establish truth in science. He forms a sceptical belief or hypotheses about everything in the physical world and decides to suspend his theory or judgement on his previously held beliefs.

In the second part of Descartes Meditation, which expounds Descartes theory on the ‘nature of human mind’, Descartes questions his identity, the eternal ‘I’, and introduces a theory of representationalism, and lays down the thought that ‘one’s consciousness implies one’s existence’.

Descartes, in his third part of Descartes Meditation, discusses that there are three main categories of thoughts such as

  • volitions
  • affections and
  • judgements

and propounds that there are two main cause and effect relationships within classes of thought. He states that the two cause and effect relationship within such classes of thought include:

  • whether our thoughts do not deceive us or
  • whether we are deceived by our thoughts

Furthermore, Descartes, after analysis of such aforementioned classes of thought, also establishes the existence of ‘I’ and God.

In the fourth part of Descartes Meditation, which is also known as the meditation ‘on truth and falsity’, Descartes raises the question that if God who is perfect is the source of all on earth, then why is there falsehood or wrong doings in this world. Analysing his theories, Descartes realises that although God is perfect and has given him a special ability to judge, still his power of judgement, especially of the truth, is not infinite.

Descartes also holds that he errs and is limited in judging the truth because he has limited knowledge which prevents him from understanding why God has created him in a way in which he makes mistakes. He further opines that his inability to understand the way of his creation and understanding of truth stems from a gap between understanding and will.

In the fifth part of Descartes Meditation, Descartes proposes that his knowledge about truth and everything else comes from God.

In the sixth part of Descartes Meditation, Descartes holds that there are other objects and materials which exist outside our ‘self’ and recognises the distinction between mind and body. He concludes by establishing the identity and existence of three things: self, God, and other material objects. According to Descartes, these three things make up what we call ‘reality’.

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