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Descartes and the Material World

Uploaded by ar14 on Oct 29, 2001

Can you doubt that the material world exists? If you can't, does it follow that Descartes' method of doubt is useless?


It is very difficult to know for certain if the material world exists or not because we are dealing with metaphysical philosophy. Metaphysical philosophy is the branch of philosophy concerned with the basic nature of reality. Its aim is to give a systematic account of the world and the principles that govern it Rene Descartes, a French philosopher during the 17th century came up with many arguments concerning existence. Descartes is called a dualist because he claimed that the world consists of two basic substances, matter and spirit. Matter is the physical universe, of which our bodies are a part. The human mind, or spirit, interacts with the body but can, in theory, exist without it, Descartes argued. Descartes wrote pieces of writing known as ‘The Six Meditations.’ During these meditations he attempted to rule out anything that can be doubtful. “So, for the purpose of rejecting all my opinions, it will be enough if I find each of them at least some reason for doubt,” he commented. The results of these meditations will be discussed in detail. Although Descartes is very influential to modern philosophy, it came with a price. Many philosophers attacked Descartes’ arguments critically. One example where Descartes’ arguments have been attacked is in the book by John Cottingham. These arguments will be discussed further in this essay.

In Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes first considered the strongest reasons that might be used to show that he could never be certain of anything. He clarifies that everything that humans accept as true have been acquired from the senses or through the senses. Although our senses are our most “trustworthy friend,” they tend to deceive us from time to time. “It is prudent never to trust completely those who have deceived us even once ,” Descartes argues. In mentally sane beings, the best example where our senses may have deceived us is in our dreams. When we dream, we rarely know we are actually dreaming. So in turn, while dreaming, we are perceived with a “false” reality. These arguments included the idea that perhaps we might be dreaming, so that nothing we seem to perceive is real. There are though universal laws in which even if our physical existence is doubted still exist. For example, Mathematics and Geometry...

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Uploaded by:   ar14

Date:   10/29/2001

Category:   Miscellaneous

Length:   5 pages (1,062 words)

Views:   2080

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