The Mediations on First Philosophy was published in 1641 and it is a philosophical treatise written by Rene Descartes. There are six meditations and in them the author discards al the belief in tings that have no absolute certainty and then attempts to establish things that can be ascertained. Descartes meditations present a detailed level of Descartes metaphysical system. Skepticism is defined as what we view that we do not and cannot know anything.
Descartes mediations present three basic skeptical arguments and these include: the dreaming argument, the evil demon argument and finally the Descartes rule out; principle of knowledge argument. In his first meditation Descartes presents the dreaming argument where he attempts to undermine his belief by arguing that if he dreaming or deceived then his beliefs must be unreliable and in doing this he attempts to undermine his belief by considering that he has a memory regarding his sense deceiving him before. For instance he argues that he cannot ménage o rule out the possibility that he is asleep in a table-less, bootless room and merely dream that there is a bottle in front of him.
Therefore he fails to rule out such possibility then it means that he does not know if there is a bottle on the table in front of him thus implying that he does know if there is a bottle on the table or not. He goes ahead to elaborate that if his sensory information had succeeded in misleading him in the past then it’s also possible that he may as well be deceived at the moment thus its sensible if he does not completely trust anyone who in the past has deceived him. Descartes suggest powerful reasons why he doubts his belief to be true and in his first mediation he considers if he is dreaming, mad or is being deceived by evil demon.
He argues that he also cannot rue lot the possibility that the evil demon is deceiving him into thinking that there is a bottle on the table, thus considering that he cannot rule out such possibility then its possible that he does not know if the bottle is there or not. He therefore consider all of his beliefs including those of physical world to be doubtful thus decides to suspend judgment while continually reminding himself to avoid the susceptible habit of accepting beliefs that have no support. His final skeptical argument is on principle of knowledge where he argues if one can’t be able to rule out every possibility that one thing is false then, one can not also know if that thing is true.
Descartes skeptics in mediations make him to be a methodological skeptic and serve to show that skepticism about knowledge view that we cannot know and the skeptic about justification show that we cannot have justified beliefs. In general terms Descartes method implies that one can be skeptic about knowledge without having to be skeptic about justification but it’s impossible for one to be skeptic about justification without having to skeptic about knowledge. Descartes methodology of doubt asserts on demolishing everything that is uncertain and the indubitable ones and replaces it with factual information. This method is related to new science in that it allows for making of decision based on facts and not mere speculation thus use skeptical doubts to test the firmness of candidates placed forward for knowledge foundations.
Descartes View on Body and Mind
Descartes sums his views on the unique mind- body relationship in the following words ‘ one body in particular has never been separated from me; I felt all my appetites and emotions in and on account of this body, but not in other bodies external it’. He argues that anybody including our own theoretically exists without any mind and that mind can exist without having to be privy to sensation of the human organism. In this he implies if body is to lose the mind then the body would continue to be affected as usual by external effect like skin contact among others. This he illustrate using animals that animals bodies have similar effects on the body but lack minds but still function properly.
Regarding the body-mind relationship desecrates also believe that considering the arbitraries of their relationship it’s impossible to bring mind-body relationship into the realms of purview science. Therefore sensations are instituted ideas for the mind leading to certain actions by the body that enables the body and the soul to stay together.
Regarding the relation between the body and the mind Descartes present the substance of dualism where he argues that the mind and the body are constituted of distinct substances making them to radically types of stuff. He views the body to be extended and the mind as being un-extended in nature. Following his establishment of his own existence Descartes does an inquiry in to the nature of self and he claims that with certainty he knows that it exist. He makes a conclusion that he is a res cogitans which is an untended entity whose essence is to be conscious.
Descartes the applies the principle of ‘if two things are identical, they necessary identical’ to attempt to explain the relation that exist between mind and body is therefore possible that if two things are seen as identical then it’s not possible to separate from each other and to proof this Descartes argues that these two things can be separated at least by God. First premise on mind is that it’s essentially a thinking thing which one can understand it as being a mere thing as opposed to an extended thing. His second premise is that human body can be regarded as an extended thing rather than as a thinking thing.
Finally, Descartes claims that ‘“all the things that I clearly and distinctly understand can be made by God such as I understand them.” Considering the first and the second premise it is evident that mind can be understood as a thinking thing that has no extension whereas the body can be understood as a thing that has extensions and this foster a clear and distinct understanding that mined exists separate from the body.
Descartes view on the relation between the body and the mind generates several problems which include the following: considering that the body and mind are different entities since they have radically different it’s then a problem arises when one consider Seth’s mental desires which also have causal effects on the body and vice versa. Thus this then means that Descartes argument on the issues crucially depends on premise that the Seth’s believes of being; clear and distinct ideas in the mind are then true. But this has been doubted by many contemporary philosophers and this is attributed to the fact that philosopher like Joseph Agassi has suggested that scientific discoveries made in 20th century undermine the privilege of access to ones own ideas. Also Freud as revealed that one can understand other person’s unconscious motivations even more than can the person on do. Therefore it is logically incorrect to assume that people are always erroneous about their own mental states as well as their judgments regarding the nature of the mind itself.