Homework #10: Meditations of First Philosophy by René Descartes (pp. 193)
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1. What sort of opinions does Descartes reject as false? What sort does he accept as true?
When there is even a small amount of doubt, the opinion should be rejected entirely. Moreover, when something is based on the perception of senses, its existence should also be questioned. Thus, Descartes rejects the ideas based on the senses. In fact, he doubts everything in the physical world that is not proved rationally. Still, he accepts that simple forms are rational because they are true in their forms. They carry their certain characteristics both in reality and fantasy. As a result, the opinions might be considered as true when they could be supported with rationality.
2. Does Descartes believe that our senses are to be trusted?
Descartes thinks that the perception of the objects comes through our mind, not senses. According to his arguments, we should not trust our senses because they bring artificial images of external. Obviously, they are not reliable and cannot be trusted.
3. Can Descartes be sure that he is not dreaming?
Unfortunately, he cannot say for sure whether he is not dreaming. He mentions that sometimes he knows that he is sleeping because the feelings are not so distinct as in the reality. However, he also says that the dreams might be extremely vivid. He has to admit that it is impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy because there are no signs to prove anything. For this reason, while writing his Meditations of First Philosophy, Descartes supposes that it might be an illusion.
4. Can Descartes be sure that he is not deceived by an evil genius?
No, he cannot. Descartes thinks that all the objects he sees in reality might belong to the fantasy in order to deceive him. He believes that ‘some malignant demon’ deprives him of opportunity to find the truth and prove that his knowledge is real. He does not believe that God could do this for him. For this reason, he prefers to think that it is an evil genius who makes him doubt everything in the physical world.
5. What is the first truth of which Descartes is certain?
Descartes is certain that if he is able to be deceived, it means that he is able to exist despite his uncertainty about the existence of his own body. Later, he comes to an idea that he only exists when he thinks. The thinking process consists of doubting, understanding, denial, perception, and other actions. This notion received a special quotation, “cogito ergo sum” which proves that “I think, therefore I am.”
6. What is Descartes’ general rule for identifying the truth?
The truth should not be limited with our mind.