.. eliefs are as follows: It is from nature that we distinguish other bodies and their interpretation. We are inclined by nature towards things that benefit us. This is for our own self- preservation. Descartes makes the distinction between mind and body.
He states that the mind is a thinking, unextended thing, while the body is a physical extended thing. The mind is indivisible whereas the body can be divided. It is the minds task to differentiate the part of the body affiliated with a certain sensation. God has endowed us with these natural inclinations to allow us self preservation. Descartes now dispels his dream hypothesis because he realizes that wakefulness is the interaction of both mind and body.
He leaves us with the message that we must acknowledge the infirmity of our nature. It is Descartes hope in Meditation two that he is able to find his first certainty. By use of the Cogito argument Descartes does just that. Having proven his existence he turns his attention toward the essence of his nature. As the title of the second meditation suggests, he proves that are essence is of the mind and thus more known to us than the body.
The Cogito argument as it looks in the Meditations runs like this: Thus, after everything has been most carefully weighed, it must finally be established that this pronouncement I am, I exist is necessarily true every time I utter it or conceive it in my mind. (P.18) Descartes Second Meditation is an attempt to find a truth that he can accept with certainty. In order to accomplish this, Descartes has established that his postulate must be open to strict scrutiny as to expel all doubt to its validity. By the third paragraph of the meditation he has discovered such a certainty, the claim that I think, therefore I exist. What he is trying to say with this statement is that every time he thinks something in his mind, he has proof that he exists.
It is not possible to think without also existing. This proof, known as the Cogito, is Descartes first progression towards his goal of perfect knowledge. For this reason it is important that we examine this proof so that we can have a better understanding of its meaning. To evaluate the Cogito argument, we must first understand it clearly. There are four key statements in meditation two that lead Descartes to the certainty that he exists.
Herewith is a summation of Descartes' argument: 1) Am I so tied to the body and to the senses that I cannot exist without them? 2) But certainly I should exist, if I were to persuade myself of something. 3) Then there is no doubt that I exist, if he (evil demon) deceives me. 4) I am, I exist or in other words I think, therefore I am. These claims respectively suggest, that by denying, persuading, and being deceived; a certain faculty of thought is being used. By thinking, one can be certain that he exists.
Though the argument may seem simple and straightforward, upon closer inspection this is not the case. There seems to be some questions concerning the Cogito's interpretation, the most important being: What is the first certainty that Descartes uncovers? What perspective does he use to rationalize this certainty?, and how does he back it up? By examining the inferential, intuitional and epistemic interpretations, we can discover which interpretation of the Cogito was meant by Descartes in Meditation two. At first it seems obvious that Descartes had meant for the Cogito to be an inferential argument. Of the key propositions in the Meditations all seem to have the commonality of thinking as their first premise. Similarly the second premise and the conclusion seem to follow the same pattern.
The second premise posits the notion: Whatever thinks exists; followed by the conclusion: therefore, I exist. To know something by inference, is to discover something based on previous knowledge. In Descartes case, he has come to know a metaphysical certainty, existence, based on a prior metaphysical certainty, thinking. The soundness of this reasoning is good because know matter what we do it is impossible to deny that we think. It seems simple enough, until we consider that Descartes seems to emphasize that his first absolute certainty is existence.
Using the criteria for inference then, it is impossible that I exist is the first certainty. This is a weak argument for in order for this inference to work; Descartes would have to make revisions to meditation two. However, since he feels so strongly of this first certainty, I am not convinced that Descartes had meant for this interpretation. The interpretation of the Cogito, maintains that it is certain because Descartes has intuited it. Descartes idea of intuition is likened to a flash of insight.
It can be seen to be true, the same way we know that 2+3=5. He simply knows he exists based on a direct understanding. With this interpretation, clearly the proposition I exist is the first certainty. The problem of this argument is that the idea of intuition is too subjective an interpretation to prove that he exists. There is no way to replicate this procedure and obtain the same conclusion as Descartes. The evidence for this interpretation is not strong enough to render it to be the one Descartes intended.
Having established his existence, Descartes finds that his essence is the mind. He places a major importance on the intellect. In further meditations it is the mind, through understanding, that leads us to various conclusions. Near the end of Meditation two, Descartes demonstrates how the ideas of the mind are more attune to finding knowledge than are senses are. The point that he makes here is that only through the mind can we understand the essential qualities of the wax.
Melted a piece of wax exhibits qualities such as extension and mutability. These are concepts that are only clear to the intellect. The main point that Descartes was trying to get across by using this wax experiment is, that if he can understand the wax better with his mind, then it certainly follows that he should know himself better through the same faculty. Descartes presentation of the mind body problem has given me a new topic to explore. Is it the mind that rules the body or the body that rules the mind. Where does one begin, and the other end? By using some of Descartes methods I have attempted to see his arguments, and tried to come to my own conclusions.
The mere fact that Descartes found so many certainties in the Meditations is surprising. The Meditations have taught me to be open minded, and to acknowledge that sometimes we make mistakes. However, if we take caution and use reason carefully we are capable of finding certainty.