He knows that he could not disprove all of his beliefs because that may be impossible, instead he says "But since reason already convinces us that we should withhold assent just as carefully from whatever is not completely certain as from what is clearly false, if I find some reason for doubt in each of my beliefs, that will be enough to reject them all. "
He realises that he could never overturn all of his beliefs because that would take an immeasurable amount of time as he says "To do this it is not necessary to show they are all false - something I may never be able to accomplish! he reasons that all beliefs are built on other beliefs, and there are fundamental beliefs that all others are built on. He uses the analogy of a building, the fundamental beliefs are its foundations and if you remove those all built on them will collapse. Therefore, if he finds reason to doubt these beliefs, all built on them can be doubted. This is a good argument as logically it makes sense, the problems with it are that different people may have different interpretations of the argument and different ideas of what the fundamental beliefs actually are.
Descartes believes the most fundamental of beliefs is that you can trust the senses. He says "Everything that I have accepted as being most true up until now I have acquired from the senses or through the senses. " He also notes however that his senses occasionally deceive him and he thinks that "... it is prudent never to trust those who have deceived us, even if only once. " This is a weak point in the argument because some would argue that you must know when the senses are telling the truth to know when they are deceiving us.
People would also say that although the senses may deceive us we know they are when they do it and so can know what is 'real'. Descartes however, does not strive to disprove the senses, only to show that they can be doubted and many would say that this argument achieves this. Although he has managed to doubt the senses, he states that he would think himself mad if he did not believe he was sitting by his fire in his gown and writing of his doubts.
He says "... perhaps there are many other things about which one surely cannot have doubts, even if they are derived from the senses... and this is the build-up to his next argument. He starts to entertain the idea that maybe he is asleep and having a dream, he reasons that many people have dreams in which they believe they are awake and he has experienced them also, and therefore it is possible that he is in a dream now.
He says "When I think about this more carefully, I see so clearly that I can never distinguish, by reliable signs, being awake from being asleep, that I am confused and this feeling of confusion almost confirms me in believing that I am asleep. He goes on to counter this argument however because the images people see in dreams, even if completely imaginary, are made up of sections of other things. For instance a Chimera is part lion, part goat, part snake and part eagle. He analogises this to a painter, even if he paints a fantasy picture, the images are not completely original. Even if the painter did manage to paint something completely original and never seen before, just the paints he is using and the fact that he is drawing on canvas stay the same.
Therefore even if we do dream of this 'reality', somewhere there must be something from which we get these images, or if these images are completely original, there most be some 'true colours' by which we paint our dreams. This is a very strong argument and it is had to find fault with it, some would give counter arguments such as these however; when we are asleep often we know it, dreams have no continuity and things happen in dreams that could never happen in 'real life'. These arguments are not particularly strong and they can all be put aside.
The first because there are moments when we believe that we are awake when dreaming, the second because if this is a dream then, quite obviously, dreams o have continuity, and the third because if we do not know 'reality' then we have nothing to compare with to state whether any occurrence is strange or not. Descartes says at this point that there are some things that cannot be doubted, these being knowledge derived through reason and logic. Examples of these things are arithmetic, geometry and mathematics.
He says that "For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three added together make five and a quadrilateral figure has no more than four sides. " This is not helpful in Descartes method of doubt as he is accepting these things as true, even without trying to doubt them. However later in this essay I will show how he did find reason to doubt them with his 'evil demon' argument. Descartes next wave of doubt is concerning God.
He says "... there is an ancient belief somehow fixed in my mind that God can do everything and that I was created by him... He wishes to find whether or not that belief is justified and if God does exist. One of his first comments on this is a rather strange one, he says "But how do I know that, although he created absolutely no earth, no sky, no extended things, no shape no magnitude, no place, he still arranged it that all these things would appear to exist... " This means that how do we know God created anything, maybe he just made it seem like he did. The main argument against this is that there seems a complete lack of motive for an all powerful being to do this instead of really creating it.
Descartes goes on to say that it is against the nature of an all powerful, all loving God to let him be mistaken all the time and therefore even once. But he says that "... this last claim cannot be made. " That is because it is self evident that we are sometimes mistaken. His next point of argument is that some people would deny the existence of God and instead believe that we have arrived here by chance and evolution. He says that this would better explain why we are often mistaken because, to use his own words, "... he less powerful the author they assign to my origin, the more likely it is I was made in such a way that I am always mistaken. "
Descartes is forced to concede this point and realises that he cannot prove beyond all doubt that God exists. The above arguments about God are useful in Descartes 'Method of Doubt' because they find reason to doubt another of Descartes most fundamental beliefs, that God exists and this puts him another step forward in his search for certainty. Descartes finds towards the end of the first Meditation that he is still drawn in by his pervious beliefs and he says that "... lmost in spite of me, they seize hold of my judgement... "
He realises that he will never get away from his former beliefs if he thinks they may be doubted but it is still highly likely that they are true, he decides to try and accept that all beliefs that he had previously valued are false and to continue from there, never again letting his old, familiar beliefs deceive him and lead him astray from his true goal. Descartes final wave of doubt in his first Meditation is concerning the existence of an 'evil demon' that channels all his energies into deceiving him.
He thinks that all existence is actually the images fed to him by an evil demon who, for no specified reason, is using all its power to deceive him. Descartes decides therefore that he can accept nothing as indubitable, even if gained through logic and reason, because it could just be falsities given to him by this 'evil demon'. This is one of the weakest arguments in Descartes first Meditation, and it is unlikely that Descartes himself actually believed it, but was using it instead, as a tool in his 'method of doubt'.
His parting comments in the first Meditation, are that it is much easier to accept this reality than it is to doubt it. He says "I am like a prisoner who happens to enjoy an imaginary freedom in his dreams, and who subsequently begins to suspect that he is asleep and, afraid of being awakened, conspires silently with his agreeable illusions. " He is afraid that his doubting will lead to him being awakened, not in light, but in "... inextricable darkness of the problems just discussed. "