Descartes Argument for External Worlds

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By rtmoore
Words 1132
Pages 5
In Rene Descartes Meditation on First Philosophy, Descartes has cast a net of doubt on everything that he knows using three main arguments. In order to know something to be certain and true, he must get rid of the skeptical hypotheses to find truths that one simply cannot doubt. In order to fully overcome these doubts that he casts in Meditation I, he must analyze and show that he could be certain of the existence of the material world, despite the dreaming and demon arguments, which can be seen in the Sixth Meditation. He methodically gets to this by first considering the possible causes of material objects followed by the nature of these material objects and which attributes they possess.
In Meditation VI Descartes considers the relationship between the cause of an idea and the idea itself in terms of the “formal” or ‘eminent’ reality in the cause and the ‘objective’ reality in the idea. Formal reality is the kind of reality something has by virtue of the kind of thing it is, while the objective reality is possessed only by representations, that is, by things that stand for other things. In essence a thing has objective reality, for Descartes, if it is a representation of something. For example, a bird is objectively real, and to say that the bird, as the cause of my idea, has formal reality is to say that it has the represented properties that my idea has in actual fact. In other words, the bird actually has wings, whereas the idea only has represented wings. We can distinguish between the idea, considered as the carrier of the representational content, and also the idea considered as the content itself – much in the same way that when we consider a painting we can think of it as canvas and paint, and also as a painting of something (say, a bird). Descartes’ job is to show that the formal reality is the true source of the objective reality of the idea; to do…...

Similar Documents

Descartes - Meditation on First Philosophy

...How Descartes Use Methodological Skepticism to Articulate a Foundationalist Conception of Knowledge Descartes is the first modern philosopher who rejects Aristotelianism and starts foundationalism, which is of great controversy but extreme importance in modern philosophy. In Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes utilizes methodological skepticism to present the foundationalist conception of knowledge, in which a belief can only be considered knowledge when it is based on basic principles, or principles that are justified without appealing to any external ideas or facts. Under the methodological skepticism, a person can test a belief by asking the question “Could it be false?” If the answer is “Yes,” the belief is not necessarily true and is not considered knowledge. This is the perfect tool for presenting a foundationalist conception of knowledge, unless there is an omnipotent being who can deceive people to think wrongly about these basic principles. Therefore, the existence of an omnipotent God and proof that God is not a deceiver is then presented in order to reject all doubts about the foundationalist conception of knowledge. A foundationalist conception of knowledge is a conception of academic discipline: one can only trust real knowledge that is based on basic principles. If a principle is wrong sometimes or is possibly wrong, it is not basic. If the principle is self-evident, showing its own truth, or is justified without appealing to any external ideas or......

Words: 1257 - Pages: 6

Descartes: Evil Demon

...Karthik Keni Phil 21 Greg Antill Part A: 1. The Evil Demon Argument In Descartes’ First Meditation, he completely shatters the foundations of his previous beliefs and then uses the evil demon argument as a platform in which he can explain the source of his beliefs. Descartes proposes the evil demon argument because he wants to instill doubt not only in himself, but also in his audience that God may not be the only “Supreme Being”. He believes God to be a good being that wouldn’t deceive us and lead our thoughts astray. The evil demon argument has the purpose of casting doubt on his belief that God is the only being who has the capability of implementing thoughts into his mind, creating doubt of the existence of an external world, and aiding his pursuit of a strong and certain foundation for all his knowledge and beliefs. In this argument, Descartes doesn’t refute the reality of a God, however I believe he presents the argument as if they both exist and that if he is being deceived it could not be from God, the good being, but the evil genius providing him with false sensory material. The primary claim of this skeptical argument is to doubt the reality of an external world that has the possibility of being created by an evil demon. Deceit could be defined in such a way that our minds are being controlled by an evil demon and that our senses of an external world are mistaken. Depicting the evil demon argument of Descartes in a science fiction way like “The Matrix,” made......

Words: 1511 - Pages: 7

Descartes Conceivability Argument

...and Possibility Without God: On Descartes Conceivability Argument In the sixth meditation of his Meditations on First Philosophy Descartes advances an argument for establishing a form of dualism. The argument, dubbed the ‘conceivability argument’, attempts to establish a ‘real distinction’ between the mind and the body by linking the conceivability of such a distinction with the possibility of said distinction. For Descartes, two things are ‘really distinct’ when they can exist separately. In this paper I will first outline Descartes argument, then question the place of God in the argument. I will next propose an argument for conceivability entailing possibility, consider an objection to the argument, and ultimately conclude that the ‘conceivability argument’ for the real distinction between the mind and body is viable without the necessity of God to providing a link between conceivability and possibility. Descartes begins his argument by stating ‘everything which I clearly and distinctly understand is capable of being created by God so as to correspond exactly with my understanding of it’ (54). This seems to be the critical premise of his argument, and it functions in several ways in his argument. First, it seems to establish a connection between what is conceivable and what is possible. Descartes seems to believe that if he can conceive of something, then God can make it such that what he conceives can be the case in reality. So for Descartes, the connection between......

Words: 1889 - Pages: 8

Descartes Thoughts

...A Companion to Descartes Edited by Janet Broughton John Carriero Blackwell Publishing A Companion to Descartes Blackwell Companions to Philosophy This outstanding student reference series offers a comprehensive and authoritative survey of philosophy as a whole. Written by today’s leading philosophers, each volume provides lucid and engaging coverage of the key fi gures, terms, topics, and problems of the fi eld. Taken together, the volumes provide the ideal basis for course use, representing an unparalleled work of reference for students and specialists alike. Already published in the series: 1. The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy, Second Edition Edited by Nicholas Bunnin and Eric Tsui-James 2. A Companion to Ethics Edited by Peter Singer 3. A Companion to Aesthetics Edited by David Cooper 4. A Companion to Epistemology Edited by Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa 5. A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (2 Volume Set), Second Edition Edited by Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit 6. A Companion to Philosophy of Mind Edited by Samuel Guttenplan 7. A Companion to Metaphysics Edited by Jaegwon Kim and Ernest Sosa 8. A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory Edited by Dennis Patterson 9. A Companion to Philosophy of Religion Edited by Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro 10. A Companion to the Philosophy of Language Edited by Bob Hale and Crispin Wright 11. A Companion to World Philosophies Edited by Eliot Deutsch and Ron......

Words: 304088 - Pages: 1217

Aristotle and Descartes

...Two Views of Soul: Aristotle and Descartes* THEODORE TRACY, SJ. What first attracted my interest to a possible comparison was the realization that, unlike Plato, both Aristotle and Descartes shared the view that, first, there is but a single soul and, second, that this soul operates principally through a single specific bodily organ. Given his own understanding, I believe Descartes could agree totally with Aristotle's statement that the soul's "essential nature cannot be * This paper was originally presented at the University of South Carolina in April 1981' as a contribution to a symposium on "Soul and Mind in Ancient Philosophy," organized by Professor Rosamond Kent Sprague. 248 Illinois Classical Studies, XI corporeal; yet it is also clear that soul is present in a particular bodily part, and this one of the parts having control over the rest":' dfiXou 6ri ovx oihv r' tivai adua rffv ovtriau ocvrfiq, aW 5fi(t)c, Sri 7' iv tlvl tov (TUifiaToq inrapxii^ nopiw (t>avtpbv, kcu iv tovtw tivi twv ixovruiv bvvafiiv eV roJq nopioic,. {Parva Naturalia 467b 13- 16) For Aristotle, as we know, that particular controlling organ is the heart. In his treatise On Memory, for example, Aristotle declares that in animals, including man, "the source and control center {otpxvY of both the sensitive and nutritive soul must be in the heart": apayKT) Koi rrfc, ataQr]TiKr\c, kou rriq dpeirTLKfic, ^vxri<i ^v ry Kapb'ux rffv otpxw etW. {PN 469a5-7) Again, in the De......

Words: 8048 - Pages: 33

Descartes

...Descartes and Rationalism René Descartes, 1596-1650 (Latin Renatus Cartesius, hence the term Cartesian) Descartes’ Project Descartes was a contemporary of Galileo and Kepler. He was born about 50 years after the publication of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus. Thus he lived right at the beginning of the scientific revolution, as the medieval world view was beginning to collapse. Descartes was a mathematician and physicist, as well as a philosopher. He was the first to offer a system of mechanics that applied both to terrestrial and heavenly bodies. His system was based on a set of laws governing the motions of particles, including various types of collisions. These laws, though unsuccessful, were a precursor of Newton’s laws of motion, and Huygens’ solution to the collision problem. Descartes had the disturbing experience of finding out that everything he learned at school was wrong. From 1604-1612 he was educated at a Jesuit school, where he learned the standard medieval, scholastic, Aristotelian philosophy. In 1619 he had some disturbing dreams, and embarked on his life’s work of rebuilding the whole universe, since the Aristotelian universe was doomed. (Descartes didn’t suffer from lack of ambition!) The problem for Descartes was that he couldn’t merely tinker with the medieval picture, fixing it up here and there, because it was fundamentally wrong. It was rotten to its very foundations. The only way to proceed was to tear it down completely, and start building again from......

Words: 2471 - Pages: 10

World

...PHI-101-013 Rationalism VS Empiricism They say : Hume says knowledge comes from the way one’s mind perceived the physical world. 1.Hume claimed that people perceive the world in two ways – through impressions which are one’s senses and through ideas which are one’s thoughts. 2.Hume claimed that there was no such thing as an innate idea, which is an idea present in the human mind that was not created through some sort of experience. 3.Hume asserted that nothing remains the same, but that one’s mind perceives what is similar as being the same if change occurs gradually rather than abruptly. We say/I say: Descartes says knowledge lies in the mind not the senses. 1.Descartes claims that the way we perceive things comes from thinking. 2.Descartes claimed that we often sense things that don’t physically exist in the external world. 3.Descartes claimed if any component of something was in the very least questionable, then any conclusion drawn from it would be at the most questionable. 4.Descartes reasoned that our senses often misinterpret the physical world. 5.Descartes claimed while it’s possible to not sense things, it’s impossible not to think. Conclusion: Descartes wrote, “I find here that thought is an attribute that belongs to me; it alone cannot be separated from me”. While it’s possible to not sense things, it’s impossible not to think. Descartes claims that he is just “a thing which thinks”. His proof is that he can question his own existence.......

Words: 776 - Pages: 4

Descartes Mind and Body

...Descartes’ Mind Body Dualism Rene Descartes’ main purpose is to attempt to prove that the mind that is the soul or the thinking thing is distinct and is separate from the body. This thinking thing was the core of himself, which doubts, believes, reasons, feels and thinks. Descartes considers the body to be an extended unthinking thing; therefore it is possible that one may exist without the other. This view is known as mind-body dualism. He believes that what he is thinking in his mind is what God created and instilled in him. Descartes outlines many arguments to support and prove his claims of his discoveries. He states that because he can think, his mind exists. This is known as the Cogito, which is the first existential principal of all of Descartes’ work where modern philosophy begins. Descartes also explains that it is possible that all knowledge of external objects, including his body could be false because of the deceiving actions of an evil genius. The evil genius could make him contemplate his existence of his nature as a thinking thing. Descartes further explains in his arguments, even physical objects, such as the body, are better and more distinctly known through the mind than through the body. Descartes shows this through his example of The Wax Argument, where solid wax transitions into liquid state. With all of this in mind, Descartes theories suggest the mind and body can exist separately but it can be argued, the mind needs the body in order to think and......

Words: 1480 - Pages: 6

Rene Descartes

...Rene Descartes Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is generally considered to be one of the most influential Philosophers of the modern Western world. He has been called the founder of modern philosophy. Descartes was the first man of any influence in philosophy to be interested and affected by physics and astronomy. He also refused to accept the views of his predecessors, preferring to work out everything for himself. He was the first man to attempt this since Aristotle. There was freshness about his work that had not been seen from any philosopher since Plato. To begin by doubting everything was the necessary first step in order to sweep away all past presumptions and eliminate all issues that were confusing human knowledge. He also isolated only those truths he himself could directly experience and substantiate. This approach of questioning and skeptical nature meant that Descartes was able to make breakthroughs in philosophy not available to earlier philosophers who had accepted other people’s views as true. The existence of God has been a question since the idea of God was conceived. Rene Descartes tries to prove God's existence, and to show that there is without a doubt something external to ones own existence. He is looking for a definite certainty, a foundation for which he can base all of his beliefs and know that they are true. Descartes' overall project is to find a definite certainty on which he can base all his knowledge and beliefs. I totally agree with......

Words: 1842 - Pages: 8

“I Know That There Is a Mind-Independent, External World.”

...The statement “I know there is a mind-independent, external world” basically suggests 1) that the world and other material objects around us – e.g. tables, animals, other people – can exist independent of our perception and 2) that we can actually obtain knowledge about their existence. In this paper, I will criticize this claim by showing that, even if there exist an external world regardless of our perceptions, we can never “know” if they are actually part of our reality by just thinking about it. As a basis for discussion, I will classify the concept of understanding into three levels: believing, knowing, and having certainty about something. To believe is to accept an idea in our mind that could be innate, adventitious and self-produced. To know is to make judgement on what we believe based on experience, while to have certainty is to know without a doubt that an idea or knowledge is a definite truth. At the end of his Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes comes up with a conclusion that an external world does indeed exist regardless of his perception. He begins his meditations by doubting everything he sense and experience, supposing that everything he knows about the external world is just a dream. In this state of absolute doubt, he withdraws the mind from the sense and tries to perceive the nature of reality through a purely intellectual perspective. The first thing Descartes realizes he can be certain of is his own existence for he would have to exist to be......

Words: 1354 - Pages: 6

Descartes

...counterarguments to Descartes’ reasoning on reality beyond any doubt. In his book Meditations of First Philosophy, Descartes doubts the assurance of knowing whether one is awake or dreaming. In the First Meditation, he notes that “there are never any sure signs by means of which being awake can be distinguished from being asleep.” Descartes argued that one cannot know whether one is dreaming, thus knowledge is impossible. In fact, because “composite elements” from dreams are indistinguishable from reality, it follows that all one’s experiences could simply be a dream, thus one’s supposed knowledge of the world is false. Descartes metaphysically solved this problem by establishing the one undisputable truth through the cogito— “I think, therefore I am.” Still, in order to have any knowledge beyond one’s own existence, one needs to be able to distinguish dreams from reality which follows from the senses. In the movie, Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio) enters the subconscious minds of his targets using a two-level dream strategy to extract information. He and the others carry totems whose behaviors are unpredictable and known only by the specific owner. Unlike Descartes, who asserted that thinking is the one thing that cannot be artificed, Cobb and the others rely on composite objects that ultimately require sense perceptions to recognize and justify their existence. When Cobb is dreaming in the movie, he is also cognizant of the possibility that he might be dreaming. However,......

Words: 608 - Pages: 3

Descartes Fact File

...DESCARTES: Information: Born in France in 1596 Got an education at the hands of the Jesuits, which included maths and philosophy. He took his law degree at the university of Pioters, in his hometown. He became obsessed by the question whether there was anything we could be sure of, anything we could know for certain. Key Works: Discourse on method – published in 1634 Meditations – published in 1641 Key Terms: “I think therefore I am” “Common sense is the best distributed commodity in the world, for every man is conceived he is well supplied with it” Important arguments: The argument for universal doubt: All doubt comes from our senses. Everything is open to doubt. * We do not know that external objects exist. * Senses put us with mental images of external objects so perception cant bring us any certainty The dream argument: * Often we have perceptions, which are similar to ones that are in our dreams. * There are no definite signs to distinguish dream experiences from an actual one. * It is possible that we are dreaming now and all our perceptions are false. The deceiving God argument: * God has it in his powers to deceive us about our knowledge. * We think we have a high knowledge of maths that helps us understand the world. * It is possible that we are deceived even in our mathematical knowledge of the basic structure of the world. The evil demon argument: * Instead of assuming......

Words: 355 - Pages: 2

Rene Descartes

...RENE DESCARTES’ METHODS OF DOUBT Introduction The theory of knowledge and analytical method advanced by the French philosopher Rene Descartes is often summed up in the famous phrase, Cogito ergo sum- “I think, therefore I am.” While this phrase does express the final step in his systematic process of “doubting everything,” it is a gross over-simplification of Descartes’ methods. Descartes did use systematic doubt to find the starting point for his theory of knowledge, but his other philosophical inquiries involved several different methods of doubting, from simply imagining that which is contradictory, to carrying logical postulates to absurd conclusions, to the more traditional methods of testing syllogisms and analyzing proofs. In this essay, I will examine Rene Descartes’ various methods of doubt, to show that the philosopher did not rely on the single reductio ad absurdum in his famous proof of his own existence. Descartes, as we will see, employed several different approaches to philosophical proofs, and he was not the mechanistic logician that his mathematical background might suggest. It will be the argument of this essay that Descartes applied different methods of doubt to different problems, depending upon whether the problem was epistemological, scientific or theological in nature. Existential Doubt: Do I Exist? The first and best-known method of doubt employed by Descartes involves reductionism, in the sense that he used a negative or reverse logical......

Words: 2190 - Pages: 9

Philosophy Descartes

...Descartes' Methodic Doubt René Descartes (1596-1650) is an example of a rationalist. According to Descartes, before we can describe the nature of reality (as is done in metaphysics) or say what it means for something to be or exist (which is the focus of ontology), we must first consider what we mean when we say we know what reality, being, or existence is. He suggests that it is pointless to claim that something is real or exists unless we first know how such a claim could be known as a justified true belief. But to say that our beliefs are justified, we have to be able to base them ultimately on a belief that is itself indubitable. Such a belief could then provide a firm foundation on which all subsequent beliefs are grounded and could thus be known as true. This way of thinking about knowledge is called foundationalism. In his Meditations on First Philosophy (1641), Descartes indicates how we are able to guarantee our beliefs about reality by limiting what we believe to what is indubitable or is based on what is indubitable. That involves him in a series of six "meditations" (of which we will focus on only the first two) about the proper method of philosophical reflection and the conclusions that can be drawn from using that method. Throughout these Meditations Descartes insists that (1) we should claim to know only that for which we have justification, (2) we cannot appeal to anything outside of our ideas for such justification, and (3) we judge our ideas using a......

Words: 1949 - Pages: 8

The World Is Not a Rube Goldberg: the Complex Causal Chain Argument

...The world is not a Rube Goldberg: The complex causal chain argument Rube Goldberg, a cartoonist, engineer, and inventor, gave us cartoons of many machines that illustrate the complexity of cause/effect events in the real world yet are still simple. His machines and cartoons, known as Rube Goldbergs, often contain complicated steps that a machine will go through to do something very simple. An example of this is the “self-operating napkin” (Goldberg): [pic][pic] In this Rube Goldberg, one can see that as he lifts the spoon to eat (A), it pulls the cord (B) that flicks the spoon (C). The spoon tosses the bread (D) that the bird (E) goes for and so the stuff on the other side of the balance (F) falls into the bucket (G). As the bucket drops (H), it pulls the string (I) that opens the box that lets out the fire (J). The fire ignites the fire-cracker (K), which pulls the scythe (L). The scythe cuts the cord (M), which lets the napkin move according to the ticking of the clock and wipes the man’s mouth. The plethora of events and cause/effect connections in this description seem complex compared to the simple act of picking up the napkin oneself and doing it. As complex as these events seem, they are still simple compared to any real set of events in the world. In this Rube Goldberg, the causal chain is that A causes B which causes C and so on. This is a linear chain of events where A and only A causes B which only causes C and so on. Even though the explanation of what......

Words: 2448 - Pages: 10