On Descartes’ Meditations

In the first Meditation, Descartes argued that it not possible to know an object unless one can ascertain the existence of both God and the soul. The first act of Descartes was to place that doubt as a sensible starting point by questioning the reliability of the body’s meditation between thought and the external world. This doubting was used by Descartes to test the reliability of beliefs in order to discover the foundation of knowledge that is immune from defect.

The goal of the first meditation was to attain philosophical knowledge whose reliability may be equated with the certitude of mathematical knowledge. It was through this process of radical doubt that Descartes reached his first proposition regarding being: “I think therefore I am”. Descartes noted that so long as an individual is thinking [even if he is doubting] one can ascertain the existence of this thinking being. The ‘I’ is seen as capable of pure thought, an entity capable of containing the resources for the mathematical thought and hence an entity capable of deriving reliable and indubitable knowledge.

The second Meditation, on the other hand, focuses on the distinction between the mind and the body. It is within this text that Descartes discovers that he can use the ‘I’ to rescue himself from doubt. The ‘I’ is used as a proof of the existence of a thinking being which allows the distinction between the mind and the body. He argues that the end of thinking is not to remain separate from the world but to appropriate the world and reconstruct it in one’s mind.

The mind thereby superimposes upon material reality. Descartes’ development of his metaphysics may thereby be seen as being grounded by questioning the existence of an object itself and later on drawing the distinction between the mind and the body as a means of determining individuals’ conception of reality. Work Cited Descartes, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies. Trans. John Cottingham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.