Beliefs Beyond Doubt, What All Other Respond To: Rene Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy"

1998 Words 8 Pages
Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy is considered to be one of the most important works in modern philosophy. John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and countless other philosophers wrote largely in response to Descartes. Yet there are serious doubts related to the treatise's major argument. In the Objections and Replies, a collection of objections to the work along with Descartes personal and often very detailed replies to said objections, the philosopher Antoine Arnauld raises the question of whether or not Descartes was guilty of circular reasoning. In this essay, I will examine the arguments that Descartes used to reach the work's major conclusion, the objection made by Arnauld, and the validity of the treatise in light of Descartes' …show more content…
In Descartes words, “How often, asleep at night, am I convinced... that I am here in my dressing gown, sitting by the fire—when in fact I am lying undressed in bed!” (Descartes, 12) This possibility grants us the ability to call into doubt everything that is brought to us by the senses. If we are simply dreaming, then everything that we think we hear, see, smell, feel, and taste is only an illusion of sorts. The implications of this argument are extremely far-reaching. Consider all of the things that we experience through the senses—all are now subject to doubt, and because of the methods that Descartes' has outlined, he can no longer accept belief in them to be justified. As powerful as the Dream argument may be, especially considering Descartes' methods, it still leaves possible belief in a great deal of things. Even if the things that we dream are illusion, they may still resemble things that are real. Further, we may still have knowledge of things even if we are only dreaming the experience of them. Mathematics, for example, is still possible. If one dreams that they have completed a mathematics problem on a piece of paper, the solution may still hold true regardless of the fact that the person only dreamed them. Descartes writes, “For whether I am awake or asleep, two and three added together are five...” (Descartes, 14) To add a greater degree of doubt about his beliefs, Descartes offers a second
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