Descartes v Hume Essay

1542 Words Nov 17th, 2013 7 Pages
The concept of self identifies the essence of one’s very being. It implies continuous existence having no other exact equal, i.e. the one and only. Whether or not the specific characteristic(s) used to define self are objectively real, i.e. physical attributes, or purely subjective, i.e. imaginary traits, the concept makes distinct one entity from another. Rationalism is the theory that truth can be derived through use of reason alone. Empiricism, a rival theory, asserts that truth must be established by sensual experience: touch, taste, smell, et al. Rene Descartes, a philosopher and rationalist concluded that one self was merely a continuous awareness of one’s own existence; one’s substance was one’s ability to think. On the other …show more content…
He reasoned that our senses often misinterpret the physical world, e.g. we sometimes see things that aren’t actually there or perceive things differently from different distances. Bodily senses are a means of perceiving the external world, but since we know our senses can be false or misleading, we can doubt our bodies as being a source of truth. In addition, Descartes claimed that we often sense things that don’t physically exist in the external world. For example, while dreaming we can see, smell, hear, taste and feel. If senses are a means of perceiving the external world, yet we can’t positively distinguish a dream from reality, it’s possible that the external world could be completely imaginary. Since we can sense things without bodies, it’s impossible to be certain that bodies actually exist since sensual experiences are essentially the proof of bodily existence. What’s not impossible is that an evil genius may have created our senses with the illusion of an outside world just to mislead us, and or fool us into believing that we have bodies. Though highly improbable, the idea of a very powerful evil genius cannot be disproven beyond any doubt, so it’s certainly possible that such a being may potentially exist. In Meditation II, Descartes fully rejects the notion of bodily senses, but concludes that he himself does actually exist.