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The Second Meditation Essay

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The Second Meditation

"The first precept was never to accept a thing as true until I knew it as such without a single doubt."
--René Descartes
Le Discours de la Méthode, I

In the First Meditation, Descartes invites us to think skeptically. He entices us with familiar occasions of error, such as how the size of a distant tower can be mistaken. Next, an even more profound reflection on how dreams and reality are indistinguishable provides suitable justification to abandon all that he previously perceived as being truth. (18, 19) By discarding all familiarity and assumptions, Descartes hopes to eliminate all possible errors in locating new foundations of knowledge. An inescapable consequence of doubting senses and prior beliefs
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He cannot say that God exists, because there remains the possibility that his thoughts are in fact originating from himself (in which case there would be no need for God). Since he has abandoned all notions of existence and certainty, which includes his own body and senses, is it possible that he himself does not exist? To think a thought is bound to existence by definition; one must exist first before having the ability to think. Even if an all-powerful deceiver made it so that I do not exist, it would generate a contradiction since I cannot think that I exists if I don't. (25) Thinking about existing requires existence as a prerequisite. Descartes has arrived at his first truly tangible and useful element of truth: that it is necessarily true that he exists.
The next task that Descartes must consider is to define what he is, and in doing so be careful not to make assumptions. He cannot consider himself to be an animal, since that would require a definition of what an animal is. Such an examination is beyond the discussion. (25) Instead of making random guesses, Descartes begins to think about what came to mind when he considered what he was. (25, 26) The first thought that occurs to him is that he has a body - something that by definition has a determinable shape, defined location and that can occupy space. However, if an all-powerful deceiver is at work, then that which
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