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Descartes' First Meditation

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The first of Descartes meditations discusses his attempt to rid himself of all of his false beliefs. Descartes thinks that in order to do so, he must first rid himself of every one of his former beliefs and start over, only letting back in the beliefs that he can prove true beyond all conceivable doubts. Descartes comes to this conclusion from the assumption that basically, everything you think that you know can be doubted, no matter how basic the concept is or how sure you "feel" about it. Everything can, and should, be doubted.

As Descartes points out, our most foundational beliefs tend to be based on things we perceive through our senses. These include simple, and to us obvious, things such as in Descartes case, that he was sitting in the chair he was sitting in or that his hand he held in front of him, was really even in front of him. Descartes considers that because he has been deceived by his senses on prior occasions, where there was maybe bad lighting or to much distance between him and what he was looking at, that maybe he could be being deceived by his senses at any time.

Further more, he has no proof that he is even awake. For if he was truly sleeping, no, his hand may NOT be infront of him and he may NOT be sitting in the chair; in reality he would really be in bed. According to Descartes, it is very possible to dream and not realize that you are dreaming because it feels real to us while we are dreaming. He feels that this is a prime example of how easily we may be deceived by our senses.

Descartes attempts to find some sort of fundamental fact that is in no way able to be doubted. Because, once he finds that, it is possible to finally start building other truths off of it. However, as Descartes continues, we find that it is impossible to find anything that really is beyond all conceivable doubt. Searching to find such a fact will only lead you to an infinite regress.

Descartes even worries on the fact that it is conceivably possible that there may be some sort of "evil genius" who's only intent is to prove us wrong in every single thing. An evil genius that can falsely make him believe even simple mathematical problems such as 2+3=5 when maybe it really equals something else. If this is the case, which Descartes feels it COULD be, then surely he can not trust a single thing to be true.

The discussion of this evil genius takes Descartes theory to the highest level of skepticism. If it is possible that something could be deceiving him constantly he feels he needs to doubt all things and can not trust a single thing that he sees, smells, feels, hears or thinks. This whole first meditation is a result of Descartes feeling that the mistake of believing a falsehood is the worst possible thing. This is why Descartes comes to the conclusion that if you believe no statements at all, then at least you can be sure that you will not believe anything false.

I believe that it is true that we can be easily deceived by our own senses. It happens every once in a while. Descartes presents the idea that our senses can mislead us through dreams, perceptual mistakes, or this supposed "evil genius". Each of these aspects Descartes feels may deceive us hold different places in his theory. The issue that dreaming presents us with is that we may never know if, while we are sleeping, if we are really awake. Nor may we be able to tell if, while we are awake, if we are really sleeping and only THINK that we are awake. Even if those sound to be the same thing, I see two completely separate cases in these two statements It is possible that we may find ourselves sleeping and not be



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