Outline of Descartes’s Meditations I and II

This outline covers only the first two Meditations, but they are important for Phil. 101..

Mind-Body Problem: Can we separate the two? How do we acquire knowledge?

I. Understanding v. Imagination

A. I am a thing that thinks

B. I know that I exist because ….

1.. I think, therefore I exist (I am) (Cogito ergo sum)

“Cogito” means “I think” (our word cogitate is related to it); “ergo” means “therefore”; “sum”  means “I am.”

C. This knowledge does not depend on things I can “feign” in my imagination

D. To imagine is to contemplate the figure or image of a corporeal thing

E. Is there nothing else that is as certain as my knowledge that I exist?

F. I perceive many things through intervention of bodily organs

1. Even if I always sleep (dream)

2. Or even if an evil being always deceives me

G. Still, it seems to me that I see light, hear noise, and feel heat

II. Understanding of Objects v. Imagination of Objects

A. Corporeal (bodily) things are more distinctly

1.. Known than imagined because things in imagination are obscure

a. For example, wax

b. Sight, feel, smell, noise (when flicked) are clear

c. Fire melts it

d. Nothing remains except a certain extended thing

e. Imagination admits of an infinitude of similar changes

2. Descartes does not know how to “compass” imagination

3. I know wax, not by imagination, but by understanding or mind

4. Much more clear and distinct (key terms)

B. Sight (vision) and mind

1. I also know wax thru vision, not only thru mind

C. I comprehend what I believe that I see with my mind through the faculty of judgment

1.. I cannot perceive wax without my mind

D. Mind is associated w/ knowledge and understanding

E. Imagination associated with obscurity

F. If I perceive this wax clearly and distinctly . . .

G. Then don’t I know myself (my nature as a thing that thinks) with more clearness and distinctness? Yes!

III. Separation of Mind from Body

A. My essence or nature is a thinking thing

1.. This essence or nature does not depend on matter

2. My body, which is matter, is an extended and unthinking thing

3. Therefore, my essence, nature does not depend on my body

a. My essence, nature is distinct from my body

B. Imagination and feeling (sensations?)

1.. I can conceive of my essence, nature without them

2. But they cannot exist without my essence, nature

3. Therefore my essence does not depend on them (but they depend on it?)

C. Faculties in me “such as that of change of position,” different figures

1.. Faculties must be attached to a corporeal substance

D. Passive faculties

1.. Receiving and recognizing ideas of sensible (sensory) things

E. Active faculty

1.. Capable of producing and forming ideas—these ideas (that I have received and recognized)

2. I don’t invent or imagine these things

3. Faculty must reside in some other substance besides me (a thinking being)

4. Either in a body or God (or another “creature more noble than body”)

a. Not God because He does not deceive and I mistake these ideas

b. No another “creature” because I don’t have faculty to recognize it

c. Answer: corporeal (bodily) object

5. Hence, corporeal things exist

F. God created external “complexus,” things

1.. Hence, I have a body

2. I perceive that more clearly and distinctly than anything else

3. I am lodged in body as a pilot is lodged in a vessel

4. The soul is to the body what the captain is to the ship

5. Soul = Pilot; Body = Ship

G. Body is divisible, but mind is not

1.. I get impressions not from all parts of body, but only from brain

2. Pineal gland is seat of soul

ARTICLES IN SERIES (alphabetical order)

Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics

Clifford’s Ethics of Belief

Descartes’s Meditations I and II

Hick’s Evil and God of Love

Hume’s Argument against Design

Hume’s Theory of Knowledge

James’s Will to Believe

Kant’s Ethics

Locke’s Theory of Knowledge

Mill’s Ethics

Nietzsche’s Madman and the Death of God

Paley’s Watchmaker and Design Argument

Plato the Soul Man

Plato’s View of Justice and the Soul

Rachels’s Moral Objectivism

Ryle’s Category Mistake

Sartre’s “Existentialism and Humanism”

Socrates’s “Apology”


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