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Descartes and Certainty - Essay Example

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Descartes and Certainty

Descartes opens himself to the possibility of rejecting the beliefs he has adopted early in life without proof down to the ones that lay foundation on his belief system.
Descartes starts off by questioning his physical and spiritual existence. He checks for the veracity of his possessing a body and soul. His doubts escalate to the properties of objects such as dimension, color, quantity, and the place and time during which they exist. Afterwards and quite quickly, Descartes jumps into the subject of the existence of God, which also appears in a separate meditation - Meditation III. One may ask, "Why does Descartes' questioning on the existence of God appear so early in Meditation I"
After attempting to prove his existence, Descartes tries to prove the existence of God or what he refers to as Deity. To him the ability to prove God's existence is the most significant goal the failure of which implied inability to prove everything else. This is how important the goal is to him. To a believer like Descartes, conceiving of ideas and existence of other things is only possible with God. It seems impossible to comprehend a world without a God. The existence of God simplifies the laws of nature, and answers the questions as to why the universe behaves the way it does. From his writings, it is clear that Descartes believes in God.
Meditation II gives us a clearer view of Descartes' "I think therefore I am." Note that in Meditation I, Descartes' doubts concerning life, the universe and everything are strengthened by the contemplation of an "omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent" God being a deceiver. In many of his musings, Descartes bumps into skepticism but rejected it right away. At length, Descartes goes about his uncertainties and contradicts them to be able to get to his desired answer. He talks about intuition of the mind arguing that objects and bodies should be perceived not by the senses or imagination but by the intellect alone.
Meditation III reveals Descartes advancing in his method of finding truth by forming a basis of certainty - the clear and distinct. To quote: "In this first knowledge, doubtless, there is nothing that gives me assurance of its truth except the clear and distinct perception of what I affirm". By "clear and distinct" he refers to objects that were not only perceived by his senses and ideas that formed in his mind but also objects whose existence was external to him. Despite this, Descartes cannot help doubting. As he progresses towards certainty, a new question forms in his mind and the process becomes circular.
Descartes answers his metaphysical doubt by proving that God exists and is not a deceiver. Once he has proven the existence of God then everything else will follow. He treats the existence of God in the context of the existence of the material world. He uses wax as an example - extending it, melting it and so on and applies the same process of thought with God or Deity, for that matter. How ever little that metaphysical doubt, it has to be eliminated in order to witness the certainty of the existence of things. Descartes has to convince us that God or the evil genius has not merely enticed him into thinking that something can't emerge from nothing.
Descartes attempts to make his point by dealing with contradictions. He uses ...Show more

Summary

Cogito ergo sum." This was Rene Descartes' first attempt at understanding life, the universe and everything by the use of logic alone. A great mathematician and philosopher, Descartes' writings revealed his expertise in mathematics, and his conviction in the use of aggressive logic.
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