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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy (Forgotten Books)

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Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes first published in Latin in 1641. The book is made up of six meditations, in which Descartes first discards all belief in things which are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. The meditations were written as if he was meditating for 6 days: each Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes first published in Latin in 1641. The book is made up of six meditations, in which Descartes first discards all belief in things which are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. The meditations were written as if he was meditating for 6 days: each meditation refers to the last one as "yesterday". However, Descartes did not take 6 days to complete this work; it actually took several years.


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Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes first published in Latin in 1641. The book is made up of six meditations, in which Descartes first discards all belief in things which are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. The meditations were written as if he was meditating for 6 days: each Meditations on First Philosophy is a philosophical treatise written by René Descartes first published in Latin in 1641. The book is made up of six meditations, in which Descartes first discards all belief in things which are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure. The meditations were written as if he was meditating for 6 days: each meditation refers to the last one as "yesterday". However, Descartes did not take 6 days to complete this work; it actually took several years.

30 review for Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy (Forgotten Books)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Το Άσχημο Ρύζι Καρολίνα

    This treatise contains metaphysical meditations on the existence of god, the nature of the human mind and the essence and existence of material things. It was written in 1639-40 in Latin and was published in 1641 in Paris, followed by second Latin edition in 1642 in Amsterdam and a French translation in 1647, edited and approved by Descartes himself. A collection of Objections and Replies accompanied the main text , where various philosophers and theologians (among them Thomas Hobbes) expressed This treatise contains metaphysical meditations on the existence of god, the nature of the human mind and the essence and existence of material things. It was written in 1639-40 in Latin and was published in 1641 in Paris, followed by second Latin edition in 1642 in Amsterdam and a French translation in 1647, edited and approved by Descartes himself. A collection of Objections and Replies accompanied the main text , where various philosophers and theologians (among them Thomas Hobbes) expressed their objections, while Descartes's sought to provide the necessary clarifications and explanations. Το περιεχόμενο της συγκεκριμένης πραγματείας αφορά μεταφυσικούς στοχασμούς περί της ύπαρξης του θεού, του ανθρώπινου πνεύματος και περί της ουσίας και ύπαρξης των υλικών πραγμάτων. Γράφτηκε κατά τα έτη 1639 - 40, στα λατινικά και εκδόθηκε στα 1641 στο Παρίσι, ενώ ακολούθησαν, όσο ζούσε ο Descartes, μια δεύτερη λατινική έκδοση στα 1642 στο Άμστερνταμ και μια γαλλική μετάφραση στα 1647, επιμελημένη και εγκεκριμένη από τον ίδιο. Μια συλλογή από Αντιρρήσεις και Απαντήσεις συνόδευε το βασικό κείμενο των στοχασμών, όπου διάφοροι φιλόσοφοι και θεολόγοι (ανάμεσα στους οποίους και ο Thomas Hobbes) εξέφραζαν τις ενστάσεις τους και στις οποίες με τις απαντήσεις του ο Descartes, προσπαθούσε να παράσχει τις απαραίτητες διευκρινίσεις και επεξηγήσεις. Η ελληνική έκδοση είναι εξαιρετική. Η μετάφραση και ο σχολιασμός των Στοχασμών καθιστά το δυσνόητο κείμενο προσιτό στον αναγνώστη. Πέρα από το βασικό κείμενο, περιλαμβάνει κάποια συμπληρωματικά (επιστολή προς τη Σορβόννη, πρόλογος του Descartes προς τους αναγνώστες του, μια σύνοψη των έξι στοχασμών, ένα μικρό δείγμα από τις Αντιρρήσεις και Απαντήσεις. Επίσης υπάρχουν από τον μεταφραστή πολύ χρήσιμα εννοιολογικά και μεταφραστικά σχόλια, γλωσσάρι, εκτενές χρονολόγιο και μια πολύ κατατοπιστική εισαγωγή και εκτενέστατη βιβλιογραφία). Πολύ χρήσιμο βιβλίο. Θεωρώ πως, αν κάποιος ενδιαφέρεται να φτιάξει μια φιλοσοφική βιβλιοθήκη, θα ήταν χρήσιμο να το συμπεριλάβει στη συλλογή του. Παρακάτω παραθέτω αυτά που σε γενικές γραμμές κατάφερα να καταλάβω διαβάζοντας το κείμενο, έχω σίγουρα λάθη, οπότε καλύτερα μην διαβάσετε όσα γράφω εδώ, αλλά πάτε κατευθείαν, αν σας ενδιαφέρει το θέμα, στο βιβλίο. Απλά στην ουσία παραθέτω κάποιες σημειώσεις που κράτησα και τίποτα περισσότερο: 1. Περί όσων μπορούν να τεθούν εν αμφιβόλω. Όσα προσλαμβάνουμε μέσω των αισθήσεών μας ως αληθινά μπορεί να να είναι εσφαλμένα. Αυτό δεν απέχει πολύ από εκείνον που ενώ κοιμάται, ονειρεύεται πως είναι ξύπνιος ή από εκείνους τους ψυχικά ασθενείς που φαντάζονται πως είναι πράγματα που δεν είναι. Όλα ωστόσο τα φανταστικά πράγματα είναι καμωμένα από άλλα υπαρκτά, ωστόσο είναι συνδυασμένα έτσι ώστε το τελικό αποτέλεσμα δεν υπάρχει πουθενά στην πραγματικότητα. Είμαστε λοιπόν πλασμένοι έτσι από τον θεό, ώστε να καταλήγουμε σε πλάνες; Αυτό δεν θα συνεπάγετο πως ο θεός δεν είναι αγαθός; Προκειμένου λοιπόν να φτάσουμε στην αλήθεια ας υποθέσουμε για λίγο πως δεν υπάρχει ένας θεός - πηγή της αλήθειας, αλλά ένας κακόβουλος δαίμονας και ας προσπαθήσουμε να βρούμε την αλήθεια με στήριγμα τις δικές μας δυνάμεις: " αν δεν είναι στην εξουσία μου να γνωρίσω κάτι αληθές, τουλάχιστον θα φροντίσω σθεναρά, αυτό που εξαρτάται από μένα: να μη συγκατατίθεμαι σε ψεύδη ". 2. Περί της φύσης του ανθρώπινου πνεύματος: ότι είναι γνωστότερο από το σώμα. Αν αμφιβάλλω για τα πάντα, τότε η μόνη βεβαιότητα που μπορώ να έχω είναι πως δεν υπάρχει τίποτα βέβαιο. Εγώ ο ίδιος παράγω αυτή τη σκέψη, κανένας έξω από εμένα δεν μου την υπαγορεύει. Είμαι λοιπόν σε θέση να κατέχω μια αλήθεια. Συνεπώς Είμαι. Συνεπώς υπάρχω. Αλλά το ερώτημα που προκύπτει έπειτα από αυτό είναι: Τι είμαι; Είμαι ένα αληθινό, υπαρκτό, σκεπτόμενο πράγμα. Η σκέψη μου ανήκει, αποτελεί αναπόσπαστο τμήμα μου. Όλα τα άλλα (σώμα, ψυχή, αισθήσεις) είναι αμφίβολα οπότε η βεβαιότητα της ύπαρξής μου προέρχεται από το γεγονός ότι σκέπτομαι: "Εγώ είμαι εγώ υπάρχω τούτο είναι βέβαιο. Για πόσο χρόνο όμως; Για όσο χρόνο σκέπτομαι. Διότι ενδέχεται ίσως, αν απείχα από κάθε σκέψη, αυτοστιγμεί να έπαυα ολόκληρος να υπάρχω. Δεν δέχομαι τώρα παρά ό,τι αληθεύει αναγκαία". Άλλες λέξεις για τον όρο σκεπτόμενο ον είναι: πνεύμα, έλλογη ψυχή, νους ή Λόγος. Ο ατελέστερος τρόπος για να συλλάβουμε την ύπαρξη ενός πράγματος είναι μέσα από μια ατελή και συγκεχυμένη εποπτεία του πνεύματος (δηλαδή μέσα από τις αισθήσεις ή την φαντασία) και ο ασφαλέστερος είναι μέσα από μια σαφή και διακριτή εποπτεία του πνεύματος, δηλαδή από την ικανότητα που έχει το πνεύμα, ο νους μας να κρίνει τι είναι αληθινό και υπαρκτό, άσχετα με αυτό που βλέπει ή φαντάζεται. Δηλαδή με πολύ απλά λόγια, κάτι υπαρκτό μπορούμε να το δούμε, να το αγγίξουμε να το γευτούμε ή να το φανταστούμε ένα σώμα πχ ένα κερί. Ωστόσο κάτι μπορεί να είναι υπαρκτό ακόμα και όταν δεν μπορούμε να κάνουμε όλα τα παραπάνω πχ η ψυχή. Πώς μπορώ να ξέρω λοιπόν αν κάτι υπάρχει ή δεν υπάρχει στα αλήθεια; Μέσω του νου, μέσα από το γεγονός ότι αυτό το κάτι μπορεί να νοηθεί, μέσα από εκεί μπορεί να επιβεβαιωθεί η αλήθεια και η ύπαρξή του. Συνεπώς καίτοι μπορεί να ξενίζει, ισχύει το εξής: μπορώ να αντιληφθώ με μεγαλύτερη ευκολία το πνεύμα μου κι ας μην είναι απτό και ορατό από κάτι που μπορώ να αγγίξω ή να δω αλλά το οποίο χωρίς την εποπτεία του νου/ πνεύματος μπορεί να είναι ψευδές και πλανερό. 3 Περί του θεού, ότι υπάρχει. Υπάρχει θεός; Κι αν ναι είναι ένας απατεώνας; Για να απαντηθεί αυτό πρέπει να κατηγοριοποιήσουμε τις σκέψεις που υπάρχουν στο νου μας: Υπάρχουν οι ιδέες ως εικόνες των πραγμάτων, οι οποίες είναι ατελείς γιατί ομοιάζουν με τα πράγματα, αλλά ούτε ταυτίζονται με τα πράγματα, ούτε αποτελούν πιστές αναπαραστάσεις τους. Υπάρχουν επίσης οι βουλήσεις ή συναισθήματα και κρίσεις. Κι αυτά θα μπορούσαν να θεωρηθούν ως (ή είναι) ιδέες ενός πράγματος οι οποίες επιπλέον περιέχουν τα δικά μου συναισθήματα και ψυχικές διαθέσεις και κρίσεις απέναντι στο πράγμα. Συμπέρασμα: Οι ιδέες είναι σκέψεις που λειτουργούν ως μεσάζοντες ανάμεσα στην εξωτερική πραγματικότητα και το σκεπτόμενο ον (το ανθρώπινο πνεύμα). Ωστόσο ο φιλόσοφος επεκτείνει τον ορισμό των ιδεών διαχωρίζοντάς τες σε τρεις κατηγορίες: 1. Έμφυτες: Είναι αυτές που υπάρχουν εκ γενετής στο πνεύμα μας και απεικονίζουν το αληθές, το αιώνιο, το αμετάβλητο. 2. Επείσακτες: όσες προέρχονται από τα εξωτερικά πράγματα. Εκεί υπάρχει πάντα η πιθανότητα να σφάλλουμε, είναι όλα όσα συλλαμβάνουμε μέσω των αισθήσεων που συχνά δεν απεικονίζουν πιστά τα πράγματα, όπως πχ ο ήλιος που τον αντιλαμβανόμαστε λόγω της τεράστιας απόστασης ως ένα μικρό σώμα. 3. Πεποιημένες. Αυτές που φτιάχνουμε εμείς οι ίδιοι και αποτελούν δικές μας επινοήσεις. Για να επιβεβαιώσει την ύπαρξη του θεού ο Descartes καταλήγει στο επιχείρημα πως τίποτα δεν μπορεί να δημιουργηθεί από το μηδέν και το ατελέστερο, αυτό που περιέχει μέσα του λιγότερη πραγματικότητα, δεν μπορεί να δημιουργήσει το τελειότερο και αυτά δεν ισχύει μόνο για τη δημιουργία των πραγμάτων αλλά και για τη δημιουργία των ιδεών που σχετίζονται με τα πράγματα. (σσ. Ο Descartes χρησιμοποιεί το όρο υποκειμενική πραγματικότητα (αλλιώς μορφική ή ενεργή) για να ορίσει την πραγματικότητα του υποκειμένου δηλαδή του πράγματος που κατέχει αυτόνομη και ανεξάρτητη ύπαρξη και τον όρο αντικειμενική πραγματικότητα για να ορίσει την πραγματικότητα του ομοιώματός του σελ. 234. Αυτό είναι μια σημαντική διευκρίνιση γιατί στην καθημερινή μας ορολογία ο "αντικειμενικός" είναι αυτός που βρίσκεται πιο κοντά στην αλήθεια των πραγμάτων και ο "υποκειμενικός" είναι αυτός που εκφράζει μια ιδέα της οποίας η ορθότητα πρέπει να ελεγχθεί). Η ιδέα του θεού δεν προέρχεται από εμένα τον ίδιο, ωστόσο υπάρχω και έχω μέσα μου την ιδέα ενός τελειότατου όντος, συνεπώς υπάρχει και κάποιος άλλος πέρα από εμένα στον κόσμο. Αυτός είναι ο πυρήνας της συλλογιστικής με την οποία ο φιλόσοφος καταλήγει στην απόδειξη της ύπαρξης του θεού. 4. Περί του αληθούς και του ψευδούς. Εφόσον ο θεός υπάρχει και είναι τέλειος και αγαθός, από που προέρχονται όλες οι πλάνες και τα σφάλματα; Η πλάνη δεν είναι δημιούργημα του θεού αλλά ανθρώπινο ελάττωμα που προκύπτει από την περιορισμένη ικανότητα κρίσης του αληθούς που διαθέτουμε ως άνθρωποι. Δεν είμαστε τέλειοι συνεπώς μπορούμε να υποπέσουμε σε σφάλματα. Δεν μπορούμε να ξέρουμε τον λόγο που ο θεός μας έπλασε έτσι. Είμαστε μόνο ένα μικρό τμήμα από το σύμπαν των πραγμάτων που δημιούργησε ο θεός. Ο ανθρώπινος νους έχει την ικανότητα να γνωρίζει (αίσθηση, φαντασία, καθαρή νόηση) και η ανθρώπινη βούληση μας εξασφαλίζει το αυτεξούσιο, την ικανότητα να επιθυμούμε, να αρνούμαστε, να αμφιβάλλουμε, να συμφωνούμε, να διαφωνούμε. Η βούληση είναι ένας τρόπος σκέψης που αποδεικνύει πως είμαστε πλασμένοι κατ' εικόνα και καθ' ομοίωσιν με τον θεό, ο νους προτείνει και εμείς επιλέγουμε χωρίς να έχουμε την αίσθηση πως κάποιος άλλος μας υπαγορεύει ή μας επιβάλλει τις αποφάσεις μας. Η βούληση μας εξασφαλίζει την ελευθερία που διαφορετικά δεν θα είχαμε αν βλέπαμε πάντα μόνο το σαφές και το αγαθό. Τότε όλα θα ήταν μονόδρομος και δεν θα είχαμε την ελευθερία να επιλέγουμε. Όταν όμως βούλομαι για πράγματα που δεν κατανοώ, τότε πέφτω σε σφάλματα και πλάνες. Έχω την ικανότητα να βρω την αλήθεια, αλλά δεν την χρησιμοποιώ σωστά. Για να καταλήγω σε σωστές αποφάσεις, επιλογές, συμπεράσματα πρέπει να κάνω σωστή χρήση του αυτεξούσιου που διαθέτω, πρέπει να υπάρχει συνεργασία της βούλησης με το νου. Συμπέρασμα: Δεν μου έδωσε ο θεός μια κακή ικανότητα, αλλά μια καλή ικανότητα την οποία δεν χρησιμοποιώ ορθά, συνεπώς καταλήγω σε σφάλματα. 5. Περί της ουσίας των υλικών πραγμάτων και ξανά περί του θεού, ότι υπάρχει. Τώρα που ξέρουμε τι πρέπει να αποφεύγουμε στην αναζήτησή μας για την αλήθεια, έπεται το ερώτημα: τι μπορούμε να γνωρίζουμε με σιγουριά για τα υλικά πράγματα; Ποια είναι η ουσία τους: Αν μια ιδέα που έχω για τα πράγματα είναι σαφής και διακριτή, τότε αυτή είναι αληθής. Αυτό σημαίνει πως προέρχεται από κάτι το υπαρκτό από ένα πράγμα που υπάρχει πραγματικά. Και οι αλήθειες που είναι πιο βέβαιες από όλες τις άλλες είναι αυτές που έχουν να κάνουν με τα σχήματα, τους αριθμούς και γενικά τη γεωμετρία και την αριθμητική. Αυτή είναι η βάση για μια βέβαιη και αληθινή επιστήμη η οποία ωστόσο εξαρτάται από τη γνώση της ύπαρξης του θεού, η οποία είναι η σαφέστερη και πλέον διακριτή, ξεκάθαρη αλήθεια. Γιατί αν αμφιβάλλουμε για την αλήθεια της ύπαρξης του θεού τότε δεν θα μπορούμε να είμαστε σίγουροι ούτε και για τις μαθηματικές αλήθειες. 6. Περί της ύπαρξης των υλικών πραγμάτων και περί της πραγματικής διάκρισης του πνεύματος από το σώμα. Τα υλικά πράγματα ως αντικείμενο των καθαρών μαθηματικών μπορούν να υπάρξουν, αυτό έχει να κάνει με την ουσία των πραγμάτων όπως προκύπτει από τις σαφείς και διακριτές ιδιότητές τους, έτσι όπως τις συλλαμβάνει ο ανθρώπινος νους. Τι γίνεται όμως με το ζήτημα της ύπαρξης των υλικών πραγμάτων τα οποία συλλαμβάνω ασαφώς και συγκεχυμένα μέσω της φαντασίας και των αισθήσεων; Αυτά υπάρχουν; Ναι. Η φαντασία και η αίσθηση είναι τρόποι του σκέπτεσθαι και ανήκουν στο πνεύμα, αλλά είναι δευτερεύοντα και μη ουσιώδη συστατικά του πνεύματος. Στην καθαρή νόηση το πνεύμα στρέφεται στον εαυτό του. Στην φαντασία το πνεύμα στρέφεται προς κάποια σωματική μορφή. Ό,τι συλλαμβάνουμε χωρίς εικόνα είναι ιδέα του καθαρού πνεύματος (πχ ένα χιλιόγωνο) και ό,τι συλλαμβάνουμε με εικόνα είναι ιδέα της φαντασίας (πχ ένα πεντάγωνο). Αφού πλέον έχουμε βρει έναν τρόπο να ορίζουμε με ασφάλεια τα αληθή, μπορούμε πλέον να μην αμφιβάλλουμε για όλα όσα αντιλαμβανόμαστε μέσα από τις αισθήσεις μας κι ας είναι ατελείς και συχνά απατηλές. Οι ιδέες των αισθητών πραγμάτων προέρχονται από σωματικά πράγματα. Γιατί; Γιατί δεν θα είχα τέτοιες ιδέες αν δεν υπήρχαν τα σωματικά πράγματα. Αν υπήρχαν μόνο αυτές οι ιδέες των αισθητών πραγμάτων και όχι τα ίδια τα σωματικά πράγματα τότε αυτό θα σήμαινε πως κάποιος έβαλε στο νου μου πλανερές ιδέες. Ο θεός δεν γίνεται να το έκανε αυτό, γιατί δεν είναι πλανερός, άρα από κάπου προκύπτουν αυτές οι ιδέες: από τα υλικά, σωματικά, εκτακτά πράγματα, τα οποία είναι υπαρκτά και δημιουργημένα από αυτόν τον ίδιο τέλειο θεό που δεν είναι απατηλός. Η φύση που μου διδάσκει πως έχω υλικό σώμα, έχω πχ στομάχι μέσω του οποίου αισθάνομαι πείνα και πως αυτό συνεπάγεται την ανάγκη για τροφή, είναι δημιούργημα του θεού και περικλείει το σύνολο όλων των εκείνων των πραγμάτων που δημιουργήθηκαν από τον θεό. Αυτά τα πράγματα που διδασκόμαστε από τη φύση, μπορεί, αν τα κρίνουμε απερίσκεπτα, να μας οδηγήσουν σε πλάνες, οι οποίες συχνά ξεκινούν από την παιδική μας ηλικίας, όταν νομίζουμε για παράδειγμα πως ένας αναμμένος πυρσός είναι μεγαλύτερος σε μέγεθος από τον ήλιο. Εκτός αυτού η φύση δεν είναι παντογνώστρια και είναι ατελής, όπως ατελής είναι και ο ίδιος ο άνθρωπος. Άλλωστε ο άνθρωπος ως σκεπτόμενο ον είναι αδιαίρετος. Αλλά ως προς την σωματική του ύπαρξη είναι διαιρετός, μπορεί να νοσεί, να έχει δυσλειτουργίες, ακόμα να ακρωτηριαστεί. Ο Descartes πίστευε πως μέσα στον ανθρώπινο εγκέφαλο υπάρχει ένας μικρός χώρος και πως μόνο μέσα εκεί, και σε κανένα άλλο σημείο, συντελείται η ένωση του σώματος και του πνεύματος. Τον μικρό αυτό χώρο μέσα στον εγκέφαλο τον ονόμαζε κωνάριο ή επίφυση και πίστευε πως ήταν ένας αδένας που βρισκόταν στο κέντρο του εγκεφάλου. Εφόσον λοιπόν η ανθρώπινη φύση αποτελείται από σύνθεση του πνεύματος με το σώμα, αναπόφευκτα είναι ατελής και μπορεί να πέφτει σε πλάνες. Απέναντι στις πλάνες μπορούμε ωστόσο να αντιτάξουμε τις αισθήσεις που συχνότατα, αν και όχι πάντα, δηλώνουν το αληθές, τη μνήμη που συνδέει τα παρόντα με όσα έχουν προηγηθεί και το νου που έχει τη δυνατότητα να διερευνά και να διαπιστώνει τις αιτίες της πλάνης. Οπότε πλέον όλες εκείνες οι ακραίες και υπερβολικές, έως και γελοίες, αμφιβολίες που διατυπώθηκαν αρχικά, περί του τι είναι υπαρκτό και τι δεν είναι, δεν μας χρειάζονται πλέον. Έχουμε τώρα μια μέθοδο για να διαπιστώνουμε την αλήθεια και να διορθώνουμε τις ατέλειες της ανθρώπινης φύσης μας.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elena Holmgren

    Descartes-bashing has provided much of the fare of modern philosophizing since at least the turn of the last century. The existentialists, the naturalists of various stripes, the logicists (ie, the coterie built around Frege and Russell), the phenomenologists, all have generally built their philosophies around turning their own Cartesian straw-men into their pet punching-bags. The rejection of Descartes (or rather of what he has come to represent for us, according to our own purposes) having bec Descartes-bashing has provided much of the fare of modern philosophizing since at least the turn of the last century. The existentialists, the naturalists of various stripes, the logicists (ie, the coterie built around Frege and Russell), the phenomenologists, all have generally built their philosophies around turning their own Cartesian straw-men into their pet punching-bags. The rejection of Descartes (or rather of what he has come to represent for us, according to our own purposes) having become the common thread running through our thinking for the last century or so as it clearly has, it seems important to take a closer look to what Descartes actually wrote. The actual arguments concealed by the now tired cliches of Descartes as the ridiculous arch-dualist have to be excavated and re-run through the individual effort of each person to recover a meaningful sense of their tradition, the rejection of which, to this day, supplies much of the framework of our self-understanding (i.e., we all seem compelled to try to define ourselves -against- Descartes). And it's a common gag in philosophy circles nowadays that this rejection is powered by concepts derived from the Cartesian framework! It seems then that we can't live with him just as much as we cannot live without him. This suggests to me that a reconciliation with Descartes is needed. Only through such a reconciliation, in which we cease straw-manning the guy for our own sect's myopic pet ideological purposes, and instead seek to recover the fuller meaning of the Cartesian project, as well as a larger sense of the map of possible theoretical positions that it has opened up, can we, I think, hope to finally transcend the Cartesian predicament we still seem "mired" in. It is a platitude that Descartes' significance for all subsequent philosophy lies in his having opened up a new starting point for thought in the subjective self-evidence of the "I think" moment. This starting point in the individual as a new ontological center has proven to be inescapable for basically everybody who came after him (even the naturalists, who try to eschew the first-person Cogito starting point altogether, are often found to sneak in Cartesian language when articulating their real-world ethical stance as detached, Cartesian individuals; this is quite aside from the still reigning Cartesian mechanist explanatory language they still rely on, which is to this day causing so many problems in understanding mind's place in nature, as well as the systemic, ecological aspect of natural phenomena). But understanding the meaning of this platitude is an ongoing task. Each of the traditions mentioned above is a specific way of working out the implications of the Cartesian "first philosophy." Reading Descartes thus helps us pull up the invisible thread running through our culture still, and to envision it as a unitary fabric of ideas, because much that came after can be clearly seen in its proper place and function only if we more fully grasp its Cartesian source. The one important key to reading Descartes' work for me has come from taking more seriously the idea that Descartes' writing here, as a "meditation," is in a genre of its own, and one somewhat unfamiliar in Western philosophy. Reading this book is undergoing a guided meditation. Hintikka points out that many misunderstandings of Descartes have stemmed from simply failing to realize the performative aspect of the Meditations, and this is especially the case with the Cogito argument. The point Hintikka seems to be driving at is that what Descartes offers here is not a series of arguments meant to lie inert on the page and to be contemplated from the far remove of the theoretical-spectator stance we have become used to adopting when reading philosophy. As a meditation, this is not even primarily a theoretical treatise. It is not meant to be poked at, tentatively and while safely ensconced in one's own system of ideas, with a ten-foot pole. Descartes offers here a recipe that you're supposed to realize (re-enact) in your mind, hence the Cartesian epistemic emphasis on the primacy of engaging our faculty of "rational intuition". The kinds of good reading practices that help in literature are particularly useful in helping us reconstruct the experiential basis of the Cartesian style of argument. I think that getting at the argument, we must be prepared to suspend our perspectival stance in order to internalize his own. This act of self-projection into another's perspective forms the basis of identification with any character in literature. But to achieve it, we must first be willing to set aside all preconceived notions embedded in our global theories about the world, and really follow him in going back to the experiential basics that ground our system-building altogether. And when you get to that point, it gets very interesting, and really engaging of our whole personality as knowers in a way in which not many philosophers before or since have managed to do. The Meditations thus provide the recipe which takes a stab at helping us reveal to ourselves, as directly as we could, where we really stand - our inescapable starting point. Only once this is done can we then proceed to take a critical stance on what Descartes' performative recipe tries to -show- us. It is not for nothing that Husserl credits Descartes as in many ways the forefather of phenomenology, or that Sartre took so many cues in formulating his existentialism from him. Descartes' Meditations is the beginning of the phenomenological method, which shows, by describing a perspectival stance, and only then, on the basis of this performative showing, steps back to argue. The glue that holds together the argument is supplied by this phenomenological order of self-evidence which Descartes assumes as a shared context with his readers. Of course, actually coming to meet him halfway to share that evidential context assumes some good will and effort on our parts. Husserl credits Descartes for essentially uncovering the true, most primordial sense of "evidence." I think he is right. A lot of the absurdity of the still-current practice of reifying totalizing abstractions which are then projected onto the world as "the structure of things" would be sidestepped if we remembered the essentially first-person source of evidence, on top of which structures of facts about the world are built. Descartes' performative method of argument also can transform our understanding of the tools of philosophizing. I think this method, which you learn best by reading this work, can transform the way you read all other philosophy. You will find that, by applying this performative method, you can uncover the personally transformative dimension of all other philosophizing, which you'd altogether miss if you read it as a treatise, in a detached manner. Even the excruciating, stratospheric abstractions of Kant take on a new life if you read them as performatives. To me, this method of argument is what I most got out of reading Descartes, despite my many frustrations with his methodigcal myopia and his oftentimes illegitimate leaps to metaphysical conclusion from mere phenomenological facts. As Gassendi pointed out early on, such a leap from the phenomenological to the ontological orders of description - i.e., the leap from my self-evident awareness in the Cogito, to my subsequent effort to give substantive content to that awareness by describing it positively as a metaphysical proof that I am a "thinking thing" - is fraught with difficulties Descartes' method elided. In phenomenology, it is still a problem, (though Heidegger might have found a way of spelling out the ontological context of the intending being of the self through his idea of the "world-disclosure" that our thinking effects, as beings embedded in a world. Every thought has the whole participation of the knower in a world as its subtle background). So I disagree with almost every one of Descartes' theoretical postulates, and largely accept Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological critiques of disembodied Cartesian subjectivity. Merleau-Ponty rightly points out, I think, that the Cartesian subject that appears to us in the Cogito moment of self-evidence is a late development of a subjectivity which has its roots in the "passive genesis" of meaning that occurs through our primordial embodied subjective involvement and interchange with our world. Descartes, ignoring sources of subjectivity like affect, action and image ( the description of which his phenomenological predecessors took up) gave us a rather threadbare, decontextualized glimpse of ourselves. And yet, while Descartes had cast his light on a peak that was part of a larger continent, he nonetheless revealed at least a part of what is ultimately the pivot of our world, as thinking existents. Third-person attempts to analyze the Cogito into an assemblage of theoretical constructs ultimately crumble into incoherence and contradiction (see my review of Dennett's Consciousness Explained for my analysis of such an attempt). I would also agree with Husserl that third-person views that ultimately try to reduce the first-person perspective to an explanation in terms of relations among objects turn out to be logically incoherent reifications that presuppose, as background context, concepts derived from the first-person stance which they try to explain-away in their explicit theories. So Descartes, in showing the primacy of the first-person stance for first philosophy set us on the right path, even though he ultimately didn't provide a sufficiently workable account of the layout of this stance, or of its relation with the third-person, mechanist nature he left us with. Perhaps as thinkers like Evan Thompson argue, in his "Mind in Life," placing mind in its rightful context means placing mind in nature. But ultimately, this means reconciling the first-person and the third-person stances which transforms our understanding of both, such that even nature can no longer be considered as "mere mechanism," but rather is more rightly seen as a dynamic unfolding of systems within systems. Ultimately, I appreciate the performative meaning philosophy has for Descartes, as something to be dynamically worked out of oneself rather than tacked onto oneself as an extraneous and largely inert acquisition, the primacy of the first-person stance which he so successfully demonstrated (and which we badly need to recall), and, above all, perhaps, the primacy of self-knowledge in the structuring of any coherent paradigm. I would also add to this list of my take-homes from Descartes Raymond Tallis' insight in "I Am: A Philosophical Inquiry Into First-Person Being": "Revealing the inescapable point of intersection between logic and existence is ... the enduring value of the Cogito argument." Moreover, I should mention that his useful construct, the Evil Genius that is hell-bent on leading our faculties astray, has had many reincarnations in later philosophy (Hume's Treatise seems to be written in its shadow, as was Kant's first Critique). However, the useful quasi-mythic formulation Descartes provides helps focus attention on this recurrent theme, and on the fear that it represents: i.e, the fear that, perhaps, we are all somehow "dreadfully cracked in the head," as Melville put it, and thus cannot so optimistically trust the capacity of our faculties in reliably setting a pattern that directs us to the real. The terrible possibility that Descartes' Evil Genius represents seem to me to be alive and well, haunting philosophy to this day. No solution really stands the acid of the test it imposes on us that doesn't turn out to be schmaltzy and based on mere wishful-thinking. Nietzsche seems to be the only one to have looked it fully in the face, instead of wishing it away with pragmatist optimism or foundationalist hand-waving. Ultimately, Descartes reminded us of the obvious, yet momentous and previously-overlooked fact, that we philosophize about the world by pulling concepts out of the substance of our own experience, nowhere else. His basic lesson, IMO, is that self-knowledge provides the material for all other knowledge. His constructive philosophy, with its dualist and mechanist conclusions offers just one way of working out this basic (and still valid) insight. And, if you look, you can still see Cartesian individualism as the shared structural element in much narrative formation everywhere, placing us all on a common map, morally, intellectually, spiritually, and imaginatively. A book that so influences cultural production and the envisioning of possibilities for shaping life and knowledge alike surely deserves a closer, more undistorted look!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I once wrote a song that had a very witty line in it about Descartes and Robots getting killed by Zombies-- and accused Descartes of being in league with Robots against Humanity. And it's true. Rene Descartes believed in Robots soulless creatures that an evil and malicious god controlled to destroy us all. It's all there in his book, you just have to realize what it is that he is writing about. His whole "I think therefore I am" was a youthful revolutionary vigor, he thought he was some kind of I once wrote a song that had a very witty line in it about Descartes and Robots getting killed by Zombies-- and accused Descartes of being in league with Robots against Humanity. And it's true. Rene Descartes believed in Robots soulless creatures that an evil and malicious god controlled to destroy us all. It's all there in his book, you just have to realize what it is that he is writing about. His whole "I think therefore I am" was a youthful revolutionary vigor, he thought he was some kind of freedom fighter who would liberate the world from all these robots, and for awhile believed himself to be the one true 'thinker' (He even went as far to change his name to Rene De-Cogito), but it never caught on), before he sold-out and realized there was more dough in being in league with the Robots. And that is how modern dualism was born.

  4. 5 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    The crowning achievement of Descartes and the work that would cement his legacy. He had already stunned the world in Discourse on Method with that famous Latin phrase cogito ergo sum; in this work he defends the ideas laid down in "Discourse" and sets about giving his own spin on the ontological argument. I know that this book gets some criticism now because time has marched on it should not be forgotten that this book changed the course of western philosophy. This work is the reason why the tim The crowning achievement of Descartes and the work that would cement his legacy. He had already stunned the world in Discourse on Method with that famous Latin phrase cogito ergo sum; in this work he defends the ideas laid down in "Discourse" and sets about giving his own spin on the ontological argument. I know that this book gets some criticism now because time has marched on it should not be forgotten that this book changed the course of western philosophy. This work is the reason why the time-line of philosophy has a "pre- and post-Cartesian" era. It changed the way people thought of the mind in relation to the body and it was one of the last significant ontological arguments before Kant's Critique of Pure Reason closed shop on that philosophical exercise. I knew a lot of the book and its mixed legacy but I view it keeping in mind the world it was released in and the ideas and debates it sparked. This book is divided into six chapters called..."meditations". In theses meditations Descartes recaps his previous work and lays down his system of mathematics and physics inspired rationalist philosophy.I won't do an intense examination but I will speak to the two things I think it spoke the most on. Meditations one, two, part of five and six pick-up from his last work and does an intense scrutiny of the body and its senses. Descartes of course denies everything he can exist and comes to the conclusion that he can't deny the fact that he is denying which means his mind is the one thing that confirms his existence, it is his essence. Part of what he was trying to do here is to figure out if our sense perception can be trusted. He does a lot of hard scrutinizing before coming to the conclusion that it can as long as we use our intellect to rationally examine what our senses pick-up. But what, or should I say who do we thank for this intellect and ability to reason? That brings me to the other topic that Descartes tackled... The ol' ontological argument. I mean it is the subtitle of the work. This takes up meditations three (the infamous Cartesian Circle), four (my favorite), and the other part of five. Part of the reason why I decided to read this book is because I had earlier this year read Saint Anselm of Canterbury's Proslogion which is the book that introduces the ontological argument in Christendom (Ibn Sina (Avicenna) was the first philosopher in the western tradition to use the ontological argument and Descartes borrows from him in his own philosophy). I have not read Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica but I know this work draws from both but is applied using Descartes trademark mathematical and physics mindset. I don't want to try to summarize it up because I know I will fail (you should read it yourself) but this part of the book contained my favorite meditation (four) and Descartes most infamous piece of philosophy (three). I like meditation four because of how self-contained it felt compared to the rest of the work. As I explained earlier the book is a continuation of Discourse on Method but expanded and more elaborate. Because of that there is already a complex rationalist system that is interwoven throughout the whole work. That means most of theses meditations would barely make sense unless you read the previous meditation (though the introduction and meditation #1 recap the last book). Meditation four can be stood well on its own and draws on Plato to talk about "the True and the False" concerning God. He does a very good job putting this chapter together and it can be understood with or without the rest of the book. I knew of some of the negative criticisms of this book before I picked it up but after the first two chapters I didn't think it was bad...then I started the third meditation. Now I don't know what was going on with Descartes when he wrote it but this is where the infamous Cartesian Circle (of logic) occurs and it is bad! He gets caught up in circular reasoning stating that perceptions like cogito ergo sum are clear and distinct because they are true and they are true because they are clear and distinct. He attempts to get out of this by saying we have clear and distinct perceptions because God exist, and we know God exist because we have clear and distinct perceptions of his existence. He then goes on that God is awesome and-HEY LOOK OVER THERE! And we go to meditation four. I might have given this book five stars but the circular reasoning of meditation 3 brought down the overall quality of the book as I kept thinking about it during his other themes and arguments and I think had he left it out the book would have been relatively better for it. If you read this book and get deja vu it may be because a little film called The Matrix borrowed a lot from it. Descartes' assertion that we are basically just our minds encased in our brains encased in this weird fleshy thing called a body is classic Rene. Yeah so, one of the most important works in western thought...not bad. I read this as a part of Classics of Western Philosophy

  5. 4 out of 5

    Onaiza Khan

    I had put a lot of hope in this book to enlighten me about philosophy and Descartes himself, but it didn't seem to do that. I liked reading it. He writes well though he did not win me over with his arguments. But the cloud of popular culture images of Descartes telling people how nothing is real and all their perceptions are being generated by a deceptive evil genius had cleared away. This idea forms only a tiny part of his philosophy and he resolves the problem (at least he thinks he does) that I had put a lot of hope in this book to enlighten me about philosophy and Descartes himself, but it didn't seem to do that. I liked reading it. He writes well though he did not win me over with his arguments. But the cloud of popular culture images of Descartes telling people how nothing is real and all their perceptions are being generated by a deceptive evil genius had cleared away. This idea forms only a tiny part of his philosophy and he resolves the problem (at least he thinks he does) that he had so revolutionarily sparked.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    Undeniably a monumental work in the field of philosophy. Decartes gives us the bridge from scholastic thinking to modern Piercean methods. Thus opening up a huge and important discussion on the forum of the ethics of belief. A must read for parties interested in the history of modern thought. With that being said Decartes comes off as an arrogant, aristocratic, Johnnie Terry. Defending his flawed, cyclical arguments for the existence of God as if they were absolute, infallible truths.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Reading Descartes's Meditations was like examining a speech by Hitler - while I disagreed with almost everything on the content level, I admired his rhetoric and how it made me think. Of course this also changed the entire canon of philosophy which proves its prevalence. Some of my favorite parts include the Cartesian Circle, the mind-body substance dualism, and the power of reason. My rating, while low, does not really reflect the quality of the work so much as my personal opinion/enjoyment of Reading Descartes's Meditations was like examining a speech by Hitler - while I disagreed with almost everything on the content level, I admired his rhetoric and how it made me think. Of course this also changed the entire canon of philosophy which proves its prevalence. Some of my favorite parts include the Cartesian Circle, the mind-body substance dualism, and the power of reason. My rating, while low, does not really reflect the quality of the work so much as my personal opinion/enjoyment of it; I still had the time of my life discussing it in my philosophy course.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    This is a perfect introduction to philosophy partly because it reveals, in concentrated form, the experience of studying philosophy as a whole: it begins with a very compelling worry about an important issue, pushes that worry to a worrisome extreme, then tries to address the worry in a totally unsatisfying way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aseel

    3.5 A tad hard to follow but I guess the main thing is god exists and we can think so we are real 😂

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rosanna Threakall

    Conquered this beast! The first piece of philosophical writing I have ever read and I actually really enjoy it. I like writing poems about the same kind of thing he discusses, existence, God, conscience etc so this was a really helpful and inspiring read. If you're daunted by philosophy I would definitely just pick it up because it's not too heavy, we can all empathise with questioning "why we exist" or "what the meaning of life is." I have a feeling that this will really inspire my final perform Conquered this beast! The first piece of philosophical writing I have ever read and I actually really enjoy it. I like writing poems about the same kind of thing he discusses, existence, God, conscience etc so this was a really helpful and inspiring read. If you're daunted by philosophy I would definitely just pick it up because it's not too heavy, we can all empathise with questioning "why we exist" or "what the meaning of life is." I have a feeling that this will really inspire my final performance piece so I'm glad I read the whole thing (an not just meditation 2 which was required - I'm a nerd what can I say.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam Brill

    Don't even talk to me about this book

  12. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    Warning: highly pretentious verbal excrement ahead 'You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means' In The Princess Bride, the word being referred to is 'inconceivable'. The joke is that the things being described as inconceivable are clearly not inconceivable because they are actually happening. But actually, if you think about it, it goes further than this. As soon as you say, 'X is inconceivable' you have formulated, or conceived of, the subject X, so the predicate Warning: highly pretentious verbal excrement ahead 'You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means' In The Princess Bride, the word being referred to is 'inconceivable'. The joke is that the things being described as inconceivable are clearly not inconceivable because they are actually happening. But actually, if you think about it, it goes further than this. As soon as you say, 'X is inconceivable' you have formulated, or conceived of, the subject X, so the predicate 'is inconceivable' is ipso facto false, for any X. I'm not sure how that's relevant to Descartes, but it sort of sounds similar and I've been wanting to get it off my chest for ages. Anyway, now to consider the truth and validity (or otherwise) of the famous statement 'I think, therefore I am [= exist]'*. Let's break it down: if the statement 'I think' is true, then the statement 'I exist' is true; or, if 'I' can be truthfully applied to the predicate 'think', then 'I' exist; or, the predicate 'think' can only truthfully take existent subjects. Now, firstly: is it the case for any predicate F, and for any subject X, that if F(X) is true, then X must exist? It would appear not: since I can make the statement 'hippogriffs have feathers', but this does not mean hippogriffs exist**. You cannot retreat into the objection that hippogriffs do exist as a thing in my mind because (a) that could be said of any possible subject X - see the above discussion on 'inconceivable' (I knew I could bring it in somehow) and (b) we have not yet established the existence of my mind! That's what we're trying to do! But then, if we allow that, the statement 'hippogriffs have feathers' is false, because the hippogriffs do not exist. But wait a minute: if we take F to be the predicate of non-existence, then the truth of F(X) clearly does not prove that X exists. The question is how you can meaningfully formulate an X such that it does not exist in any way (how do I know that hippogriffs don't exist?). In other words, we're back to Inigo Montoya's problem. 'I am so tossed about, as if I had fallen suddenly into a deep whirlpool, that I can neither put my foot on the bottom nor swim to the surface.' (p. 16) One more thing. Descartes occasionally wonders why, if there is a good God, he would let you ever be mistaken in anything. In other words, his epistemological problems come down to theodicy. *Incidentally, this statement, though implicit, is never actually written down in as many words during the meditations proper - you have to wait for the objections and replies, but even then it is more mentioned than actually postulated. By the way, it was originally in French, so it comes up as je pense, donc je suis rather than cogito, ergo sum. So there. **Descartes actually uses hippogriffs as an example. I was pretty much sold on this book after that.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

    Way good book. Descartes is clearly a funny intelligent humble man. He opens with a letter to some scholarly men explaining what will be discussed throughout the book. It is completely entertaining. Clearly a man of words and people, he manages to state that his work is more clear than simple geometry but that people will not understand it, all while maintaining the appearance of being a humble man. He manages to imply that he is the only philosopher that could have accomplished this idea, but al Way good book. Descartes is clearly a funny intelligent humble man. He opens with a letter to some scholarly men explaining what will be discussed throughout the book. It is completely entertaining. Clearly a man of words and people, he manages to state that his work is more clear than simple geometry but that people will not understand it, all while maintaining the appearance of being a humble man. He manages to imply that he is the only philosopher that could have accomplished this idea, but all while flattering the intelligence of those to whome he is writing to. The entire book is cleverly written and interesting. It is, however, not for every reader. (As Descartes clearly establishes in his opening letter) It is written eloquently- which may slow some people down, and it is a topic that requires a reader to leave thier inhibition with their pop culture- and truly read with an open mind. - As far as what it is actually about - Descartes sets out to establish justification for God. Not by way of discussing theology, but through philosophy instead. He provides basic logic as his reasoning rather than faith based on the Bible, or the Bible being truth by faith. Basically he makes the existance of God as logical as the existance of yourself and more logical than 2+2=4.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    I enjoyed this better after a second read. Read this a long time time ago in an intro to philosophy class. Reading a two volume Penguin edition of René Descartes selective works, so this isn't the edition I'm actually reading. I believe I read another edition in college. Let me just say that I loved this philosophy. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I found this accessible for me to read. My mind has been gong all over the place recently, for some reason I found this helpful. There so much I enjoyed this better after a second read. Read this a long time time ago in an intro to philosophy class. Reading a two volume Penguin edition of René Descartes selective works, so this isn't the edition I'm actually reading. I believe I read another edition in college. Let me just say that I loved this philosophy. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I found this accessible for me to read. My mind has been gong all over the place recently, for some reason I found this helpful. There so much being discussed and at times Descartes rambles. I can see why some wouldn't like this work in particular. For me I just seemed to get it. Maybe it's the fact it reminded me of my stream of consciousness writers or maybe it's because he promotes being a skeptics and not fully taking one side. Whatever the reason may be, I like Descartes ad he's quickly become my favorite philosopher. There's a lot more I can probably say, but maybe I'll have a better review when I finish the first volume of the Penguin edition.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This was a bit of a sludge to read through. Descartes, or the translation, is very boring; and he keeps going back to the whole "God: That He Exists" topic, a bit too often. It seems to me that Descartes was bending over backwards for the Church in order to not be labeled a rebel. He defined God in such a way that God must exist - its a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it. But, why call this substance 'God'? With our current terminologies concerning existence would probably This was a bit of a sludge to read through. Descartes, or the translation, is very boring; and he keeps going back to the whole "God: That He Exists" topic, a bit too often. It seems to me that Descartes was bending over backwards for the Church in order to not be labeled a rebel. He defined God in such a way that God must exist - its a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it. But, why call this substance 'God'? With our current terminologies concerning existence would probably call it 'Nature' or 'Physical law'. It's an interesting process from Descartes's Skepticism to his acceptance of reality as truth. I've read elsewhere that the progress from skepticism to every-day rationalism (how we normally function) would only be accomplished by faith, and not reason alone as Descartes claims here. Fortunately, both parties agree that Descartes's Skepticism is not obtainable, as our minds could never fully doubt reality (it would always cling to something). This book brings a lot of questions to my mind, many of which I'm still trying to answer - some that I'm still trying to formulate. And that's why this is a 5-star book. It unearths many important issues. I may not agree with Descartes's methods, but I don't have to in order to learn from this book. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in philosophy, although it's not good place to start. There may be some secondary literature on the topic that's more appropriate for new-comers, and more interesting (less sludgy) reads for everyone. I'd appreciate if someone commented on this review with some recommendations of secondary literature. I've read about Descartes in many places, but I haven't read a book solely on his philosophy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Quite frankly, I thought this was garbage. I felt like it was written by a modern day apologetic trying to convince themselves of God's existence. There are about 5 pages where Descartes displays a healthy dose of skepticism and makes some fairly astute introspective observations. The rest is him making outrageous assumptions, and then making further assumptions based off those first assumptions. I do think it's important to know about his ideas if you are into philosophy. Perhaps, when taken int Quite frankly, I thought this was garbage. I felt like it was written by a modern day apologetic trying to convince themselves of God's existence. There are about 5 pages where Descartes displays a healthy dose of skepticism and makes some fairly astute introspective observations. The rest is him making outrageous assumptions, and then making further assumptions based off those first assumptions. I do think it's important to know about his ideas if you are into philosophy. Perhaps, when taken into context of the 1600's, it gets him off the hook a bit. But, I really did not find anything illuminating about this treatise.

  17. 5 out of 5

    bubonic

    Cartesian doubt; I think therefore I am; to err is human; mind/body duality; the ontological argument via the innate idea of perfection; it's all in this very accessible reading. While many of his arguments have since claimed to be refuted by succeeding philosophers, this short read is a good illustration of how we can know what we think we know. Drawing on the idea that God is not a deceiver, we can assure ourselves of the truths we conceive of corporeal objects through our natural senses. Mind Cartesian doubt; I think therefore I am; to err is human; mind/body duality; the ontological argument via the innate idea of perfection; it's all in this very accessible reading. While many of his arguments have since claimed to be refuted by succeeding philosophers, this short read is a good illustration of how we can know what we think we know. Drawing on the idea that God is not a deceiver, we can assure ourselves of the truths we conceive of corporeal objects through our natural senses. Mind is indivisible and the body divisible, but both unifying to make the whole that we are. We may be wrong in our precepts but as Descartes elucidates this is do to our finite constructs. That is why humans err, we simply cannot be cognizant of all things. We can try not to error by recognizing the infirmity of our nature and to use our full and best judgement in our decisions forthwith. While much of Descartes can be refuted by British Epistemology, pragmatism, 20th century logic and even the existentialist movement, one should read this book for one's complete study of historical philosophical argumentation. Needless to say much of these meditations can still bare fruitful ideas in conducting our precepts and in knowing the limitations of our nature.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Thuc Anh Nguyen

    Changed my prejudices about Descartes "I can't be certain or sure about anything, yes it's true that I can doubt everything, my senses, what my senses perceive. Maybe none of these things in this world exists, but one thing for sure, I am, I must exist. What else can I be certain about, besides the most fundamental fact that I must exist? If I exist, then my perception must be true as well. What I mean by my perception is not the objects that I see, hear, taste, or feel, but the feeling and the Changed my prejudices about Descartes "I can't be certain or sure about anything, yes it's true that I can doubt everything, my senses, what my senses perceive. Maybe none of these things in this world exists, but one thing for sure, I am, I must exist. What else can I be certain about, besides the most fundamental fact that I must exist? If I exist, then my perception must be true as well. What I mean by my perception is not the objects that I see, hear, taste, or feel, but the feeling and the seeing itself. It is the experience that is real. None of these things that I see and feel can be real, maybe I don't know what things are truly are, but I can't doubt what things seem to me."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julia Long

    I'm disheartened to have to rate this book 3 stars because I thought I'd enjoy it so much more than I did. I appreciated the way this book opened the door for me to think up arguments against a lot of Descartes's (imo) flawed claims. Also, I do enjoy and agree with the meditations concerning the fact that all senses, the body, and everything in the world might be illusory. However, as for the meditations that 'prove' God's existence, I found countless flaws and was endlessly exasperated (and I' I'm disheartened to have to rate this book 3 stars because I thought I'd enjoy it so much more than I did. I appreciated the way this book opened the door for me to think up arguments against a lot of Descartes's (imo) flawed claims. Also, I do enjoy and agree with the meditations concerning the fact that all senses, the body, and everything in the world might be illusory. However, as for the meditations that 'prove' God's existence, I found countless flaws and was endlessly exasperated (and I'm not an atheist--I just mean I found flaws in Descartes's means of reaching his conclusions). I.e. he points out that the 'cause' of each human idea must be as real as the 'effect' (the idea itself, you could say) and therefore, because the human mind can conceive of an infinite, perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful being, one must exist. He makes it clear that under the same logic a, say, horse with wings still doesn't exist because one can imagine a horse with or without wings but a God (being perfect) cannot be separated from existence (which is a perfection). Definitely an interesting idea, but just because something cannot be separated from another thing (even existence) in theory doesn't at all prove that it actually exists in reality, at least that's my instinctive response to such an argument. Also, as for the 'cause' of the idea being as real as the 'effect,' this is perhaps true but doesn't prove anything because humans don't actually fully perceive infinity, perfection, or God--they are just abstract concepts thought up as responses to things we can understand: We are able to abstractly form a vague idea of infinity as a response to something we experience and understand: the nature of the finite. However, it's not like we can actually fully grasp the concept. It's not like we can sit there and actually picture or truly understand infinity. We can also draw up in our minds the abstract concept of absolute nothingness, but of course, we've never experienced and cannot imagine nothingness (not a bunch of transparent air, but actual nothingness) and our ability to come up with vague abstract concepts we don't fully grasp, such as infinity, nothingness and God doesn't prove their existence, I don't think. We string together concepts we do experience and understand--power, existence, lacking, emptiness, what have you--to 'cause' these 'effects' that are the abstract concepts of things we in fact CANNOT truly perceive and therefore the power in reality that would be needed to perceive them is so far not evidently real. Let's backtrack a little to the first point I brought up, or rather, the first point of Descartes's that I brought up. That one actually makes my head spin a lot more--that God must exist because existence is a perfection and God cannot be separated from existence. In other words (1) I can conceive of an all-knowing, perfect, infinite being (2) Existence is a perfection and cannot be separated from God (3) God exists. There are a few possible ways to dismantle this though: A) Is nonexistence a perfection too? How does the vague concept of perfection that we as imperfect (probably) beings in an imperfect (probably) world match up to the objective concept of perfection? Was this concept invented by humans in the first place? Why does God (in every major religious text) possess so many human qualities, including those often considered imperfect, such as jealousy? B) Can Descartes, myself or anyone truly conceive of this divine being, or is the Existence we can naturally conceive of just a projection of ourselves (which we 'know' exist, as it's experienced by us individually and 'self-evident')? We can conceive of existence because we exist (or think we exist). We can conceive of a vague abstract concept of infinity because we are finite and we can just conceive vaguely of the negation of that (and CANNOT, as far as I know, fully conceive of, picture, imagine or grasp what it really means for something to be infinite). We can conceive of an abstract concept of perfection because we can conceive of imperfection (assuming we are imperfect) and negate it, but so far I don't think there's an objective definition of perfection among humans, and so also C) Would a perfect infinite being be all-powerful? Is power a perfection, or is submission? Isn't that subjective? One of my main points is that Descartes's argument about us being able to conceive of infinity, perfection, and omnipotence is rendered null by the fact that we CAN'T actually grasp ANY of these concepts. -2 stars for being somewhat boring, VERY flawed (in my opinion) and therefore rather disappointing. 3 stars for giving me the opportunity to write these rebuttals and making me think about arguments I've never thought about before (even though I guess I don't agree with some of them).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ali Reda

    Although both Descartes and Al-Ghazali start their skepticism with the same principles, they end their skeptical journey using different methods, Descartes proves one amazing truth, the cogito ("I think therefore I am") then he goes on to prove God's Existence and being good and from this he proves the rest of his arguments, although this proof is wrong, but his overall impact resulted in two things 1) skepticism as the begining stage of the modern process in philosophy and science 2) Logic and Although both Descartes and Al-Ghazali start their skepticism with the same principles, they end their skeptical journey using different methods, Descartes proves one amazing truth, the cogito ("I think therefore I am") then he goes on to prove God's Existence and being good and from this he proves the rest of his arguments, although this proof is wrong, but his overall impact resulted in two things 1) skepticism as the begining stage of the modern process in philosophy and science 2) Logic and arguments must control the process to the end. And that's how Modern Philosophy and science were born. Unlike Al-Ghazali whose method was " a light from god in his heart" and that's why Al-Ghazali's skepticism didn't stir a revolution in the way we think as much as Descartes. فأقبلت بجد بليغ أتأمل المحسوسات والضروريات ، وأنظر هل يمكنني أن أشكك نفسي فيها ، فانتهي بي طول التشكك إلى أن لم تسمح نفسي بتسليم الأمان في المحسوسات أيضاً ، وأخذت تتسع للشك فيها وتقول : من أين الثقة بالمحسوسات ، وأقواها حاسة البصر؟ .. تنظر إلى الكوكب فتراه صغيراً في مقدار دينار ، ثم الأدلة الهندسية تدل على أنه أكبر من الأرض في المقدار. وهذا وأمثاله من المحسوسات يحكم فيها حاكم الحس بأحكامه ، ويكذبـه حاكم العقل ويخونـه تكذيباً لا سبيل إلى مدافعته. فقلت: قد بطلت الثقة بالمحسوسات أيضاً ، فلعله لا ثقة إلا بالعقليات التي هي من الأوليات ، كقولنا: العشرة أكثر من الثلاثة ، والنفي والإثبات لا يجتمعان في الشيء الواحد ، والشيء الواحد لا يكون حادثاً قديماً ، موجوداً معدوماً ، واجباً محالاً. فقالت المحسوسات: بم تأمن أن تكون ثقتك بالعقليات كثقتك بالمحسوسات ، وقد كنت واثقاً بي ، فجاء حاكم العقل فكذبني ، ولولا حاكم العقل لكنت تستمر على تصديقي ، فلعل وراء إدراك العقل حاكماً آخر ، إذا تجلى ، كذب العقل في حكمه ، كما تجلى حاكم العقل فكذب الحس في حكمه ، وعدم تجلي ذلك الإدراك ، لا يدل على استحالته. فتوقفت النفس في جواب ذلك قليلاً ، وأيدت إشكالها بالمنام ، وقالت: أما تراك تعتقد في النوم أموراً ، وتتخيل أحوالاً ، وتعتقد لها ثباتاً واستقراراً ، ولا تشك في تلك الحالة فيها ، ثم تستيقظ فتعلم أنه لم يكن لجميع متخيلاتك ومعتقداتك أصل وطائل ؛ فبم تأمن أن يكون جميع ما تعتقده في يقظتك بحس أو عقل هو حق بالإضافة إلى حالتك [ التي أنت فيها ] ؛ لكن يمكن أن تطرأ عليك حالة تكون نسبتها إلى يقظتك ، كنسبة يقظتك إلى منامك ، وتكون يقظتك نوماً بالإضافة إليها! فإذا وردت تلك الحالة تيقنت أن جميع ما توهمت بعقلك خيالات لا حاصل لها ، ولعل تلك الحالة ما تدعيه الصوفية أنـها حالتهم ؛ إذ يزعمون أنـهم يشاهدون في أحوالهم التي ( لهم ) ، إذا غاصوا في أنفسهم ، وغابوا عن حواسهم ، أحوالاً لا توافق هذه المعقولات. ولعل تلك الحالة هي الموت ، إذ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلّم: (( الناسُ نيامٌ فإذا ماتوا انتبـهوا )) فلعل الحياة الدنيا نوم بالإضافة إلى الآخرة. فإذا مات ظهرت له الأشياء على خلاف ما يشاهده الآن ، ويقال له عند ذلك: (( فكشفنا عنكَ غطاءكَ فبصرُكَ اليومَ حديدٌ )) (ق: 22) فلما خطرت لي هذه الخواطر وانقدحت في النفس ، حاولت لذلك علاجاً فلم يتيسر ، إذ لم يكن دفعه إلا بالدليل ، ولم يمكن نصب دليل إلا من تركيب العلوم الأولية ، فإذا لم تكن مسلمة لم يمكن تركيب الدليل. فأعضل هذا الداء ، ودام قريباً من شهرين أنا فيهما على مذهب السفسطة بحكم الحال ، لا بحكم النطق والمقال ، حتى شفى الله تعالى من ذلك المرض ، وعادت النفس إلى الصحة والاعتدال ، ورجعت الضروريات العقلية مقبولة موثوقاً بـها على أمن ويقين ؛ ولم يكن ذلك بنظم دليل وترتيب كلام ، بل بنور قذفه الله تعالى في الصدر وذلك النور هو مفتاح أكثر المعارف ، فمن ظن أن الكشف موقوف على الأدلة المحررة فقد ضيق رحمة الله [ تعالى ] الواسعة

  21. 4 out of 5

    Clint

    So it has taken Descartes up to the last meditation to determine if material things exist or not. He has already proven that God and the mind exist, but material things he’s not so sure about. It’s interesting to me because we tend to take for granted what it means for something to exist and what a fantastic phenomena it is for that to occur, whereas Descartes is being very careful to be absolutely certain of what he knows. I’m not sure I agree with Descartes about the importance of absolute cer So it has taken Descartes up to the last meditation to determine if material things exist or not. He has already proven that God and the mind exist, but material things he’s not so sure about. It’s interesting to me because we tend to take for granted what it means for something to exist and what a fantastic phenomena it is for that to occur, whereas Descartes is being very careful to be absolutely certain of what he knows. I’m not sure I agree with Descartes about the importance of absolute certainty, but I sense a very large paradigm shift in his method of philosophizing, just as I’m seeing a huge paradigm shift in mathematics, where mathematicians like Nicholas of Cusa equated what something is approaching to the thing itself, which is something that Euclid, Archimedes, Appolonius, and Aristotle were very hesitant to assert, but this line of thinking is the very foundation of calculus and so it is an assertion that is necessary for modern mathematics to exist and develop. Junior year is going to be really cool because we are looking at these movements in thought away from the Greeks, and even though I worship Plato like he is my philosophy god, it is really nice to get away from many of the limitations that Platonic and especially Aristotelian philosophy have.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anand

    Cogito Ergo Sum ~ I think therefore I am. The famous passage from Descartes. Considering how short this reading is, about 59 pages, it is fairly dense. Almost all of the pages has some sort of thought, or insight into Descartes thinking. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I know some what about Descartes philosophy, but reading what he actually have written is totally different from the snippet thoughts, i read or heard from others that are written about his philosophy. If i knew Latin, it w Cogito Ergo Sum ~ I think therefore I am. The famous passage from Descartes. Considering how short this reading is, about 59 pages, it is fairly dense. Almost all of the pages has some sort of thought, or insight into Descartes thinking. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I know some what about Descartes philosophy, but reading what he actually have written is totally different from the snippet thoughts, i read or heard from others that are written about his philosophy. If i knew Latin, it would have more amazing, again translation some times falls short with language barriers. Again, reading what he have wrote gives more greater insight into his philosophy. His first and second Meditations really stick out, philosophy wise. Did not really enjoy the third or the last part of the meditations were he tries persuade that god does exist, and to me it falls short with his arguments, because to me he choose God to real, not that god was only reason why we exist, again tries very hard to prove it. Nonetheless, it is very good read, great philosophy in its essence.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Marr

    All right, all right. Descartes screwed everything up with the subjective turn, and everyone hates him for it. Kant's scathing criticism showed the Cartesian project misguided, Wittgenstein's private language argument let us not even buy into Descartes' premises, Ryle's Concept of Mind showed us the inadequacy of "it was all a dream," etc. etc. That is to say, Descartes is fun to poop on, poke holes through, etc. But nonetheless this book is genius and superbly written -- if you choose to read i All right, all right. Descartes screwed everything up with the subjective turn, and everyone hates him for it. Kant's scathing criticism showed the Cartesian project misguided, Wittgenstein's private language argument let us not even buy into Descartes' premises, Ryle's Concept of Mind showed us the inadequacy of "it was all a dream," etc. etc. That is to say, Descartes is fun to poop on, poke holes through, etc. But nonetheless this book is genius and superbly written -- if you choose to read it as a personal meditation, not as a philosophical treatise. This is my second time reading the Meditations, and I'm reading it now like meditations--a day between meditations, calling the meditator 'the meditator' (not Descartes), treating the work like a personal journey and not a philosophical treatise on epistemology, &c--and if you read the meditations this way, the book is highly successful. Just a thought, I guess.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rambling Reader

    tantalizing yet unsatisfactory

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zedder

    Check out the balls on that subtitle!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Descartes' famous search for God and the soul follows a narrative structure similar to the arc of the great epics: a hero sets out on a journey, encounters many difficulties, and then arrives home again, but with a new appreciation and understanding for what is around him. Many have questioned aspects of his project, and it has been frequently misunderstood -- he doubted the existence of the external world not in order to prove it for certain, but to attempt to show that the existence of God and Descartes' famous search for God and the soul follows a narrative structure similar to the arc of the great epics: a hero sets out on a journey, encounters many difficulties, and then arrives home again, but with a new appreciation and understanding for what is around him. Many have questioned aspects of his project, and it has been frequently misunderstood -- he doubted the existence of the external world not in order to prove it for certain, but to attempt to show that the existence of God and the soul is actually more certain knowledge than what is (apparently) in front of our faces. Still, many of his argumentative moves are questionable, and at times he seems to smuggle in Aristotelian assumptions that don't have a native home in his system. While most of the best later philosophers have agreed that his project was ultimately a failure, we might legitimately wish that we should all be able to fail so gloriously.

  27. 4 out of 5

    aa

    Reading this gave me a perception that Descartes argument for the existence of God, or really anything past Meditation Two, is paper-thin. And to anyone who disagrees, know that this perception of mine was clear & distinct, so therefore it must be true.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    But what then am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling, and also imagines and has sensory perceptions. The most profound reflections of a Frenchman in his nightgown playing with a ball of wax.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Paulidis

    First two meditations are really interesting and important the others are not that important

  30. 4 out of 5

    Meagan

    For a while now, I’ve been feeling regretful I didn't take a philosophy class in college. So I’ve decided I’d like to try to read the key texts you’d typically get assigned in Philosophy 101, and see how it goes. René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy is supposed to be a good place to start for a beginner. It’s short and not too opaque, so here we are. (I feel so pleased with myself that I actually read and finished it!) Here's what I got from reading it: Meditation I: Concerning Those T For a while now, I’ve been feeling regretful I didn't take a philosophy class in college. So I’ve decided I’d like to try to read the key texts you’d typically get assigned in Philosophy 101, and see how it goes. René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy is supposed to be a good place to start for a beginner. It’s short and not too opaque, so here we are. (I feel so pleased with myself that I actually read and finished it!) Here's what I got from reading it: Meditation I: Concerning Those Things That Can Be Called into Doubt ‣We can’t assume anything and can’t trust our senses. ‣How do I know I’m real, or that any of this is real? (What if there’s a demon deceiving me about everything?) ‣The only way to answer these questions is to cast aside all my beliefs and start over, until I can find something completely certain. (Cartesian doubt) I liked Meditation I very much, since I feel at home in a cloud of all-encompassing skepticism. (Doubt is maybe my most recurrent feeling). Meditation I is so great because it presents questions for the ages. Take the demon, change it to an evil machines, and you’ve got The Matrix. No joke, I read a newspaper article a few months ago saying a lot of scientists believe that it’s pretty likely we’re living in a matrix-like simulation. Um, ok, what?! (Actually, I’ve realized I don’t really care, because it’s not like I can break out of it Neo-style, so it’s all the same in practice). I think an exercise in Cartesian doubt, I mean really starting from square zero, and trying to question everything I have ever believed or think I know, would be a good thing to try, at least once in my life . I would like to, but I’m a bit worried I'd set myself off on some sort of horrific existential crisis, so I’ve got to ensure that won’t happen before I try it. (Then again, is it possible to exercise Cartesian doubt without inviting an existential crisis?) Even though it's called Cartesian doubt, I’m not at all convinced Descartes actually achieved complete doubt about his beliefs. He poses the necessary questions, out of logic or obligation, but I don’t know if he had it in him to seriously contemplate the possibility God doesn’t exist, for instance. Meditation II: Concerning the Nature of the Human Mind: That the mind is more known than the body ‣Because of Meditation I: “ What is there, then, that can be esteemed true ? Perhaps this only, that there is absolutely nothing certain." ‣Even if I’m being deceived in everything, they can’t make me believe I’m nothing if I’m actually something. ‣Physical action and perception can only be done with a body. But thinking can be done without the body, and only with the mind/soul. ‣“I am, however, a real thing, and really existent; but what thing? The answer was, a thinking thing." ‣We know our minds better than we know the world. ‣When I look at something, it’s not through pure vision that I recognize something; it’s my mind judging what I see that gives me my perceptions. This is the meditation that gives grounding to Descartes most famous quote: "I think, therefore I am," even if it doesn't appear word for word in this exact text. This meditation invokes the problem of consciousness. I used to be real messed up about the idea of consciousness, but a few years back I figured out my own answer to it which satisfies me. I’m actually not a fan of the tendency to elevate consciousness to something mystical, the anthropocentric debates it elicits. I'm sure neuroscience will have many interesting things to tells us in the remaining decades, but I suspect for many people, consciousness is a problem that's never going to be resolved. I do still enjoy it in the context of science fiction: what will happen if androids are programmed to believe they're conscious, or if we ever get the technology to digitally upload the contents of our brains? But in other contexts, a lot of the debate over consciousness is a bit over-the-top for me. Meditation III: Concerning God, That He Exists ‣“Whatever is clearly and distinctly perceived must be true.” ‣Our experience of the external world may not resemble the actual reality of the external world: "...I have observed, in a number of instances, that there was a great difference between the object and its idea.” ‣Something can’t arise from nothing. ‣What is more perfect can’t arise from what is less perfect. ‣"Although an idea may give rise to another idea, this regress cannot, nevertheless, be infinite; we must in the end reach a first idea, the cause of which is, as it were, the archetype in which all the reality or perfection." ‣Only an absolutely perfect being (God) could account for the idea of an absolutely perfect being. The valuable part of this meditation for me was the distinction Descartes makes between our experience of the external world versus the reality of the external world. But I didn’t find his proof of God convincing. Meditation IV: Concerning the True and the False ‣It’s impossible for God to deceive me because he’s perfect (deception being imperfect) ‣God gave me the ability to reason, which I should trust. ‣There are two poles: God (perfect)<-----> Nothing (opposite of perfection). I (Humans) are between God and nothing; between absolute existence and non-existence. ‣I can be deceived not because God gave me this ability/fault, but because I don’t have the full power of God to always be correct/perfect. ‣Why does God allow mistakes? Consider: a) I can’t understand God’s motives b) I need to look at the universe as a whole, the greater picture, not just at myself, because from that perspective it may indeed be perfect c) the only evidence of my imperfection is my errors. ‣All my errors are due to: 1) my intellect 2) my will. ‣The problem isn’t my intellect, it’s my will, because it’s more powerful than intellect, and I don’t restrain it enough. ‣It’s wrong to exercise my will/judgement if I don’t have a clear idea or understanding of the issue yet: "The knowledge of the understanding ought always to precede the determination of the will." ‣To avoid error : "retain the resolution never to judge where the truth is not clearly known to me." ‣“As often as I so restrain my will within the limits of my knowledge, that it forms no judgment except regarding objects which are clearly and distinctly represented to it by the understanding, I can never be deceived" I liked this meditation in that it urges withholding judgement from things you don’t know enough about. I don’t have a formed opinion on some things which is okay because I don’t know enough of the topic just yet to judge correctly. Thanks for validating me, Descartes. There's no rush to form an opinion just yet, I need more time to think and research. Meditation V: Concerning the Essence of Material Things, and Again Concerning God, That He Exists ‣Can anything certain can be known regarding material things? ‣I have ideas that aren’t nothing, things that I didn’t invent, that things have their own immutable nature(triangles) ‣The properties of mathematics are the most certain of all. ‣The existence of God is just as certain as the existence of mathematics, whose principles I know in the same way. ‣God exists and isn’t a deceiver, so"what I perceive clearly and distinctly cannot fail to be true." ‣The certainty and truth of all my knowledge depends on God. To be honest, I don’t think I got anything useful out of this Meditation. Meditation VI: Concerning the Existence of Material Things, and the Real Distinction between Mind and Body ‣The mind and body are separate:"There is a great difference between mind and body, in as much as body is by nature always divisible, and the mind is entirely indivisible" ‣Dreaming can’t be real life because our memory can’t connect our dreams in a wider narrative but it can with events while we’re awake: "And I ought to set aside all the doubts of these past days as hyperbolical and ridiculous, particularly that very common uncertainty respecting sleep, which I could not distinguish from the waking state; for at present I find a very notable difference between the two, inasmuch as our memory can never connect our dreams one with the other, or with the whole course of our lives, as it unites events which happen to us while we are awake." I don't agree with Descartes that the mind/body is separate. For me, the mind *is* the brain, which is a part of the body. But I loved the point about the difference between dreaming and being awake: we can construct linearity from our waking moments, but not our dreaming moments. Overall impression: I liked Meditations on First Philosophy a lot, despite not really agreeing with anything Descartes concludes. He wasn't able to convince me that God is real, or that the mind is separate from the body. But I feel like that's not even the important thing about this text? It's not so much Descartes convincing you of his view, but Descartes encouraging you to follow him along in this exercise, to question yourself and reality, and arrive at a conclusion. This book got me thinking, and kept me thinking. Also, one of the best things about reading it is it's a gateway into a rich tradition of philosophical debate about the mind, consciousness, and perception, which I'm excited to explore further.

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