Philosophy: Descartes Essay

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Descartes Paper Dualism is defined as the division of something conceptually into two opposed or contrasted aspects. (Oxford Dictionary) It is a theory or system of thought that regards a domain of reality in terms of two independent principles. Descartes differentiates the mind and the body as distinct from one another. The mind does not extend in space and the body cannot think. Res extensa refers to extended things such as the body and res cogitans refers to mental substances such as the mind. (Gallo week 2 lecture) The essence of the res cogitans is a thinking thing that is non-extended. This concept is believed that minds are made up of non physical substance. Secondary qualities of res cogitans include sense perception and “imagination”. (Gallo week 2 lecture) Descartes discovered this essence of res cogitans by first doubting everything in his First Meditation. He supposes that what he sees does not exist, that his memory is faulty, and that he has no senses and no body. (Descartes 185) The use of hyperbolic doubt leads to the indubitable truth. By doubting everything, even existence, Descartes can point out that senses are misleading and the data which we receive from our sense are not reliable. Descartes introduces two arguments, the Dream Hypothesis and the Evil Demon Hypothesis. In the dream hypothesis, he has perceptions much like the sensations he has while dreaming. He has no definite signs of distinguishing the dream experience and the waking experience. Descartes realizes that it is possible that he is just dreaming and all of his perceptions are false. In the Evil Demon hypothesis, he is going to assume that instead of God being the source of his deceptions, that there is an evil demon is deceiving in the same way that he believed God can. Therefore, he has reasons to doubt his senses as well as the knowledge that he believes it brings him. This allows Descartes to convince himself that nothing exists and by convincing himself that nothing exists, he concludes that he himself exists at the very least as a res cogitans or a thinking thing. Doubting that the physical world exists, which seems to imply that he does not exist, but in order to have doubt, he must exist. “So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.” (Descartes 187) This means that the mere fact that Descartes is thinking, regardless of whether or not what he is thinking is true or false, implies that there must be something that is engaged in the activity of thinking. Therefore, Descartes is certain that he has established a proposition that other truths can be drawn from. Descartes takes a closer look at a piece of wax and what is known about it by the way of his senses alone. The taste of honey, smell of flowers, color, shape and size he sees, the feeling of hardness, and the sound it makes when he wraps on it with his knuckle are all qualities. He observes that when the wax is placed near the fire, all the qualities change but it still takes up space and the wax still exists. The knowledge that the solid piece of wax and the melted wax are still the same does not come from the senses since all the secondary qualities have changed. (Descartes 189) The conclusion Descartes arrives at is that the piece of wax is “merely something extended, flexible, and changeable.” (Descartes 189) Descartes knows that he does not know this through the senses, and realizes that it is impossible for him to know the wax by imagination alone. The wax can change to an infinite number of shapes and Descartes cannot come up with every single shape in his imagination. He must “therefore admit that the nature of this piece of wax is in no way revealed by [his] imagination, but is perceived by the mind alone.” (Descartes 190) Instead, he concludes that he knows the wax from his intelligence and mind only. This proves