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Interpretation of Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy

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Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy develops an argument to help show that people's minds are bodies are distinct. The first premise that Descartes makes is that he doubts that he has a body. Descartes can see, touch, hear, and smell his own body but he wonders if that is his real body. He is curious whether or not his body actually exists because he feels that his senses have been and can be deceived.

Descartes feels that our senses can be tricked, which questions the plausibility of what we can see, touch, hear, and smell. He was able to develop the previous premise based on four reasons. The first reason is that he believes that his senses have been deceived before. A healthy person may become hallucinated and see or hear things that no one else can see or hear. The second reason is that he believes that we may be dreaming. When a person is in a dream, the person will think that everything surrounding him or her is very real because the person still obtains sensory information in a dream. The third reason may be deceiving us. Although God is known to be good, God still has the power to mislead us from the correct information. If God is not deceiving us, then the fourth reason is that an evil demon with enough power would be able to deceive our senses. All four reasons describe possible ways of how our senses can be misled.

Although Descartes says that he can doubt that he has a body, he says that he cannot doubt that he has a mind. Descartes believes that he has sufficient reasons to explain why he definitely has a mind. At this point, since Descartes doubts that he has a body, he also doubts his existence. However, he knew he exists in some way and comes up with cogito ergo sum. Cogito ergo sum defines as "I think, therefore I am." With the "I" referring to the mind, since the mind has the ability to think, then the mind exists. His premise is furthered supported by Leibniz's Law although the law is not directly stated in Descartes' argument.

Leibniz's Law says that for all x, which is a true variable, and all y, x and y are identical if and only if x and y have all the same properties. Descartes uses wax as an example and says that solid wax and melted wax are the same. He is able to say that based on how how he inspects the wax and not how his senses perceive the wax. Based on inspection, he can say that both the solid and melted wax hold the same properties although they may not be similar based on what you see, hear, touch, and smell.

The two premises lead to Descartes' conclusion. Since he doubts that his body exists but does not doubt that his mind exists, then Descartes makes that conclusion that his mind and his body are distinct. In other words, the mind and the body are independent of each other and do not function together as one whole unit.

One of Descartes'



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