While I begin getting to grips with blogging I thought i’d begin with a Quote of the Week to get the ball rolling.
The first I thought I’d discuss is the most well known today:
‘I think therefore I am’ – Descartes
This actual quote is not quite what was said by Descartes in his Meditations but does summarise what he meant. Descartes Meditations were written when Scepticism was a real threat to science and belief. His aim was to probe that without a doubt there is something we can know. Knowledge was being doubted as even possible.
To begin Descartes knocked down all beliefs which could be doubted in anyway. This included anything which we were informed by others as they could be lying or wrong or anything learned through the senses as the sense can decieve us in dreams and hallucinations etc. This brings what we actually know down by quite a bit; almost to nothing.
Descartes though saw that there is at least one thing we can be sure of; we exist. Our ability to question our existence must mean we exist as fictional characters cannot think and doubt and question. We most cetainly exist as a consiousness if we are able to think.
This is the turning point in Descartes meditations. From here on though it becomes a little foggy as he goes on to rely on God and how God would not allow us to be so deceived by our senses. According to Descartes we can thus rely on our ‘clear and distinct’ knowledge from the sense. This is ironically an unclear notion and all further claims from Descartes rely on this claim of Gods benevolence.
Relying on Gods existence is a very risky buisiness in philosophy. Many philosophers are of course religious but the assumption of Gods existence does not make for good work.
There is though the fact that the church at the time would be who publishes books and so conforming to their view would be essential in order to get things published.
The notion that we must be conscious and exist though if we are able to think at all is though an achievement of his work. Thus ‘I think therefore I am’ has become such a well known phrase.
Essays I have written on Descartes:
Descartes mediations (these two are very similar):
Descartes in The Matrix film: