Introduction to Philosophy (Phil 100)
Prof. Michael Rosenthal
November 13th, 2012
An Analysis of Descartes’ First Meditation
In Descartes’ First Meditation, Descartes’ overall intention is to present the idea that our perceptions and sensations are flawed and should not be trusted entirely. His purpose is to create the greatest possible doubt of our senses. To convey this thought, Descartes has three main arguments in the First Meditation: The dream argument, the deceiving God argument, and the evil demon “or evil genius”. Descartes’ dream argument argues that there is no definite transition from a dream to reality, and since dreams are so close to reality, one can never really determine whether they are dreaming or not. To reinforce that argument, Descartes presents the deceiving God argument. He says that since God is all powerful, then he has the power to deceive us about reality or our dreams. But again, Descartes feels this argument is missing something, which is why he concludes with the evil genius argument. The evil genius argument’s purpose is to tie all these arguments together and strengthen Descartes’ entire argument. The evil genius argument goes like this: God is omnipotent and supremely good, which means God cannot be the one who deceives humans, rather, a separate entity -- an "evil genius, [who is] supremely powerful and clever, who has directed his entire effort at deceiving me" (Descartes 492). By deceiving, I mean tricking humans that their sensations and perceptions are real, when they are indeed not real. To overcome this evil genius, Descartes says he will regard all external things as “hoaxes of my dreams, with which he (the evil genius) lays snares for my credulity” (Descartes 492). In this analysis, I will further discuss Descartes’ arguments in the First Meditation, the purpose of the evil genius argument, how Descartes attempts to overcome the power of this great deceiver, and ultimately why his attempt is...
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