Methods and Meditations on First Philosophy is a discourse by Rene Descartes, which largely focuses on the nature of humanity and divinity. This essay is a discussion of this discourse, and will summarize, explain and object to various parts of his work. The majority of this essay focuses on Descartes Sixth Meditation, which includes his argument that corporeal things do exist.
1. There clearly exists a passive faculty of sensing and I use it involuntarily. 2. If there exists a passive faculty of sensing within me and I use it, then there exists an active faculty of producing sense ideas, either in me, or in something else. 3. Therefore, there exists an active faculty of producing sense ideas, either in me, or in something else. 4. God has given me a great propensity to believe that the active faculty of producing sense ideas is in corporeal things. 5. If the active faculty of producing sense ideas is not in corporeal things then God is a deceiver. 6. God is not a deceiver
7. Therefore the active faculty of producing sense ideas is in corporeal things. 8. If the active faculty of producing sense ideas is in corporeal things then corporeal things exist. 9. The active faculty of producing sense ideas is in corporeal things. 10. Therefore corporeal things do exist.
Descartes' argument that corporeal things exist exemplifies his use of, and basis in epistemological foundationalism. To clearly understand how Descartes argument reflects this, we must first explain what epistemological foundationalism is. In his essay, Epistemology, Richard Feldman explains that foundationalism is when, "The argument is sound. There are basic justified beliefs, and they are the foundation upon which all our other justified beliefs rest" (Feldman 51). He continues this line of thought by saying further, "All justified nonbasic beliefs are justified in virtue of their relation to justified basic beliefs." (Feldman 52). In other words, basic justified beliefs allow for other nonbasic beliefs to be justified through their own justification. And it is only through these basic justified beliefs that one can make sound arguments while using a fundamentalist mentality. The nonbasic justified beliefs that are used for argumentation are true only to the point that their supplemental basic justified beliefs are true. With this understanding of foundationalism through Feldman's work it can be said that Descartes meditations exhibit these features.
The argument that Descartes gives for the existence of corporeal things certainly exhibits the features of foundationalism. The method that Descartes used in his meditations was to clearly ground all of his arguments upon basic justified beliefs. This foundation on basic justified beliefs provides Descartes with the ability to come up with further nonbasic justified beliefs, all of which are based upon one of his basic justified beliefs. This is evident throughout Descartes' argument for corporeal beliefs as he believes that the entirety of his argument lies upon basic justified beliefs. Without the existence of God, Descartes would not be able to justify his beliefs for the existence of corporeal things. The premises that involve God in this argument are all nonbasic justified beliefs, because they all rest upon the foundation that God exits. The justified belief of Gods certain existence that Descartes holds depends upon an argument that does not use any other beliefs. Therefore his conclusion that God exists becomes a basic justified belief for Descartes, and he bases many of his nonbasic justified beliefs upon its foundation.
Some of Descartes premises in his argument for the existence of corporeal things clearly rely upon his basic justified belief that God exists. For God to have given Descartes any type of inclination, as Descartes believes is justified in premise four, it is clear that his existence must first be justified. Through his argument for the existence of God,...
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