The concept of self identifies the essence of one’s very being. It implies continuous existence having no other exact equal, i.e. the one and only. Whether or not the specific characteristic(s) used to define self are objectively real, i.e. physical attributes, or purely subjective, i.e. imaginary traits, the concept makes distinct one entity from another. Rationalism is the theory that truth can be derived through use of reason alone. Empiricism, a rival theory, asserts that truth must be established by sensual experience: touch, taste, smell, et al. Rene Descartes, a philosopher and rationalist concluded that one self was merely a continuous awareness of one’s own existence; one’s substance was one’s ability to think. On the other hand, David Hume, an empiricist refuted Descartes conclusion and claimed that the concept of self was nonsense, the idea could not be linked to any sensual experience. Ultimately, Hume concluded that there was no such thing as self, i.e. self does not actually exist and that the concept was an illusion. Overall, Descartes theory of self is more reasonable than Hume’s.
In Meditation I, Descartes reflects on his past beliefs and realizes how so much that he once believed to be true was actually false. To separate what is truth from fiction; Descartes decided to completely reject anything which he can doubt at all. He wrote, “If I am able to find in each some reason to doubt, this will suffice to justify my rejecting the whole” (Descartes 4). The belief that inspired this method was that genuine truth was clear and distinct and that any doubt whatsoever could not provide absolute certainty. In essence, if any component of something was in the very least questionable, then any conclusion drawn from it would be at the most questionable. This method led Descartes to doubt practically everything he once believed, especially knowledge attained through the senses. He wrote, “All that up to the present time I have accepted as most true and...
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