Reading Questions for Phil 413.900, Spring 2009 (Daniel)
Questions on Descartes' Meditations I & II (Jan. 22)
1. For Descartes, why can't knowledge gained through sense experience be trusted as the basis of knowledge? 2. How are the doubts raised by our experience of dreaming different from, and more profound than, doubts raised about errors in sense experience? 3. How is the evil genius argument intended to be broader in scope than either the arguments about doubting sense experience or dreaming? 4. Why can't the evil genius deceive Descartes into thinking that he (Descartes) does not exist? 5. What is the point of Descartes' doubt about having a body? Why can't a thing that thinks, an "I think" (cogito), be a body? What is a body? 6. What is the point of the wax example? How is it important in knowing the self? Questions on Descartes' Meditations III & IV (Jan. 27)
1. Why is it important to Descartes to determine as early as possible whether God exists and is a deceiver? 2. How is the "spontaneous inclination" to believe that my ideas are caused by things outside me different from the "natural light" by which I can discern truth? 3. How are all ideas alike as "modes of thought"? and how are they different in terms of their "objective reality"? 4. What is the difference between the objective reality of an idea and the actual or formal reality of a thing? 5. Why is my clear and distinct idea of God as an infinite substance not something for which I could have been the cause? 6. If my will is infinite (like God's), then why would I choose to think things wrongly; that is, how can error be explained? Questions on Descartes' Meditations V & VI (Jan. 29)
1. For Descartes, how can I demonstrate various properties of a thousand-sided figure (a chiliagon) without ever having seen one (or even without one ever having existed)? 2. Why is the distinction between essence and existence important in proving God exists? 3. How can material/corporeal (later: "external") objects be known clearly and distinctly? 4. What are the three possible sources of our ideas of sensible things, and how does Descartes rule out two of them in favor of the third? 5. What are Descartes' three ways of speaking about nature? How is the third way important for understanding the "very intimate" connection between the mind and body? 6. How is the mind-body composite sometimes a source of deception? 7. How are we able to distinguish between dreaming and being awake? Questions on Descartes' Meditations Objections & Replies II (Feb. 3) 1. According to Marin Mersenne (Objections II), Descartes ignores the possibility that a thinking thing might be a body. How does Descartes respond to that by distinguishing his aims in Meditation II and VI? 2. How does Descartes use the distinction between objective and formal reality to respond to Mersenne's claim that the idea of an infinite being might simply be an idea of our own existence expanded infinitely? 3. How does Descartes respond to Mersenne's point that our idea of God (like that of angels or infinite number) is not innate or planted in us by God but learned from others? 4. Mersenne says that Descartes' reasoning is circular, in that he knows that an all-good God exists because he has a clear and distinct idea of him, and he can trust such clear and distinct ideas because an all-good God would not deceive him regarding them. What is Descartes' response to this? Questions on Descartes' Meditations Objections & Replies III-IV (Feb. 5) 1. In the third set of objections, Thomas Hobbes suggests that thinking is an activity of corporeal (bodily) substances. What is Descartes' response to this? 2. What is Descartes' reply to Hobbes's claim that our idea of God depends on our imagination of corporeal objects? 3. Why does Hobbes think that his claim that "essence without existence is a fiction of our mind" is an argument against Descartes' discussion of the essence of material things? 4....
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