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"Meditations on My First Philosophy"
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In his first meditation, Descartes focuses on beliefs. Descartes makes an analysis of the correctness of analyzing something or some event as certain or as hypothetical. Descartes goes to the extent of stating that even the senses are not appropriate judges of this. In my opinion this argument is flawed. The senses, in my opinion, cannot err. A scent will always be received by a recipient’s healthy nose as it is; the nose has no way of altering the scent. The recipient may however, misjudge the source of the scent, for example he may conclude that the smell of rose is that of a lily. In such a case the sensory organ has not failed as Descartes concluded; it is the intellect of the recipient which has misconceived the “message” conveyed by the sensory organ (Descartes 45).
Descartes arguments arrive at a conclusion that the human person is not a functioning whole, that he is separate from his senses, which he remarks should not be trusted. On the contrary, the human person is a perfect union of the body and soul. The soul bears the faculties of the intellect and will. The intellect processes information derived from the senses, they are all part of “me”. It would be very awkward if people made comments such as; “When I was in the streets my eyes saw a nice car”, as opposed to “When I was in the streets I saw a nice car.
If Descartes philosophy was to be followed to the letter statements such as the latter would have to be used but I think it is agreeable to say that it doesn’t make much sense to communicate in that manner.
Descartes’ notion that his existence is hinged on the fact that he thinks, in my opinion, makes no sense. This conclusion is derived from his comment that he exists because he is a thinking thing. He remarks that if he is the thing that can be deceived, and can think and have thoughts, then he must exist (Descartes 58).. Descartes uses these remarks to secure his existence after which he tries to establish what “I” is. He concludes that “I” is a thinking thing, and a thinking thing is those which can deny, will, refuse, understand, doubt, sense and have mental images. This assertion, in my opinion is flawed and incomplete. Why then can a dog not conceive itself as “I” whereas it can refuse and sense? In my opinion the reason why a dog will never conceive itself as an “I” is because a dog has no intellect. A dog as with all other animals relies purely on instinct, which I believe takes the form of a programming. This means that a dog has been programmed to attack when a stranger approaches its homestead, cower away when approached by a dog which had previously overpowered it during another fight, and be friendly to the person who feeds it and so on. A dog does not have any reasoning abilities; it cannot sit back and decide that since I already have two puppies I am going to forego mating this season because food is becoming very scarce. This is where the “I” is founded on; the ability to reflect on oneself as an entity, to bear the sense of time in the form of the past, present and the future and all these are made possible by the intellect. The “I” is not hinged on the fact that I am thinking. If a person goes into a coma and does not have any other brain activity apart from that of sustaining bodily activities like breathing, does he, in that state, exist? The answer is affirmative; of course he does (Descartes 245).. He is right there we can see him; it would be foolhardy to state that he does not “exist” because he is not thinking or not doing any of the activities that Descartes assumed an “existing” being should do.
In this example the conclusion that the person in coma exists has been drawn purely from information conceived by the sensory organs- since we can see him then he exists. However there are circumstances under which we can establish certain phenomenon to exist even without the backing of our sensory organs. An example of this is the affirmation that a human soul exists. One cannot see, touch, hear, smell or even taste a human soul, but does this mean that it does not exist? No quite the contrary. The existence of this phenomenon- the human souls, is proven through rational and reasoning not from evidence from the sensory organs. Even simple realities like comfort, love and happiness require the same process of rationalizing as you cannot see, touch, hear, smell or even touch any of these (Descartes 278). How then can you tell that it is there? The answer is simple; you can tell that love is present when certain things occur. For example when a couple wants to spend a lot of time together, they are patient with each other, they are genuinely concerned about each others welfare, when they support each other through thick and thin, when they forgive each other for wrongs committed to either party and so on the couple can be interpreted to be in love. The actions themselves manifest love, not that love is physically seen as it has no physical form or shape and yet, it exists.