Philosophy 101, Week 6 Notes
Philosophy 101, Week 6 Notes PHL 101
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This 8 page Class Notes was uploaded by Madeline Lathrop on Wednesday February 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHL 101 at University of Rochester taught by Clatterbuck in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 41 views. For similar materials see Introdution to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at University of Rochester.
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Date Created: 02/24/16
“Meditations On First Philosophy” by Rene Descartes The Meditations are generally considered the starting point of Western philosophy. Descartes was a rationalist opposed to the empiricism of Aristotle and contemporary, John Locke. Descartes breaks down the Aristotelian notion that all knowledge comes from the senses and that mental states must in some way resemble what they are about. Descartes questions how he can be certain of anything and develops reasons why he ought to mistrust his senses. (Modern Skepticism) Descartes draws a very sharp distinction between mind and body. Mind is essentially thinking and body is essentially extended, so the two have nothing at all in common. Philosophers now strive to understand how the mind and body function together. (MindBody Dualism) Conclusion: The sense are not designed to give us knowledge at all, but are rather meant to help us move through the world in a very practical way. First Meditation: Skeptical Doubts The meditator reflects on the number of falsehoods he has believed during his life and on the subsequent faultiness of the body of knowledge he has built upon these falsehoods. Resolution: Rid himself of his formerly accepted opinions and start again from the foundations, building his knowledge once more on more certain grounds. Meditator reasons that he only needs to find some things to doubt his present opinions. Rather than doubt every one of his opinions, he reasons he may cast them all into doubt if he can doubt the foundations and basic principles upon which his opinions are founded. Senses can deceive: Object that are very small or far away. Insane people might be more deceived, however, he is not one of them. Often convinced when he is dreaming that he is sensing real objects. He suggests that even dream images are drawn from waking experiences (Dream Argument). For example, when a painter creates an imaginary creature like a mermaid, it is composed of real things like women and fish. Even when a painter creates something entirely new, it is still made with colors drawn from real experience (Painter’s Analogy). Conclusion: Though you can doubt composite things, you cannot doubt the simple and universal parts from which they are constructed (shape, quantity, size, time, etc.) Therefore, we can doubt things such as medicine, astronomy, or physics, but not simple things like arithmetic and geometry. Upon further reflection: The meditator realizes that even simple things, CAN, in fact, be doubted. An omnipotent God could make even our conception of math false. Argument: God is supremely good and by this reasoning, God would not deceive us. CounterArgument: If we suppose there is no God, there is an even greater likelihood of being deceived, since our imperfect senses would not have been created by a perfect being. (Surprise Principle) When the meditator has difficulty getting his former opinions out of his mind, he resorts to pretending that all of his opinions are totally false/imaginary in order to counterbalance his habitual ways of thinking. He supposes that some evil demon has committed itself to deceiving him so that everything he thinks is false. (The Demon Argument) Distinction: The Dream Argument suggests that the senses are not always/wholly reliable. The Painter’s Analogy, which builds upon The Dream Argument, concludes that math and other purely cerebral studies are far more certain than astronomy or physics. The Demon Argument suggests that all we know is false and that we cannot trust our senses at all. Second Mediation; Part 1: Cognito ergo sum. “I think, therefore I am.” Question 1: Is he, the source of these meditations, not something? He has acknowledged that he has no senses, no body, and that the physical world does not exist. Yet to have these doubts, he must exist. For a demon to mislead him, he must exist in order to be misled. (Paradoxical) Conclusion: There must be an “I” that can doubt, be deceived, etc. Therefore, The Cogito Argument: “So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition ‘I am, I exist’ is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind.” Question 2: What is this “I” that exists? He initially thought that he had a soul, and that he also has a body. However, both of these attributes can be cast into doubt. Conclusion: One thing cannot be cast into doubt; that he thinks. He may exists without a body or soul, but cannot exist if he does not think. Further, he only exists as long as he is thinking. Therefore, thought above all else is inseparable from being. Three Step Argument: 1. Whatever thinks must exist. 2. I think. 3. (Conclusion) I exist. Second Meditation; Part 2: The Wax Argument Question 1: What precisely is this “I”? He concludes that he is not only something that thinks, understands, and wills, but is also something that imagines and senses. (He may be dreaming or deceived by a demon, but he can still imagine things and he still seems to hear and see things.) Question 2: How does he come to know of this “I”? It has been determined that you cannot trust your senses or your imagination. But the question still remains; what is the guide to knowing our own essence? The Wax Argument: How do we know a piece of wax is a piece of wax; through the senses or by some other means? We can know about the piece of wax through our senses (taste, smell, color, shape, hardness, etc.) Suppose you place this piece of wax near the fireplace and it melts. All of the sensible qualities of the wax change, nonetheless, the same piece of wax still remains. Our knowledge that the solid piece of wax and the melted piece of wax are the same cannot come through the sense since all of its sensible properties have changed. Conclusions: We do not come to know this through the senses or imagination, therefore, we know that the wax is wax through means of the intellect alone. We may say “I see the wax,” though in saying that, we actually are referring to the wax as the intellect perceives it, rather than to its color or shape. Overall Conclusion: The mind knows better than the body. Every thought we might have about the world outside us can only doubtfully be true, but these thoughts do confirm our own existence and establish the nature of our mind. Philosophy Class 02/22/2016 Descartes Method of Doubt: 1. I know P if and only if I am certain of P 2. I am certain of P if and only if I cannot doubt that P is true. C: I know P if and only if I cannot doubt P. Cogito: 1. If I try to doubt that I exist, then I know that I am thinking. (Because doubt is thought.) 2. If I know that I am thinking, I know that I exist. 3. If I try to doubt that I exist, then I know that I exist. Therefore, I cannot doubt that I exist. Homework Question: Descartes tries to dig himself out of the hole. Does anything he says in Meditation I or II undermine/contradict what he says in Meditation III or IV? “Meditations On First Philosophy” by Rene Descartes (Cont.) Third Mediation; Part 1: “ The Existence of God” (Clear and Distinct Perceptions and Descartes’ Theory of Ideas) Begins with the review of what he has ascertained to date: Doubtful of the existence of bodily things. Certain that he exists. Certain he is a thinking thing that doubts, understands, wills, imagines, and senses. He is certain he is a thinking thing and he clearly and distinctly perceives this fact. He could not be certain unless all distinct perceptions can be certain. Conclusion: Therefore, whatever he perceives clearly and distinctly must be true. Anything he was previously certain of was apprehended by the senses, and he must acknowledge now that he did not perceive the things themselves , but rather the ideas/thoughts of those things. Although he is still certain of some things (Arithmetic, Geometry), he cannot be certain that God is not deceiving him. Now he must inquire into the nature of God. Step 1: Classifying Thoughts 1. Simple Ideas: Ideas of their own (a man, a chimera, the sky, an angel, God.) 2. Violations, Emotions & Judgements: An idea which is the object of a thought and also a further thing (an affirmation, a fear) that is directed to that thought. You cannot be mistaken with regard to ideas of their own, violations, or emotions; you can only make mistakes with respect to judgement. Most common error is to conform to or resemble things outside the mind (judge). Three Sources for Ideas: 1. Innate 2. Adventitious; Coming from outside of us, as with our sensory perceptions. 3. Invented Descartes is concerned with adventitious ideas, and why he thinks they come from outside. Will has no effect on adventitious ideas. (EX: You cannot prevent yourself from being hot when it is hot outside through will alone.) Conclusion: Whatever outside sources transmits these adventitious ideas, also transmits its own likeness rather than something else. Third Meditation; Part 2: Theory of Ideas (Cont.) All ideas are mere modes of thought and in that sense they are all equal; they all have the same amount of formal reality. No effect can have a greater amount of reality that its cause. Everything that comes into being must be made by something that has an equal or greater amount of reality. (EX: A stone can be made by chipping off a larger piece of rock since the large rock has more reality, but a stone cannot be made out of a color, since a stone has more reality than a color.) Ideas can be caused by other ideas, but there must ultimately be something more than an idea that is the cause of these ideas. The first cause of an idea must be something with at least as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality. Third Meditation; Part 3: The Existence of God and The Cartesian Circle Statement: The idea of God must have far more objective reality than the meditator has formal reality. God is infinite, whereas the meditator is finite. Since the idea of God cannot have originated in the meditator himself, God must be the cause of this idea and therefore, must exist. Counter 1: The meditator may conceive of an infinite being through negation, that is, through conceiving of it in contrast to his own finite being. Response: Doubts and desires come from an understanding that we lack certain things, and we would not be aware of that lack unless we were aware of a more perfect being that has those certain things we lack (God). Counter 2: The meditator may be supremely perfect, all of his deficiencies and actually potentialities within him, and he may be slowly moving towards perfection. If perfection is a potentiality within him, then it is plausible that the idea of God could be conceived in him without any outside cause. Response: Three Reasons: 1. God is all actual and not at all potential. 2. If he is constantly improving, he will never attain that perfection where there is no room for improvement. 3. Potential being is not being at all. The idea of God must be caused by something with infinite actual being. Statement: If the meditator could exist without God, he would have come to be out of himself (selfexistent) or from his parents, or from some other being less perfect than God. 1. He derived his existence from himself. Response: There is no reason that he should have doubts and desires. He also cannot escape this reasoning by supposing he has always existed and never had to come into being. There is no reason that 2. His parents or some other imperfect being created gim. Response: This creator must have endowed him with the idea of God. If this creator is a finite being, we must still ask how it came to possess the idea of an infinite God. We can trace this chain back through countless creators (causal chain), but we must ultimately conclude that the idea of God can originate only in God and not in a finite being. Having concluded that God exists, how did we receive the idea of God? This idea cannot be adventitious (coming from without) nor can it be invented by the meditator. Conclusion: Therefore, it must be innate and the meditator has been created in God with this idea already in him. We perceive that God is not a deceiver since all deception relies on some defect or another, and a perfect God has no defects (God is wholly good). Proof of the existence of God seems to fall into what is now called the Cartesian Circle. The meditator seems committed to claiming both: 1. That we can only be sure of our clear and distinct perceptions if God exists. 2. God exists because we clearly and distinctly perceive the idea of God. Problem: If both 1 and 2 are true, Descartes is guilty of circular reasoning. Ways we could attempt to release Descartes from this circle: 1. The Cartesian Spiral: Suggestion that the clear and distinct perceptions going into the proof of God’s existence are different from the ones that follow it. a. EX: My clear and distinct perception that 2 + 3 = 5 can be doubted unless God confirms it, but my clear and distinct perception of the idea of God is somehow immune from this doubt. In this theory, there are different kinds of “clear and distinct perceptions,” some of which are totally immune from doubt and some of which need God to confirm them. 2. Reevaluate the epistemological role that God is meant to play in the Mediations. In this theory, God cannot possibly be intended by Descartes as confirmation of clear and distinct perceptions. Rather than seeing God as the confirmation of clear and distinct perceptions, we could read God as the buffer against doubt. We know clear and distinct perceptions independently of God but God’s existence also provides us with the certainty that we might otherwise have (2 is true, but need to reformulate 1). Fourth Meditation; Part 1: Truth and Falsity (God Is No Deceiver) Now that the meditator is certain of God’s existence, a great deal more can follow: 1. He knows that God would not deceive him since the will the decieve is a sign of weakness or malice and God is omnipotent and wholly good. 2. If God created him, God is responsible for his judgment. Therefore, his judgement must be infallible as long as he uses it correctly. Problem: The mediator is inevitably mistaken from time to time. Response: When the meditator is wrong, it is not the result of some faulty faculty of God, but it is rather the result of the meditator’s lack of perfection. Counter: If God is a perfect creator, shouldn’t he be able to create perfect beings? (“Must God Create the Best?” by Robert Merrihew Adams) “God need not create the best of all possible worlds. That is, even if it were true that God is omnipotent and perfectly good, it would not thereby follow that God must create the most excellent world that he is capable of creating.” (Shows God’s Grace) Response: God’s motives and reasons are incomprehensible to finite beings. Descartes also rejects the search for final causes in physics because it would be arrogant to try to understand God’s motives. Meditator suggests that he looks at God’s creation as a whole. He may be imperfect on his own, but he may play a perfectly appropriate role in the wider context of a perfect universe. Fourth Meditation; Part 2: Will, Intellect & The Possibility of Error The meditator looks at the source of his errors. They depend simultaneously upon intellect (knowledge) and will (choice). Intellect: Intellect only allows us to perceive ideas, not to make judgements on them, therefore, intellect cannot be the source of error. Will: Our will cannot be any greater/more perfect. In every other mental faculty (memory, imagination, understanding, etc.) God is greater, except in will. (Note: God’s will may be greater in that it is accompanied by greater knowledge and power, but when considering will in a strict sense, our will is equivalent to God’s.) Conclusion: God’s will is only superior to our own in that God has supreme knowledge and can always will (choose) what is good. Therefore, will is not the source of error either. Major Conclusion: Error results not from imperfections in either intellect or will, but from the fact that the will has a far wider scope than the understanding. As a result, the will often passes judgements on matters that are not fully understood and toward which it is indifferent. If we are indifferent, we are then liable to make a false judgement (error). To avoid error, we must suspend judgement in cases where we are uncertain, and only pass judgement on clear and distinct perceptions. (Similar to Feldman & Clifford’s Arguments) Difference between intellect and will: The intellect is the faculty that not only understands and thinks, but also senses and imagines. These are valueneutral acts in themselves. Intellect in limited. The will is responsible for affirming and denying, and it is in will that value is established and the possibility for error manifests itself. Will is not limited.
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