- Series: Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy
- Paperback: 120 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Revised edition (April 26, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521558182
- ISBN-13: 978-0521558181
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Descartes: Meditations on First Philosophy: With Selections from the Objections and Replies (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy) Revised Edition
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This was published in 1641, this is old. I wanted an introduction to reading whole books of philosophy after being briefly introed to the genre of thought in a college intro class (mostly it was about abortion and pollution, maybe nature). The first two meditations are an excellent such intro. Descartes shocks you with a real cornerstone of philosophy, I think therefore I am. Stupendous. He mentions he needs one solid foundation on which o move the world and this is it.
Pretty much it's all working fine, relatively true, until we get to the third meditation--and what a doozy! By far the hardest part of the book, the most difficult to read outside the last half of the sixth meditation, the third focuses strictly on proving the existence of God. If I'm to be honest, this is why I bought the book. Well, Rene comes up short, very short. Of course if you were to consider this theologically, the great perfection of God would not be understandable through the science of thought that is philosophy, because as a being he is so grand and BEYOND our understanding. But Descartes tries anyway.
If you think about it as a mild mannered regular Joe, Descartes just simply fails to put any proofs positive on the table. He gets closer in the fifth meditation, about His existence. Existence is precluded in perfection. But the arguments in the third, such as since he thinks God exists, he must therefore exist, because he is a thinking thing, and thinking is existing, and thinking through intellect and understanding is reality, is not quite so great. Or there is his theory that since he is finite, limitable human existence, the idea of his unperfection must strictly follow from an example of the divine and perfect, a being whose example is great enough to cast the shadow of his imperfect existence.
Basically, when Descartes begins to talk about God, his argument goes underwater. I distinctly feel that his faith comes from reading of the scriptures, and not from his polymath philosophy, which is fine. You're not going to find faith in Descartes' Meditation on First Philosophy, you'll have to stick with the King James Bible for that.
Everything else here, though, is fascinating, and it was ballsy just to attempt to define faith for all atheists in one piece of philosophy. The divine is best left for the divine, I think. His theories about mind and body, and truth and falsity, such that the will is second to nature (my own thing), or rather that the will is subservient to the divine, or rather that the will is incorrigible (I need to read this again) are brilliant. You have Descartes whole world view and I think, besides some middle ages thinking (the foot's feeling is fooled by indiscriminate other sensors, wha?), it'll closely align with yours and mine.
This is obviously a masterpiece of philosophy, and was quite an intro. The Cogito Ergo Sum thing is very essential and it will make perfect sense to anyone here, who is either just getting into philosophy or attempting to discipline their mind.
I really need to read this twice, but my brain is tired so I'll leave it alone for now. I imagine that this is one of those texts philosophy teachers love to come back to.
Meditations further explains Descartes's ideas first explained in his Discourse on Method. He rejects everything he was taught and arrives at the fact that he exists, god exists, finally that other things exist and that the body is separate from the soul. It seems his god argument in this one slightly expands to a slightly different argument, namely that something can not come out of nothing and since imperfect things can only come from something more perfect than themselves, if you go up the line of perfection the most perfect thing or God. I guess to me all of these years later, I don't see how this proves god. Secondly I'm curious if the idea of god is natural, meaning if someone was born and never hear the idea of god mentioned would he arrive at the same conclusions of a perfect being or was Descartes influenced by his opinions found from a lifetime of learning from "the great book of the world". For the material things he realizes that for god to be perfect he wouldn't deceive him by making everything around him an illusion, therefore since God is not a deceiver, matter is real. My initial thought is that if an insane person perceives things as existing which do not, then they're not real and therefore would god then become a deceiver using this reasoning? Anyways regardless of one agrees with Descartes, these works are pretty interesting and for their importance to philosophy alone they are essential reads.
Of course, the edition of this is also superb; it provides very adequate footnotes and introduction (most of which is useful and interesting) to supplement the actual text. Overall, easily worth buying.
Despite the fact that Rene contorted himself to try to prove that God exists; he still managed to create a great work. He began the inquiry into reality wherein we try to understand the world through experimentation. I think he failed in many ways to develop a coherent philosophical structure due to his attempts to please the Church but given the social conditions of the day this was the best that he could do. Even in this flawed analysis Rene paved the way for what would later become the Scientific Method.
I only wish that he could live today and write without fears of reprisal from religious entities.