- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Penguin Classics edition (September 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780140447019
- ISBN-13: 978-0140447019
- ASIN: 0140447016
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Meditations and Other Metaphysical Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – September 1, 1999
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French, Latin
From the Back Cover
TRANSLATED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY DESMOND M. CLARKE
Of all the works of the man claimed by many as the father of modern philosophy, the Meditations (1641), must surely be Rene Descartes' masterpiece.
The six Meditations and accompanying selections from the Objections and Replies provide a definitive statement of what Descartes intended as the foundations of his whole philosophy. His project was to resolve the epistemological questions brought about by the prevailing scepticism of his age; to build, from the basis of self-awareness (Cogito, ergo sum), through the notion of a benevolent God, to a systematic and novel approach to metaphysics, and to construct a secure starting-point for science.
The first part of a new two-volume edition of the works of Descartes in Penguin Classics, this volume consists not only of a new translation of the original Latin text and extensive selections from the Objections and Replies, but also includes relevant correspondence from the period 1643-49, Part One of The Principles of Philosophy and Comments On a Certain Manifesto, as examples of Descartes' other metaphysical writings from the period 1641-49.
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The Principles of First Philosophy follow, which is a somewhat more concise reiteration of ideas explored in The Meditations. The correspondence is extremely interesting, as the majority occurs between Descartes and Queen Elizabeth. Comments on a Certain Manifesto also adds greatly to this book, as Descartes explains and clarifies his views and responds to critics who attack him without having properly digested said views. The comments also include something which is only really touched upon in The Meditations; that is, that Descartes suggests that although much of what we judge and understand is based largely on sensory perception - and the abilities to reason and judge truthfully greatly benefit from this knowledge - that the capacity to think and reason is innate, and not something learned via sensory perception. He offers this in refutation to someone that he feels is bastardizing his views in Comments, and as support for the evidence of God in Meditations, but only explores it in detail in the former, opting for subtlety in the latter. Personally, I feel Descartes made somewhat of a mistake by - not so much simplifying so to speak - but being a little too ambiguous in Meditations. He was evidently attempting to rely on reason and reason alone, and it doing so, many people confused or misunderstood his ideas, as evidenced in the objections and replies. But the careful reader should not be prone to such misunderstanding(s).
Was Descartes correct in his reasoning? Much of it is logically sound, such as the assumption that thinking inherently necessitates existence, but many of it can and has been refuted or argued by subsequent philosophers. Some of the more obvious objections I have personally with Descarte's philosophy are assumptions - things like, although the mind appears indivisible, that does not make it evidently so, and although the body appears divisible - so much so that it can be separated from the mind without affecting the mind - this surely only remains true to the point where one tries to separate the mind from the brain. Although the brain can surely be separated from the mind, it is impossible to separate the mind from the brain, or the essence of what we understand to be the mind. The ontological argument for God is also a little fishy, somewhat of a tautology, and only really true if you believe in the necessity of an omnipotent, omniscient God to begin with. However, Descartes contributions to philosophy and general science should not be overlooked or diminished, and much of what is explored here remains logically sound.
This edition also includes a general introduction by the translator, notes on the translation wherever appropriate, and brief introductions before each particular section. This book proves to me, once again, why Penguin remains one of my favorite publishers of philosophy.
Used as a teaching text, Descartes can reduce students to a frustrated scepticism, as can Hume's Treatise of Human Nature (Penguin Classics). One wise professor who used Descartes as a class text taught it alongside Francis Bacon's writings which summarise the wealth and detail of knowledge, classified into history, poetry and philosophy to counteract scepticism. Descartes was also contrasted in the 19th century with Blaise Pascal's Pensées, which says that 'the heart has its reasons that reason does not know' and thus rounds out the rationalistic idea of experience. Amongst modern critics, John Macmurray's The Self as Agent argues that it is incoherent to separate knowledge and practice.
This penguin addition includes Descartes letters of correspondence and various other writings (all of them wonderful reads).
I recommend this to ALL students interested in philosophy.