Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Descartes' Meditations: Second Meditation

Are you feeling ready for Meditation number 2? Remember, Descartes recognises that you may be too stupid or vulgar to keep up with him, so if it's all blowing your mind a bit much you can just admit that you're not good enough, and drop out. No? Fair enough. Here goes.

Second Meditation Of the nature of the human mind; and that it is more easily known than the body.

How trippy was yesterday's meditation? Everything I was sure of is falling apart. But there must be something that's certain. Here it is: whatever the evil demon does to trick me, this one thing is certain: I exist, there is an I, a person who may or may not be being deceived by an evil demon. I think, therefore I must exist, right?

But what am I? A thing that thinks, which doubts, understands, conceives, wills, imagines, feels. But can that really be more certain than the physical things I see and feel in front of me? Take this piece of wax, right in front of me. I can still smell honey on it; it's in a particular shape and is a particular colour. But if I put it near the fire, everything changes: its taste, smell, colour, shape are all different. It goes from solid to liquid, it changes size, it gets to hold to touch. Is it still the same thing? Everyone would say yes: but what makes it the same? Only an idea in my mind, and we've already talked about how easily I believe things that aren't be true. Isn't it obvious, now, that the fact that I think is more certain than anything I see or experience in the world? I can't be sure it's the same piece of wax; but I can be sure that it is me who sees it.

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