Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy: First and Second Meditation": A Summary

How do I know anything at all to be true? I've been wrong about things before - perfectly reasonable shit, in fact, that seemed at the time quite clear to me. And sometimes, I believed other shit on the basis of that original, mistaken shit. I've eventually realized my errors before, and gone back and corrected my shit, but it would be pretty arrogant to assume I've gotten rid of every single one of my mistaken beliefs, wouldn't it? All it would take is one sneaky little motherfucker near the foundations of my beliefs to blow everything else I believe up, and not only is that fucking terrifying, it's completely possible. Shit.


So I'm going to start completely fresh and build from the ground up. After all, what if I'm dreaming? It sure as hell feels like I'm sitting in front of a toasty-ass fire, comfortably doing philosophy, but God knows I've dreamed crazier shit than that and believed it. What if every memory I have and every sense experience I'm having are all just part of a dream? It's possible, so out the window with it. 



The one thing I haven't ever dreamed is new building blocks. My dreams always contain the same shapes, the same maths, the same relations - so if I'm dreaming, there's just a whole completely different world, but it's made of the same things. Okay, that's a relief.


But... wait. Fuck. Let's go one step further - what if I'm not just dreaming, I'm being deceived? I'm not smart enough to make up new shapes or numbers, but you know who is? Fucking God, that's who. I believe he's benevolent and wouldn't do that, but now that I think about it, that's exactly what a malicious god would want me to think, that sneaky motherfucker! I can't even trust the fucking simples.


Dammit. Well, that leaves me pretty much with nothing. Is there a single thing I can be sure of? I don't believe in the world, my body, my senses, even the ideas that I have. ... But I do doubt. Maybe I'm on to something here - even if some malicious demon is fooling me, there has to be a me to fool. It doesn't make sense that I can doubt without existing. I think, therefore - fuck yeah, that's it! Jackpot, bitches! And if I'm doubting, I'm also reasoning, and imagining and sensing - sure, maybe the shit I'm imagining and sensing is completely fucked three ways to Sunday, but I am imagining it. So I exist, and I'm a thinking being. Fucking sweet.


Do I know anything else? Even if the experiences I'm having are a lie, can I identify them clearly? Well, consider wax. I mean, I know what wax looks and smells and feels like, right? But when I melt it, literally every single fucking thing about it changes. But I still know it's a goddamn piece of wax. So it looks like my senses are completely fucking useless after all.


What have we learned today? Well, it looks like I can be sure of myself, that I am a mind that thinks and knows, even if everything else, the cake and all, is a lie; I can trust, if nothing else, my clear and distinct reasoning. Fuck yes.

10 comments:

  1. I am so glad you made a Portal reference with Descartes. My life feels more complete

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  2. We're just going over this stuff of Descartes in my philosophy class right now.. I understood it before, but this still helps. Good timing, thanks!

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  3. I expected you to post Horace before Descartes.

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  4. That Portal reference made me feel happy. And I'm sure that's what God (benevolent or not) wants me to feel.

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  5. fucking heroic effort

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  6. Unfortunate that I found this site at the end of the semester two days before my final, but I'm sure as hell glad I have it now

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  7. Freaking amazing, going over Decartes and Hume before my exam tomorrow

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  8. You almost slipped the Cogito in there, but didn't.

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  9. haha i cant stop laughing at "sure, maybe the shit I'm imagining and sensing is completely fucked three ways to Sunday,"

    Thanks bro, you saved my grade man

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