Descartes' Meditation One sets out his purpose of creating a new scientific paradigm to be based on a foundation built above the wreckage of his former opinions. He sought a reason to doubt the entire canon of his opinions so that he might begin to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences (A&W, p. 27a). He finds that his opinions might all be doubted based on their origin either from or through sense perceptions that are prone to deception. He cites as evidence the seeming reality of dreams, based as they are on sense perceptions of what we believe to be real' things. In his first meditation, Descartes argues that because the components of dreams are no different in nature from those of waking life, we cannot trust our waking perceptions anymore than those experienced in sleep. Thoughts are constructed from images of corporeal things, which are bodies that extend in space. In the search for a firm science, Descartes uses this argument to cast doubt upon the physical sciences. However, mathematics studies truths which are independent of extension and so could form the basis of a lasting science; the ideas of arithmetic are true in life or dream, and thus cannot be doubted. The existence of a good God, by contrast, is something that, at this stage of the meditations, must be doubted along with all other long-standing opinions misinformed by the senses. Descartes thus assumes the existence of an evil genius (A&W, p. 29b) whose intention it is to deceive man away from knowledge. The existence of such a god leads Descartes to suppose all of reality to be no more real than the hoaxes' of his dreams.
[...] Human finiteness limits our use of faculties that are perfect in God. The implication for Descartes' overhaul of the sciences is that our will should be tempered by the limits of our understanding. Only ideas that are clear and distinct, those discerned by mathematics (which deals not with bodies but with essence), should be used as the basis of intellectual judgement. With the idea of a good God squared with the deception of the senses, Descartes' conclusion about the clarity and distinctness of true ideas leads to the Fifth Meditation's concern with the essence of material things. [...]
[...] Imagination suggests the existence of a material body because, unlike in pure intellection, it depends on the body to perceive the sense that inspires the image. The faculties of imagination and sensation are distinct only as modes of the substance of self; they require a self in which to inhere and be faculties of. The faculty of sensing is passive only, in that sensations are adventitiously received from an external source. The passivity of sensation thus requires an active faculty from which sensory ideas derive. [...]
[...] Descartes' Third Meditation contains a ‘God-proof' based on his reasoning about the nature of ideas. The idea of an infinite being such as God contains more objective (representative) reality than is contained by ideas of any finite being. In an analogue of the laws of conservation of physics, in which a cause cannot have less reality than its effect, Descartes describes the efficient causality of ideas. An idea cannot represent in objective reality any more than its cause has actual reality, so the idea of an infinite God must originate from a source containing as much actual reality as the idea's representative reality. [...]
[...] The support of the Sacred Theology of Paris was necessary to ensure Descartes' political safety due to the Church's pervasive influence over scientific and philosophical thought in seventeenth century Europe. As he writes in the Letter of Dedication addressed to the institutional theologians, the purpose of the Meditations is to prove to the unfaithful the Christian doctrines “that the human soul does not die with the body, and that God exists p. Descartes intended to use the rational means of philosophy to defend such articles of faith towards the end of establishing Church support for the mathematical physics which it might otherwise reject (as it did to Copernicanism). [...]
[...] By harnessing the power of the intellect, the senses actually become a tool rather than a hindrance. “There is absolutely nothing to be found in [the sensations bestowed on us by nature] that does not bear witness to God's power and goodness Descartes has progressed from doubting God and external reality to accepting the existence of both. External reality can be experimented upon as testament to God's wonder, and the experiments can be analyzed according to humanity's appreciation of its own [...]
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