Modern Philosophy

It is indeed undeniable that Rene Descartes’s work on the Discourse on the method is among the very influential pieces of work in the history of modern philosophy. The Discourse on the method is a six-part write up that sum up the meditations of this great philosopher and mathematician. Descartes begins in earnest by abandoning all things that he ever doubted and took on a fresh start by approaching the world from a fresh purview that is devoid of any preconceived notions. The first three parts of the Discourse touch on various aspects of the method that Descartes has discovered. These include the principals of the method and the morals that are acceptable when conducting the method. The crux of the matter in part four involves Descartes providing proof, from reason, about the existence of a more superior, more complex and a perfect being, that is God. Since senses can be deceiving, Descartes abandons all sensory knowledge. He also abandons demonstrative reasoning since men are imperfect and are prone to mistakes and errors. Descartes goes ahead and quips that all that has ever entered his mind is just illusion brought by dreams.

The first principle of the philosophy that Descartes was seeking is summarized by the statement: “I am thinking; therefore I exist”. While Descartes completely abandoned all that he held as false and made a fresh start, he could not run away from the fact that doubting needs the existence of a doubting being to do the doubting. The very fact that he was reasoning, and not possessing the ability to reason, to him, is a clear indication of his existence at that moment. Descartes then posits that his ability to doubt and reason is proof that he is not a perfect being. If he were the antithesis of imperfection, he would not be doubtful; he would simply know. Descartes’ philosophy is a representation of a change in the perception of what the human mind is. Descartes argues that the senses do not necessarily report the actual happenings of the external world. In this premise, Descartes identifies the mind as a source of human imagination, sensation and thought and that the mind is trapped in the physical form of the human body. The issue of the mind’s fruitless effort to connect with the outside world has been around for ages.

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The fourth part of the method is mainly on proof of existence of God. Descartes proves the existence of God by some of the qualities that he found within himself. Being a doubtful being is not a premise of a perfect being. A perfect mind would be full of knowledge that surpasses any doubt and other imperfect emotions such as sadness. Imperfection is bestowed upon beings such as Descartes by a perfect mind, a God. Another proof of the existence of God arrived at by Descartes is by way of geometry. Angles in a triangle all add up to 180 degrees. This fact can be proved by geometers. This is the essence of triangles. In a similar fashion, the existence of God is his property, akin to the fact that all angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. Descartes remarks that an understanding of God’s existence is dependent on reason and not merely reliance on sensory and imagination. Of all other things, God’s existence is most certain. This is because all other things are subject to the doubts raised by Descartes. Removal of these doubts is only by acknowledgement and recognition of the existence of God. God’s perfection visits upon us our perceptions that are clear and distinct. A surety is for this reason provided that since the source of our clear perceptions is a perfect God, the clear and distinct perceptions are true. Descartes philosophy is a deviation from the traditional philosophy that was reliant on sensory perceptions and imaginations. For this, Descartes calls for the abandonment of senses and imagination and exercise of reason properly and exclusively.

In conclusion, the method is basically based on Descartes belief that three things are not subject to doubt, even though his line of reasoning begins by doubting everything. The three things are in tandem with each other are the pillars that form the foundation upon which Descartes builds the method. One of the things that Descartes cannot doubt is the existence of an imperfect thing that does the doubting, thus “I am thinking, therefore, I”. Secondly, Descartes cannot doubt reason since reason is based and founded on reason itself. Thirdly, Descartes appreciates that being a doubting being is proof of his imperfection. There thus exists superior perfect being that put in beings like him the ability to doubt.

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