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  • Writer's pictureESSMAT SOPHIE

Descartes’ reasoning in the Cogito (Second Meditation)

Nothing appeared certain at the conclusion of the first meditation. Knowledge acquired through the senses was called into doubt by the argument from dreaming and knowledge acquired through the intellect was called into doubt by the evil or demon argument. However, in the second meditation, Descartes believes he has found one belief about which he can be certain: his own existence. “I think, I exist”. “I think, I exist” is also known as the “Cogito”. Descartes says: “... after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind”1 This belief in his own existence is the foundational belief Descartes was seeking. Descartes expects that from this point forward, he will be able to establish a series of known truth. Descartes contends that even if there is an evil spirit who constantly deceives me, it is certain that my own self exists: after all, the entire concept of an evil spirit presumes that the spirit deceives someone, namely myself. So, even if I am constantly misled, I cannot deny my existence.2 Descartes believes that whenever I say to myself, "I exist," it must be true. I may be completely deluded about what I believe, yet even the most extreme doubt—questioning my own existence—implies that I exist. Descartes asks what is that “I” that thinks? Am I a man? A rational animal? “...But I am not certain that I have a body. ... Am I a soul?” 3 So, Descartes raises the possibility that the self is essentially a thinking being: a mind. “... If “I” am a soul or mind. I am thing that thinks.”4 Thinking is an essential property of the soul. Descartes then take an inference in his method and says: “... I ama thing which is real and which truly exists. But what kind of a thing? ...- a thinking thing”. 5 The argument in the discourse is that my being is a result of my thought process: I think, therefore I am. The “ergo” or “therefor” marks the drawing of a conclusion. - The piece of wax argument: According to Descartes, when we melt the wax, all the sensible qualities change, the smell, hardness, etc. Yet we judge that the wax remains the same. How do we know that it is still the same piece of wax? Descartes says that through our intellect we know that it is still the same 1 René Descartes, Second Meditation: The nature of the human mind, and how it is better known that the body. In Cappelen, H., Torsen, I., & Watzl, S.(Ed). Knowing, being, doing : Exphil: Textbook with primary texts.( 1. Edition, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2021), p.37 2 Descartes, Second Meditation, 39 3 Descartes, Second Meditation, 37 4 Descartes, Second Meditation, 39 5 Descartes, Second Meditation ,38

piece of wax. Although all the sensible properties have changed, our intellect can know that the wax; whether melted or solid is extended (material), flexible and changeable. 6 So, when we carefully examine the ways in which we come to make claims about the world, we realize that the claims are based on mental powers which we possess. (Judgement, inference, etc) rather than our senses. This confirms our own existence as (at least) a thinking being. Summary: In the cogito argument Descartes found the foundational belief he was seeking. We can be certain that our own selves exist. If I am thinking, I exist. He believes that everything even body are perceived by the intellect and that perception derives from their being understood. Bibliography Descartes, Rene. Second Meditation: The nature of the human mind, and how it is better known that the body. In Cappelen, H., Torsen, I., & Watzl, S.(Ed). Knowing, being, doing : Exphil: Textbook with primary texts. 1. Edition, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2021.(p.36-43)

6 Descartes, Second Meditation , 40-41

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