Descartes opens the First Meditation asserting the need “todemolish everything completely and start again right from thefoundations” (AT 7:17). The passage adds:
In 1628 Descartes left Paris. At this time he seems to have beenworking on the Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii (Rules forthe Direction of the Mind), a work that he would abandon, somespeculating around the time of the move from Paris. It is worth noting that relatively recently a copy of the Rules was discovered in a library at Cambridge University. Scholars are unsure how it got there. Currently, based on what it includes, it is thought that this manuscript represents the work as it stood when Descartes had abandoned it in 1628. The later Amsterdam printing (1701) and a copy that Leibniz acquired from Clerselier (c. 1670) make certain advancements over what is found in the Cambridge manuscript. So, it appears that Descartes picked up the work again, some speculating after a visit in 1635 from John Dury (1596–1680) and Samuel Hartlib (1600–1662). The meeting took place in The Hague. Dury and Hartlib were friends of the Cambridge philosopher Henry More (1614–1687), with whom Descartes had corresponded, and of others in More's circle, including John Milton (1608–1674). Perhaps the copy was made during the visit and brought back to Cambridge. (In any event, this is a new and interesting development in Descartes scholarship.) In 1630 Descartes moved toAmsterdam. There he worked on drafts of the Dioptrique (theOptics) and the Meteors (the Meteorology),which were very likely intended to be a part of a larger work, LeMonde (The World). In 1632 he moved again, this time toDeventer, to apparently teach Henry Reneri (1593–1639) his physics. Itis also during his stay in Deventer that Descartes probably worked on afinal draft of the Traite de l'homme (Treatise onMan), which in connection to the Optics and theMeteorology was probably originally intended to be a part ofThe World.
Descartes began work on Meditations on First Philosophy in 1639
I in doubt as to the propriety of making my first meditations, in the place above mentioned, matter of discourse; for these are so metaphysical, and so uncommon, as not, perhaps, to be acceptable to everyone. And yet, that it may be determined whether the foundations that I have laid are sufficiently secure, I find myself in a measure constrained to advert to them. I had long before remarked that, in relation to practice, it is sometimes necessary to adopt, as if above doubt, opinions which we discern to be highly uncertain, as has been already said; but as I then desired to give my attention solely to the search after truth, I thought thata procedure exactly the opposite was called for, and that I ought to reject as absolutely false all opinions in regard to which I could suppose the least ground for doubt, in order to ascertain whether after that there remained aught in my belief that was wholly indubitable. Accordingly, seeing that our senses sometimes deceive us, I was willing to suppose that there existed nothing really such as they presented to us; and because some men err in reasoning, and fall into paralogisms, even on the simplest matters of Geometry, I, convinced that I was as open to error as any other, rejected as false all the reasonings I had hitherto taken for demonstrations; and finally, when I considered that the very same thoughts (presentations) which we experience when awake may also be experienced when we are asleep, while there is at that time not one of them true, I supposed that all the objects (presentations) that had ever entered into my mind when awake, had in them no more truth than the illusions of my dreams. But immediately upon this I observed that, whilst I thus wished to think that all was false, it was absolutely necessary that I, who thus thought, should be somewhat; and as I observed that this truth, I , I , was so certain and of such evidence, that no ground of doubt, however extravagant, could be alleged by the Sceptics capable of shaking it, I concluded that I might, without scruple, accept it as the first principle of the Philosophy of which I was in search.
Descartes Meditations On First Philosophy Free Essays
The truth is, that so far as this point is concerned, so far from knowledge implying an identity between the subject knowing and the object known, it rather postulates a difference; for we always and must always distinguish subject and object in the act. But it should be kept in mind that in order to constitute this difference we do not require an object such as extension or resistance; we require only a mode of consciousness whatever that may be, feeling or desire. This enables us to discriminate self and mode, or self and object, as well as extension or resistance. The extended, and to us insentient, the true test, not of self and its modes, but of self and its modes on the one hand, and the material non-Ego on the other. Self might be realized in the fullness of its being through the moments of time; conception of reality is amplified by the apprehension of the points of space; but this does not make it to be or to know more truly what it is. The living spirit knows itself to be in the very movements which reveal its life. If this be so, the material non-Ego is not the necessary diverse correlate of the Ego; the Ego is not subverted by its subversion, but the field is left open, apart from all assumption as to its powers of apprehension and compass; and a basis is laid for the requirements of a faithful and sound psychology. The whole, too, of the speculation subsequent to Descartes regarding OccasionalCauses, Vision in Deity, and Pre-established Harmony, originating in the groundless difficulty which he felt about the knowledge of the material non-Ego, is superseded as being devised merely to overcome an imaginary difficulty.