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But there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very cunning, whoever employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then without doubt I exist also if he deceives me, and let him deceive me as much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think that I am something. So that after having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it.

A similar situation obtains in regard to his second demonstration: he affirms what he cannot doubt—that he has been deceived; he then attempts to affirm in thought both that he was deceived, and that he does not exist; by finding a repugnancy between these two thoughts, he concludes that his initial thought is necessarily connected with the denial of the second: if he is deceived, then necessarily he exists. The repugnancies and necessities which the demonstration points out can only be appreciated by entertaining the very ideas of which the demonstration speaks, and apprehending intuitively the impossibilities and necessities.

The demonstration is not a substitute for the intuition, nor for that matter can it be accepted without the intuition.

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As a result, the connections which the demonstration is designed to point out do not follow as conclusions from the premises of the demonstration. For a clear and distinct perception to be deceptive, therefore, insofar as its causal origin is concerned, it would have to derive from some imperfect source. In the case of his existence, he then attempts to affirm in thought the matter which he cannot doubt and his non-existence; in the Fourth Meditation, we find him attempting to affirm that every clear and distinct conception is something real that it has a fixed or immutable nature and that it arises from some imperfect cause.

In both the Second and the Fourth Meditation, he finds a repugnancy between the ideas involved— being persuaded and non-existence, being deceived and nonexistence, being real and coming from an imperfect source. In each case, he then concludes intuits that his initial thought is necessarily connected with the denial of the second: accordingly, in the case of the Fourth Meditation, he intuits that the clear and distinct is necessarily derived from God, who Descartes knows cannot be a deceiver.

A number of consequences follow from the view of the relationship between the Regulae and the Meditations discussed here. First, in accordance with our account, the Meditations performs a dual function—this work provides metaphysical first principles the first principles of all learning as well as a proof of the reliability of mathematics. Since the Regulae is based on a mathematical model, Descartes can now be confident that when the method of the Regulae is utilized and leads to ideas conclusions which are clear and distinct, the conclusions can be accepted as true.

Therefore the Meditations, in providing a proof of the reliability of mathematics, is also providing assurance of the reliability of the Regulae, when the employment of the latter leads to what is clear and distinct. In light of the fact that a mathematical method is developed by Descartes in the Regulae, it is easy to conclude that he sees all learning along the lines of a deductive system. Rule I certainly lends itself to such an interpretation. For example, he writes: there is nothing more prone to turn us aside from the correct way of seeking out truth than this directing of our inquiries, not towards their general end, but towards certain special investigations.

HR I, 2 Or again: Hence we must believe that all the sciences are so interconnected, that it is much easier to study them all together than to isolate one from all the others. If, therefore, anyone wishes to search out the truth of things in serious earnest, he ought not to select one special science; for all the sciences are conjoined to each other and interdependent.

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HR I, 2 It is tempting to think that the interdependence and interconnectedness of which he speaks are logical in nature, as in a deductive or axiomatic system. However, at least insofar as the Meditations is related to the other branches of learning physics, medicine, mechanics, and morals , the first principles of knowledge in the Meditations are not related logically to these other fields.

It is rather that we must know the first principles of metaphysics before we can proceed in these other areas, and not that these first principles are premises in certain logical deductions. Curley, Descartes against the Skeptics Cambridge, Mass. HR I, 2. References to passages not reproduced in the present volume are quoted from The Philosophical Works of Descartes, trans. Thus, if a man wished to practise any one of them, e. Thus equipped, he would not then at once attempt to forge swords or helmets or any manufactured article of iron to use.

He would first of all fashion hammer, anvil, tongs, and the other tools useful for himself. This example teaches us that, since thus at the outset we have been able to discover only some rough precepts, apparently the innate possession of our mind, rather than the product of technical skill, we should not forthwith attempt to settle the controversies of Philosophers, or solve the puzzles of Mathematicians by their help.


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We must first employ them for searching out with our utmost attention all the other things that are more urgently required in the investigation of truth. HR I, Curley, Descartes against the Skeptics, p. Descartes is somewhat to blame for the fact that commentators like Curley have a tendency to oversimplify his method in the Meditations.

See, e. HR II, This same point, that to be unprejudiced means being indifferent except where what is before the mind is certain and indubitable, is also made by Descartes in the Fourth Meditation when he reviews the value of the arguments in the first meditation. See especially p. It is b which Descartes rejects, in that it ascribes the contradiction to the denial of the Cogito. Thus though from the fact that I exist I may infallibly conclude that God exists, it is not for that reason allowable to affirm that because God exists I also exist. John Cottingham Oxford: Clarendon Press, , p.

See p. I have selected the passage at p. The motive which induces me to present to you this Treatise is so excellent, and, when you become acquainted with its design, I am convinced that you will also have so excellent a motive for taking it under your protection, that I feel that I cannot do better, in order to render it in some sort acceptable to you, than in a few words to state what I have set myself to do.

I have always considered that the two questions respecting God and the Soul were the chief of those that ought to be demonstrated by philosophical rather than theological argument. For although it is quite enough for us faithful ones to accept by means of faith the fact that the human soul does not perish with the body, and that God exists, it certainly does not seem possible ever to persuade infidels of any religion, indeed, we may almost say, of any moral virtue, unless, to begin with, we prove these two facts by means of the natural reason.

And, in truth, I have noticed that you, along with all the theologians, did not only affirm that the existence of God may be proved by the natural reason, but also that it may be inferred from the Holy Scriptures, that knowledge about Him is much clearer than that which we have of many created things, and, as a matter of fact, is so easy to acquire, that those who have it not are culpable in their ignorance. This indeed appears from the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter xiii.

Hence I thought it not beside my purpose to inquire how this is so, and how God may be more easily and certainly known than the things of the world. And as regards the soul, although many have considered that it is not easy to know its nature, and some have even dared to say that human reasons have convinced us that it would perish with the body, and that faith alone could believe the contrary, nevertheless, inasmuch as the Lateran Council held under Leo X in the eighth session condemns these tenets, and as Leo expressly ordains Christian philosophers to refute their arguments and to employ all their powers in making known the truth, I have ventured in this treatise to undertake the same task.

And, finally, inasmuch as it was desired that I should undertake this task by many who were aware that I had cultivated a certain Method for the resolution of difficulties of every kind in the Sciences—a method which it is true is not novel, since there is nothing more ancient than the truth, but of which they were aware that I had made use successfully enough in other matters of difficulty—I have thought that it was my duty also to make trial of it in the present matter.

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Now all that I could accomplish in the matter is contained in this Treatise. Not that I have here drawn together all the different reasons which might be brought forward to serve as proofs of this subject: for that never seemed to be necessary excepting when there was no one single proof that was certain.

But I have treated the first and principal ones in such a manner that I can venture to bring them forward as very evident and very certain demonstrations. And more than that, I will say that these proofs are such that I do not think that there is any way open to the human mind by which it can ever succeed in discovering better. For the importance of the subject, and the glory of God to which all this relates, constrain me to speak here somewhat more freely of myself than is my habit.

Nevertheless, whatever certainty and evidence I find in my reasons, I cannot persuade myself that all the world is capable of understanding them. Still, just as in Geometry there are many demonstrations that have been left to us by Archimedes, by Apollonius, by Pappus, and others, which are accepted by everyone as perfectly certain and evident because they clearly contain nothing which, considered by itself, is not very easy to understand, and as all through that which follows has an exact connection with, and dependence on that which precedes , nevertheless, because they are somewhat lengthy, and demand a mind wholly devoted to their consideration, they are only taken in and understood by a very limited number of persons.


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Similarly, although I judge that those of which I here make use are equal to, or even surpass in certainty and evidence, the demonstrations of Geometry, I yet apprehend that they cannot be adequately understood by many, both because they are also a little lengthy and dependent the one on the other, and principally because they demand a mind wholly free of prejudices, and one which can be easily detached from the affairs of the senses.

And more than that; there is still this difference, that in Geometry, since each one is persuaded that nothing must be advanced of which there is not a certain demonstration, those who are not entirely adept more frequently err in approving what is false, in order to give the impression that they understand it, than in refuting the true. But the case is different in philosophy where everyone believes that all is problematical, and few give themselves to the search after truth; and the greater number, in their desire to acquire a reputation for boldness of thought, arrogantly combat the most important of truths.

But the estimation in which your Company is universally held is so great, and the name of SORBONNE carries with it so much authority, that, next to the Sacred Councils, never has such deference been paid to the judgment of any Body, not only in what concerns the faith, but also in what regards human philosophy as well: everyone indeed believes that it is not possible to discover elsewhere more perspicacity and solidity, or more integrity and wisdom in pronouncing judgment.

For the truth itself will easily cause all men of mind and 1 The French version is followed here. And, finally, all others will easily yield to such a mass of evidence, and there will be none who dares to doubt the existence of God and the real and true distinction between the human soul and the body. It is for you now in your singular wisdom to judge of the importance of the establishment of such beliefs [you who see the disorders produced by the doubt of them].

Not that I had the design of treating these with any thoroughness, but only so to speak in passing, and in order to ascertain by the judgment of the readers how I should treat them later on.

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For these questions have always appeared to me to be of such importance that I judged it suitable to speak of them more than once; and the road which I follow in the explanation of them is so little trodden, and so far removed from the ordinary path, that I did not judge it to be expedient to set it forth at length in French and in a Discourse which might be read by everyone, in case the feebler minds should believe that it was permitted to them to attempt to follow the same path.

But, having in this Discourse on Method begged all those who have found in my writings somewhat deserving of censure to do me the favour of acquainting me with the grounds of it, nothing worthy of remark has been objected to in them beyond two matters: to these two I wish here to reply in a few words before undertaking their more detailed discussion. The first objection is that it does not follow from the fact that the human mind reflecting on itself does not perceive itself to be other 1 When it is thought desirable to insert additional readings from the French version this will be indicated by the use of square brackets.

To this objection I reply that it was not my intention in that place to exclude these in accordance with the order that looks to the truth of the matter as to which I was not then dealing , but only in accordance with the order of my thought [perception]; thus my meaning was that so far as I was aware, I knew nothing clearly as belonging to my essence, excepting that I was a thing that thinks, or a thing that has in itself the faculty of thinking.

But I shall show hereafter how from the fact that I know no other thing which pertains to my essence, it follows that there is no other thing which really does belong to it. The second objection is that it does not follow from the fact that I have in myself the idea of something more perfect than I am, that this idea is more perfect than I, and much less that what is represented by this idea exists.

But I reply that in this term idea there is here something equivocal, for it may either be taken materially, as an act of my understanding, and in this sense it cannot be said that it is more perfect than I; or it may be taken objectively, as the thing which is represented by this act, which, although we do not suppose it to exist outside of my understanding, may, none the less, be more perfect than I, because of its essence. And in following out this Treatise I shall show more fully how, from the sole fact that I have in myself the idea of a thing more perfect than myself, it follows that this thing truly exists.

In addition to these two objections I have also seen two fairly lengthy works on this subject, which, however, did not so much impugn my reasonings as my conclusions, and this by arguments drawn from the ordinary atheistic sources. But, because such arguments cannot make any impression on the minds of those who really understand my reasonings, and as the judgments of many are so feeble and irrational that they very often allow themselves to be persuaded by the opinions which they have first formed, however false and far removed from reason they may be, rather than by a true and solid but subsequently received refutation of these opinions, I do not desire to reply here to their criticisms in case of being first of all obliged to state them.

I shall only say in general that all that is said by the atheist against the existence of God, always depends either on the fact that we ascribe to God affections which are human, or that we attribute so much strength and wisdom to our minds that 39 PREFACE TO THE READER we even have the presumption to desire to determine and understand that which God can and ought to do.

In this way all that they allege will cause us no difficulty, provided only we remember that we must consider our minds as things which are finite and limited, and God as a Being who is incomprehensible and infinite. Now that I have once for all recognised and acknowledged the opinions of men, I at once begin to treat of God and the human soul, and at the same time to treat of the whole of the First Philosophy, without however expecting any praise from the vulgar and without the hope that my book will have many readers.

On the contrary, I should never advise anyone to read it excepting those who desire to meditate seriously with me, and who can detach their minds from affairs of sense, and deliver themselves entirely from every sort of prejudice. I know too well that such men exist in a very small number. But for those who, without caring to comprehend the order and connections of my reasonings, form their criticisms on detached portions arbitrarily selected, as is the custom with many, these, I say, will not obtain much profit from reading this Treatise.

And although they perhaps in several parts find occasion of cavilling, they can for all their pains make no objection which is urgent or deserving of reply. And inasmuch as I make no promise to others to satisfy them at once, and as I do not presume so much on my own powers as to believe myself capable of foreseeing all that can cause difficulty to anyone, I shall first of all set forth in these Meditations the very considerations by which I persuade myself that I have reached a certain and evident knowledge of the truth, in order to see if, by the same reasons which persuaded me, I can also persuade others.

And, after that, I shall reply to the objections which have been made to me by persons of genius and learning to whom I have sent my Meditations for examination, before submitting them to the press. For they have made so many objections and these so different, that I venture to promise that it will be difficult for anyone to bring to mind criticisms of any consequence which have not been already touched upon.


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This is why I beg those who read these Meditations to form no judgment upon them unless they have given themselves the trouble to read all the objections as well as the replies which I have made to them. Since Descartes did not reproduce it, he was doubtless not its author. Mersenne probably composed it himself, adjusting it to the paging of the first Edition.

But although the utility of a Doubt which is so general does not at first appear, it is at the same time very great, inasmuch as it delivers us from every kind of prejudice, and sets out for us a very simple way by which the mind may detach itself from the senses; and finally it makes it impossible for us ever to doubt those things which we have once discovered to be true. In the second Meditation, mind, which making use of the liberty which pertains to it, takes for granted that all those things of whose existence it has the least doubt, are non-existent, recognises that it is however absolutely impossible that it does not itself exist.

This point is likewise of the greatest moment, inasmuch as by this means a distinction is easily drawn between the things which pertain to mind— that is to say to the intellectual nature—and those which pertain to body.

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But because it may be that some expect from me in this place a statement of the reasons establishing the immortality of the soul, I feel that I should here make known to them that having aimed at writing nothing in all this Treatise of which I do not possess very exact demonstrations, I am obliged to follow a similar order to that made use of by the geometers, which is to begin by putting forward as premises all those things upon which the proposition that we seek depends, before coming to any conclusion regarding it.

Now the first and principal matter which is requisite for thoroughly understanding the immortality of the soul is to form the clearest possible conception of it, and one which will be entirely 41 SYNOPSIS distinct from all the conceptions which we may have of body; and in this Meditation this has been done.

In addition to this it is requisite that we may be assured that all the things which we conceive clearly and distinctly are true in the very way in which we think them; and this could not be proved previously to the Fourth Meditation.