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What motivates Descartes?

There are a large number of falsehoods that he has accepted as true, and these falsehoods have formed the foundation of this beliefs.


. Why is this a problem?

Because this makes all Descartes’ knowledge doubtful.


. What does Descartes hope to find?

To find that which cannot be doubted. If he can, he will use this as the new foundation of his knowledge.


. How will Descartes find something that cannot be doubted?

Descartes will use doubt as a tool. If he finds any reason to doubt something, then it will be doubted.


. How Descartes use doubt?

One option: create an exhaustive list of all his beliefs, and then seek reasons to doubt each belief.


. Is there more efficient way?

Descartes will look for certain basic principles and seek reasons to doubt these basic principles. If he can doubt these basic principles, then he can doubt all beliefs based on them.

What motivates Descartes

Basic principles: The senses


The senses: are often deceived by small and distant objects.


. Descartes ask, but what about objects that are immediately present to the senses?

Descartes uses Dream Doubt. The things I senses in my dreams are not real.


. At any given moment Descartes could be dreaming, and not be aware of it.


. So, at any given moment, Descartes could be sensing something that is not real and not be aware of it. So, the senses are doubtful.


. What survives?

Math and Geometry.



Because the truths of math and geometry do not depend on the senses.


. Can we doubt our ability to know the truths of math and geometry?

Descartes uses Demo Doubt.


Imagine that, instead of God, we were created by an evil demon. And that this demon created such that we are systematically deceived.


. Since this is possible, then we doubt our ability to know the truths of math and geometry.

So, what survives?

“I am, I exist.”


Every time I think “I am, I exist.” It must be true.


. How does this escape Dream Doubt?

Because I must exist in order to be dreaming.

What motivates Descartes

. How does this escape Demon Doubt?

I must exist in order to be deceived.


. What do I exist as? Do I exist as a body?

Bodies are known through the senses, and the senses are doubtful.


. When is “I am, I exist” true?

When I am thinking. So, I exist as a thinking thing. That is, as a mind.

“I think, therefore I am”


Descartes: Meditation 2:


“I am, I exist” is that which cannot be doubted. I exist as a thinking thing. That is, I exist as a mind.


. but, what about bodies?

Descartes considers a piece of wax. The wax will serve as a stand in for all bodies. That is, what ever he says about the wax said about every other body.


. What does Descartes observe?

It is solidity, texture, volume, weight, color……. etc. You notice all its particular physical properties. Now, if the wax is placed in front of a flame, the wax melts. Now, al of the particular properties have changed.


. Is it still wax after being melted?



. Think back to essences of something is changed, it becomes a different thing. Because the wax still wax after it has melted, none of those particular properties are essential.


. The same is true of all bodies, no particular color, weight,……etc is essential.


. So, what is the essence of body?

Everybody is extended.

Extension: takes up space.


So, the essence of body is extension.



The nature of the wax is not revealed by his senses, but through his intellect alone.


. What does this mean?

Nature = essence.

Based purely on his senses, the unmelted wax is a different thing than the melted wax.


. How do I determine that they are the something?

Through the operation of my intellect. This tells me that the mind has two faculties. A sensory faculty and an intellect faculty.