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Descartes and His Meditation in Search of Knowledge, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

            What is knowledge and how is it acquired by a person; this is the question that is further explored by Descartes as he meditates through the desire on what was the actual bases for anything and everything he assumes he knows. In the first meditation, Descartes intended to argue about his belief that only through going back to ‘none’ would he actually be able to know what the real basis of knowledge is. Question is, could it be that knowledge is actually sourced out from nothingness and should this particular indication on the process of understanding be considered valid as defined by Descartes himself? This particular query shall be given further attention to in the discussion that follows. Exploring the implications of both the first and second meditation of Descartes and how these notes from the philosopher actually define how knowledge itself is found and developed accordingly.

What Knowledge is About

            The desire to know is an important aspect of development especially in relation to the need to progress as an individual or even as a part of a society. Knowledge in itself is an empowering tool that enables humans to understand matters and from it develop specific elements that define the being of a new society. It is for this reason that knowledge is considered to be an important matter in the creation of the backbone of a society. Individuals who are able to take an understanding on what knowledge is and what its important value is about are bound to better utilize whatever their learn for a better cause.

Descartes however wanted to know more than what knowledge could do. He wanted to explore why and how humans develop knowledge therefore are able to utilize the said tool to impose a sense of progress that the society is embracing at present. To him, knowing the source of knowledge would further the manner by which it is utilized by those who acquire it. Hence, to be able to determine the actual source of knowledge, Descartes tried to take two particular steps to make sure that he is able to mandate the actual source of understanding. The first step he took was to examine his beliefs. Noting them one by one, he tried to specifically seek their source. The sources include sensory beliefs while others are noted to come from mathematical distinctions.

From this point, Descartes insists that sensory beliefs or understanding gathered through the utilization of human senses such as sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing could be rather affected by the natural human errors. It could be understood that the argument of Descartes with regards this matter implicates that there are instances when human senses could deceive what a person tends to know. The interpretation of both internal and external elements that appeal to the five main human sense could be specifically accounted for the condition by which an individual is able to relate to such matters based on experience, upbringing and developed understanding.  On the other hand, beliefs based on mathematical explanations, more likely logic, are considered by Descartes to be more based, stronger than those that are established because of the interpretative effect of the five senses. What constitutes logic more dependable is that of the fact that knowledge sourced from it are likely based on evidence and proven facts rather than impulsive interpretation.

What is intriguing in Descartes’ meditation however is that of his distinct separation between belief and knowledge. For him, belief was more of an established understanding while knowledge is something ‘raw’ that should be proven still for it to be useful. From this point, Descartes further implicates that what a person believes creates his being, what he knows on the other hand will determine who he would become based on how he decides to use it.  In a way, belief is constructed through time while knowledge is acquired and enriched through time. This is perhaps the reason why he insists that the source of knowledge be identified accordingly for it is only through this that a particular matter that one ‘knows’ could be assumed to have a greater value for utilization for the sake of development, may it be personal or social in form.

During his meditations, Descartes was able to identify three particular elements that could question whether a particular ‘knowledge’ could be useful r not based on its source. First fact he was able to realize is that the human senses sometimes deceive. Due to the imperfection of human senses [may be physical or abstract in form], there are instances when one person interprets a particular element separately from another. The indication of such separation of understanding specifically implies that individuals tend to take particular elements and their values in different ways. Nevertheless, he also argues that the interpretation of knowledge based on the senses could actually provide a reliable source of understanding that one needs to explore better what that particular ‘understanding’ could be used for.

Another realization he imposes is the fact that a person could be dreaming. The separation on how the mind works when a person is awake and when he is sleeping is argued by Descartes to be somewhat sublime. The way the human mind interprets matters when one is sleeping and when one is awake is often the same. This is the reason why there are some people who are able to easily relate reality with what they have dreamt about. There are instances when dreams become intertwined with reality that humans who are awake specifically utilize the images from their subconscious inference to interpret what is actually happening.

The third realization is that of the existence of an evil demon who could be deceiving what one believes in. Although the idea is a bit abstract, Descartes simply implies that there exists an innate evil in every person; an element that suggests negative insistence therefore giving way to what one wants, no matter how wrong nor immoral such matter is. This is what Descartes intends to show as he uses such ‘evil’ to be the reason why human individuals at times make impulsive wrong decisions therefore resulting to wrong situations at the end.

As Descartes’ opens up to his second meditation, he introduces the idealisms of the cogito ego sum, which insists on the capacity of humans to think and utilize such capacity to become more productive in a specifically distinctive manner. He intends to indicate that the existence of ‘doubt’ is what produces knowledge. Consistently, Descartes’ argument on the production of knowledge could be supported by the fact that humans are able to develop a sense of interpretation based on actually questioning a particular understanding. The manipulation of an understanding through inquiry then produces the real development of knowledge. Inference, for instance, made the knowledge of ‘flying’ more productive as it did make possible the actual reference to the transportation that allows humans to travel on air. Without the doubts that existed in relation to this knowledge, the production of transportation vessels that are capable of flying and bringing people back and forth from particular destinations may have never existed.

Conclusion

            Based from the two specific meditations of Descartes, it could be realized how he distinguished beliefs from knowledge as well as how he defined the source of ultimate knowledge that humans could use for development. The ability of a person to think and to actually ask about the relative reliability and validity of a particular matter do give birth to new knowledge. Constant inquiry does provide human individuals with the capacity to explore further. Without the desire of knowing more, then knowledge would not be produced. Hence, the idealism of cogito ego sum does provide a strong distinction as to whether or not a particular knowledge should be considered valid or usable. It is then considered true that the existence of doubt further strengthens the existence of each piece of knowledge known to humankind.

Works Cited:

Descartes, Rene (2011).  Meditations on First Philosophy, Third Edition, Translated by Donald A. Cress.

Grayling, A.C. (2005). Descartes: The Life and times of a Genius. New York: Walker Publishing Co., Inc.

Melchert, Norman (2002). The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. New York: McGraw Hill.

Naaman-Zauderer, Noa (2010). Descartes’ Deontological Turn: Reason, Will and Virtue in the Later Writings. Cambridge University Press.

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