Interpretation and Summary of Descartes' 1st and 2 Meditations from "Meditations on First Philosophy".

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Descartes: The First and Second Meditations

Rene Descartes begins Meditations on First Philosophy by explaining his basic purpose and how he plans on going about accomplishing this project. Descartes hopes to discover truth and justify human knowledge and belief. In order to find the fundamental truths of life, Descartes believes he must start from scratch so that he may discern truth from false beliefs. All of Descartes' beliefs, everything he has learned and grown to believe is now cast under the shadow of doubt, as he explains to us, "I will attack straightaway those principles which supported everything I once believed" (14). Descartes further explains the task which he faced as he says, "I had to raze everything to the ground and begin again from the original foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences" (13).

Descartes divides the basic beliefs in life into four different categories or kinds of belief.

According to Descartes' theory, there are beliefs about different things in life. The first type of belief that he discusses is that of the physical body. He writes of how the human body normally functions and understands life through the use of the senses. However, he warns us "senses are sometimes deceptive; and it is a mark of prudence never to place our complete trust in those who have deceived us even once" (14). Descartes speaks of our own bodies and specific parts of it, such as our hands, as an example of the physical body. He says, "On what grounds could one deny that these hands and this entire body are mine?" (14). Additional examples that could be included in this type of belief would be other parts of the body, such as our legs and feet.

The second kind of belief discussed...