Descartes4 Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 1474 words and 6 pages.


De scartes’ ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ (I am, I exist) argument is a complex one. In many ways, he
constructs a convincing argument for the existence of the self, and for the process of the
thinking being, the essence of that self. In this meditation on his philosophy, Descartes
on numerous attempts tries to convince both the readers, as well as himself, of his theory
that we must reject all of our present ideas and beliefs and start from nothing. He
believes that the only thing that has any certainty at this point is “his own existence as
a thinking being”. Everything else, which he has learned throughout his entire life and
believed in, is to be thrown out because it is not known “clearly and distinctly”.
Descartes’ method and theory on knowledge was well planned and carefully thought out. It
is evident that he spent a great deal of time determining the principles that he would use
as determinants for judging whether a specific idea was justified and true.

In my opinion, there are some flaws contained in Descartes’ argument. Among these flaws
are Descartes’ apparent determination to prove his theory on his individual existence in
the world and the existence of G-d to backup and prove himself and his theories.

At the beginning of meditation two, Descartes is ‘stuck in the middle of nothingness’. He
has nothing, nothing to believe in and everything around him he regards as false. This is
because he cannot believe what he has learned and he is also

unable to trust his senses due to the fact that they deceive him. He feels like he is
‘drowning in a whirlpool and cannot reach the top and get out nor can he put his feet on
the bottom and stand’. Everything in the world at this point he has called into doubt,
including himself. Everything that he has ever seen, learned or thought is now external
from what he deems to be true and he is beginning his knowledge from non-existence.
Descartes although is certain of one thing, nothing (but to be certain of nothing is still
to be certain of something?).

Descartes is a rational thinker and he rationalizes through his studies that nothing in
the world is known. He decided to re-start his belief process and call everything he has
ever believed in, into doubt. He is debating complex ideas in his head, changing his mind
and objectively making decisions, so his existence in a world has to be a certainty. The
fact that he is having these thoughts, whether right or wrong proves mental capacity.
Descartes then states with certainty ‘Cogito ergo sum’ (I am, I exist). This is the first
accurate idea that Descartes knows with any conviction, he knows that he is a “thinking
being”. Descartes still does not know what he is, he says “but what then am I? A thing
that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills,
refuses, and that also imagines and senses”. He is aware of his mental capacity and
knows he thinks, deliberates and makes decisions, but he still rejects his body and his

One major flaw found in Descartes’ argument is that while critically examining, and then
rejecting, mostly everything in the world around him, he maintained that he could prove
the existence of G-d, beyond a shadow of a doubt. For thousands of years,

people have been trying to prove G-d’s existence but he has yet to be successful. It
seems to me that Descartes showed a display of arrogance in supposing that he could devise
a method of proving the existence of G-d, doing so without a great deal of difficulty. At
one point in his discourse on method, Descartes sets out a code of morals, which he plans
to abide by. Descartes states that he plans to “obey the laws and the customs of my
country, constantly holding on to the religion in which, by G-d’s grace, I had been
instructed from my childhood…” . It is quite apparent from this passage, that Descartes
had accepted and embraced the idea of G-d long before he even began to question it. With
this pre-judgement of G-d’s existence, he could not possibly have made a fair and accurate
conclusion as to whether or not G-d really exists. The fact that he was so ready and
willing to accept G-d’s existence, while being so critical of everything else around him
illustrates how careful he was to prove a G-d of power and benevolence. He then used his
idea of G-d to explain and justify his existence and everything else he wants to prove as
“clearly and distinctly” in his argument. If Descartes were to have rejected the ideas of
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