Descartes view on what is real

Essay by bongerkingUniversity, Bachelor'sA, December 2002

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In meditation one Descartes contemplates "what can be called into doubt". What he is doing is questioning if what we see and experience is real or if we are being deceived. Perception is something that is our own. The way that one person sees something may be completely different to someone who is standing right next to them. In one passage Descartes questions if beliefs are impossible even though they are derived from the senses. He gives the example of him sitting by the fire in his pajamas writing these meditations and asks the question "how could it be denied that these hands or this whole body is mine?" He then compares himself to mentally disturbed people saying that the mentally disturbed sometimes think they are kings or wearing clothes when the are naked or that their heads are made of something other then bone and skin. What he is saying is who are we to question someone else's sanity.

What is it that makes our perceptions reality and his incorrect?

In the next passage Descartes presents the possibility of deception in dreams as a reason for skepticism. He begins by saying that he has the same experiences when he is sleeping that crazy people do when they are awake, and sometimes even more improbable ones. Descartes then questions how one could know whether or not he was asleep or awake. He says that often when he is asleep is convinced of events that are similar to reality, such as that he is sitting by the fire in his pajamas, when he is in fact asleep in bed. In a dream he could do the same thing as in reality to convince himself that he was awake such as look at a paper, shake his head or touch his hand...