USC Philosophy Descartes Methods Question

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Prompt: What standard must a claim meet before Descartes is willing to affirm it? Does Descartes believe that his own standard for accepting propositions is satisfied by its own requirement for affirmation? Why does Descartes claim that his standard of affirmation is warranted only if God exists? Do either of Descartes’ arguments for the existence of God meet Descartes’ own standards for affirming his claim that God exists?

Readings (all can be found on Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources 2nd ed., attached):

Descartes, Discourse on Method

Meditations: Dedicatory letter, Preface, Synopsis of the Meditations

Descartes, Meditations I-VI

Hobbes and Descartes: Objections and Replies

Arnauld and Descartes, Objections and Replies

Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding

(Additional notes attached)


-at least 5 pages

-double spaced

-cite references as footnotes

-include other philosophers on the topic

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Modern Philosophy An Anthology of Primary Sources Second Edition Modern Philosophy An Anthology of Primary Sources Second Edition Edited by Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins Hackett Publishing Company Indianapolis/Cambridge For David, Daniel, Christa, and Nicholas, who we hope will find this anthology of use someday. Copyright © 2009 by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 14 13 12 11 10 09 1234567 For further information, please address Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. P.O. Box 44937 Indianapolis, Indiana 46244-0937 Cover design by Abigail Coyle Interior design by Dan Kirklin Composition by Scribe, Inc. Printed at United Book Press, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Modern philosophy : an anthology of primary sources / edited by Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins. — 2nd ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-87220-978-7 (pbk.) — ISBN 978-0-87220-979-4 (cloth) 1. Philosophy, Modern. I. Ariew, Roger. II. Watkins, Eric, 1964— B791.M65 2009 190—dc22 2009003757 PRC ISBN: 978-1-62466-237-9 CONTENTS General Introduction Note to the Second Edition 1. Descartes’ Meditations and Associated Texts Montaigne, Apology for Raymond Sebond, “The Senses Are Inadequate” Bacon, New Organon I, Aphorisms 1–3, 11–31, and 36–46 Galileo, The Assayer, “Corpuscularianism” Descartes, Discourse on Method 1, 2, and 5 Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy Descartes, Hobbes, and Arnauld, Objections and Replies II, III, and IV Spinoza, Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy, “Prolegomenon” and “Definitions” Leibniz, On Descartes (from the letters to Foucher, to Elisabeth, and to Molanus) Pascal, Pensées, “The Wager” 2. Spinoza’s Ethics and Associated Texts Hobbes, Leviathan, Introduction, 1–5, 34, and 46 Spinoza, From the Letters to Oldenburg and to Meyer (Letters 2, 12, and 32) Spinoza, The Ethics, Parts I, II, and V 3. Leibniz’s Monadology and Associated Texts Malebranche, The Search after Truth, III.2.1–4, 6, 7, VI.2.3, Elucid. 15 Leibniz, Discourse on Metaphysics Leibniz, From the Letters to Arnauld Leibniz, Primary Truths Leibniz, A New System of Nature Leibniz, Monadology Newton, Principia, “Scholium to Definitions” and “General Scholium,” and Optics, “Query 31” Leibniz, From the Letters to Clarke (Letters 1–4) 4. Locke’s Essay and Associated Texts Boyle, Of the Excellency and Grounds of the Corpuscular or Mechanical Philosophy Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding I.1–2, II.1–14, 21–3, 27, III.3, 6, and IV.1–4, 10–1, 15–6 Leibniz, New Essays, Preface 5. Berkeley’s Three Dialogues and Associated Texts Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, Preface, Introduction, Part I sec. 1–33 Berkeley, Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous Berkeley, On Motion, 1–6, 26–8, 35–41, 52–3, 66–7, and 71–2 6. Hume’s Enquiry and Associated Texts Bayle, Dictionary, “Pyrrho,” Note B Hume, Treatise On Human Nature Introduction, I.4.5–6 Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Parts 1–5 and 9–12 Reid, Inquiry into the Human Mind, Conclusion; and Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, “Of Judgment,” Chapter 2: “Of Common Sense” 7. Kant’s Prolegomena and Critique of Pure Reason Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, abridged GENERAL INTRODUCTION When G. W. Leibniz traveled to Paris in 1672, he found an intellectual environment in great turmoil. Leibniz was trained in Aristotelian (or scholastic) philosophy, which had dominated European thought ever since the thirteenth century when the majority of the Aristotelian corpus was rediscovered and translated from Greek and Arabic into Latin and then made compatible with Christian doctrine (by Thomas Aquinas and others). Until his trip to Paris, Leibniz’s properly philosophical works consisted primarily of a thesis on the scholastic problem of the principle of individuation and the publication of a new edition of an obscure 16th-century philosopher who had attempted to rehabilitate a more authentic Aristotelian philosophy from the “barbarism” of the scholastics. But a philosophical revolution was taking place in mid-17th-century Paris. New scientific and philosophical doctrines had emerged from Galileo Galilei, from René Descartes and his followers, from Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Thomas Hobbes, and countless others. Scholastics had fought back fiercely against the new philosophy and science; they had succeeded in getting Galileo condemned by the Catholic Church in 1633 and in putting Descartes’ works on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1663. Still, the substantial forms and primary matter of the scholastics were giving way to a new mechanistic world of geometrical bodies, corpuscles, or atoms in motion. With this world came novel mathematical tools and scientific methods for dealing with its newly conceived entities. Old problems that seemed to have been resolved within a scholastic framework were raised again with new urgency: what can one say about necessity, contingency, and freedom in a world of atoms governed by laws of motion? The structure of the universe, whether it is finite or infinite, as well as the concepts of space and time, were up for grabs. Other basic philosophical issues were also keenly debated, including the location of the soul, its immortality, God’s purpose in the creation, and his relation to the universe. With such a great intellectual upheaval came the questioning of whether humans even have knowledge at all. Leibniz, of course, became a major contributor to this intellectual movement that defined the modern world. In Paris, he read and copied Descartes’ manuscripts and sought out proponents of the new philosophy, such as Antoine Arnauld and Nicholas Malebranche; his own later work was often precipitated by the correspondence he maintained with them and others such as Pierre Bayle. He traveled to London and met members of the Royal Society (Henry Oldenberg and Robert Boyle, among others, though not Isaac Newton, with whom he later corresponded). On his way back to Lower Saxony, he visited Baruch Spinoza in the Netherlands. Of course Leibniz did not have the opportunity to interact with David Hume and Immanuel Kant; Hume was born just four years prior to Leibniz’s death and Kant almost a decade after that. Yet Leibniz would have been quite interested in both of these figures’ acute, albeit radically divergent reflections on these philosophical developments. For Hume’s empiricist approach led to a certain kind of skepticism, while Kant’s criticism of pure reason did not obviate completely the possibility of substantive knowledge of the world. Historians of philosophy often draw a broad picture of modern European philosophy, depicting two distinct camps: rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz) who emphasize reason at the expense of the senses, and empiricists (John Locke, George Berkeley, and Hume) who emphasize the senses after rejecting innate ideas. This rudimentary picture is often filled out as follows. After calling into doubt seemingly all beliefs (especially those based on the senses), Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, attempts to ground all of our knowledge on innate ideas he discovers and rationally reflects on within himself, beginning with the idea he has of himself as a thinking thing (in the cogito). Accordingly, reason, by coming to a clear and distinct conception of its own ideas, attempts to establish knowledge about the world with the same kind of absolute certainty, precision, and necessity attainable in mathematics. While Spinoza and Leibniz revise and even reject some of Descartes’ fundamental principles, they both accept Descartes’ “rationalist” approach of rejecting sensory ideas as inadequate or confused in favor of innate ideas, which alone can be adequate or clear and distinct to reason. In this way, it is often claimed, Spinoza and Leibniz carry Descartes’ rationalist philosophy to its ultimate, logical conclusion. Locke, by contrast, breaks with the rationalists’ approach by rejecting innate ideas and by claiming instead that the content of all of our mental states or ideas must stem from experience, whether it be from sensation or reflection—a claim that more or less defines empiricism in this context. Locke rejects innate ideas, not only because he cannot find any ideas that enjoy universal assent, but also because he thinks that philosophers often talk about ideas without understanding clearly what meaning they have—an error encouraged by accepting innate ideas, since believing that an idea is innate precludes one from determining its true origin and thus its precise meaning. Since Locke rejects innate ideas, he views the proper task of philosophy as one of analyzing the precise meaning of the ideas we get from sensation and reflection and determining what we can come to know about the world purely on the basis of these ideas. Just as Spinoza and Leibniz follow Descartes’ rationalist assumptions to their logical conclusions, so too, it is often claimed, Berkeley and especially Hume correct the inconsistencies in Locke’s position, thus drawing out the proper consequences of Locke’s empiricist approach. (Often Kant is presented as the culminating figure of modern philosophy with his attempt at synthesizing the rationalist and empiricist traditions, though Kant, too, was in turn successively “corrected” by German Idealists, such as Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.) While there is some truth underlying this snapshot of the history of modern philosophy, one can, we think, discern a much more interesting and significant picture of the importance of these philosophies by broadening one’s view beyond the issue of whether one should accept or reject reason (or innate ideas) to include an account of other domains, such as science and religion. Consider first the fact that Descartes accepts, whereas Locke rejects the claim that matter is infinitely divisible. Descartes’ claim that matter is infinitely divisible is based (at least in part) on his view that matter is simply extended substance and that because we have an innate idea of extension, we can see clearly and distinctly that it implies infinite divisibility. In short, Descartes’ position on the infinite divisibility of matter would seem to be based on his doctrine of innate ideas insofar as our idea of extension is an innate idea. Since Locke rejects innate ideas, it is clear that such a justification would, in his eyes, be mistaken. However, concerns about innate ideas can be only part of the story. For even if Locke must reject Descartes’ justification of the claim that matter is infinitely divisible, he need not immediately reject the claim itself (even if he would have to search for a new justification for it). It is clear that Locke is a corpuscularian (at least in part) because Boyle and Newton, that is, two of the most preeminent scientists of his day, presuppose corpuscularian principles in their scientific theories and Locke believes that, at least in principle, philosophy and science ought to be able to tell a single coherent story about the world. The importance of the scientific context is not, however, limited to Locke’s acceptance of corpuscularianism; a similar explanation of the importance of the scientific context of the day could be developed for Locke’s distinction between “primary” and “secondary” qualities as well as for his distinction between nominal and real essences. Locke is not alone in having interests that extend beyond narrow epistemological issues. Consider also Berkeley’s and Hume’s attitudes toward religion. One might think that the question of the meaning of the term God as well as the question of God’s existence would be a straightforward matter for a strict empiricist. What empirical meaning can one ascribe to the idea of a perfect being endowed with infinite attributes (such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence)? And what empirical evidence does one have for thinking that such a being actually exists? Hume’s account of our idea of God in §1 of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding develops an interesting answer to the former question, and Philo’s forcefully argued position in Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion famously expresses one very provocative empiricist response to the latter question (in the negative). Berkeley, by contrast, believes that even if one cannot have an idea of God, one can form a notion of God, and there is no doubt in Berkeley’s mind that one can prove God’s existence. In light of Hume’s powerful arguments, one might suspect that Berkeley, as an Anglican priest, simply could not admit the true consequence of his own empiricist position with respect to God’s existence. (Here we would have an especially clear-cut case of Hume drawing out the logical conclusion of Locke’s original empiricist assumptions.) However, it is crucial to note Hume’s and Berkeley’s different goals and thus different versions of empiricism. Hume is interested exclusively in the laws that govern the relations that exist between ideas in our mind and refuses to speculate on what outside the mind might cause the existence of our sensations. Berkeley, by contrast, is interested primarily in refuting materialists, atheists, and skeptics and, as a part of that project, is very interested in determining what the cause of our sensations could be. Matter, as something inert, cannot be their cause and we must therefore take recourse to a mind (or spirit), which, when supplemented with further argument, turns out to be God. Thus, from a different point of view, it might seem that Berkeley’s empiricism improves upon Hume’s by being able to answer a question that Hume cannot, rather than Hume correcting an inconsistency in Berkeley. The point of these two brief examples is, we hope, clear. These philosophers are important figures in the history of modern philosophy for numerous reasons, reasons that cannot be captured exhaustively in any simple story about a single topic, such as reason versus the senses (or innate ideas versus sensations). Their texts are complex and rich, displaying divergent interests and goals. What makes them great philosophers and their texts significant philosophical works is the novel and sophisticated way in which they articulate their different interests and attempt to render coherent what would appear to be conflicting demands. Where we today share in their goals and interests, it is not impossible that they may help us to see more clearly truths that have been obscured over the centuries, and where we do not, it can be instructive to see how we are different and to consider how we came to be so. It is our hope that this anthology would be able to provide a glimpse of the complex and radical movement of thought from Descartes and his contemporaries to Leibniz and his contemporaries (including Spinoza, Locke, and Berkeley), and ultimately to its culmination in Hume and Kant. For that process, we have tried, as much as possible, to provide whole texts—i.e., Descartes’ Meditations, Leibniz’s Discourse and Monadology, Berkeley’s Dialogues, Hume’s Inquiry, and Kant’s Prolegomena; unfortunately, Spinoza’s Ethics and Locke’s Essay have had to be excerpted. We have attempted to surround these works with additional ones that would assist in understanding the primary sources—for example, selections from Hobbes’ Leviathan and Malebranche’s Search after Truth, or portions of Descartes’ Discourse and the Objections and Replies to his Meditations. Along the way, we have tried to provide alternatives to the “main” texts—for instance, Berkeley’s Principles and Kant’s Critique. Of course, we have had to make many difficult choices; we hope we have supplied most, if not all the desired selections, and have not cast off too many of our readers’ favorites. We believe we have provided enough materials for two semesters’ worth of modern philosophy, so that we think there should be sufficient contents with which to construct a variety of single semester courses. Another goal of ours was to achieve some consistency among texts—especially with Kant, where we were faced with different translations of the same technical vocabulary. With Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz this was accomplished, we hope, by the use of the same translator for the various works of the given philosopher (Donald Cress for Descartes, Samuel Shirley for Spinoza, and Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber for Leibniz). We have also attempted to modernize and Americanize those primary texts originally written in English. We do not believe that students, who are typically given contemporary translations of foreign-language texts, must wade through 17th- or 18th-century English works just because they were originally written in English in the 17th or 18th century. We have replaced archaic words and expressions with their modern equivalents: surface for superficies, up to now or previously for hitherto, admit for own, gladly or inclined to for fain, endow for endue, etc.—not to mention what we have done to whereunto, therein, hark, hath and doth. Perhaps the greatest change has been our endeavor to modernize the punctuation; we have adopted an open style of punctuation. A modernization we did not undertake is the discarding of italics, that is, the use of upper-case words for emphasis, mention, etc. This early modern practice does not seem to be a significant bar to comprehension for twenty-first century students. We also did not attempt to render historical texts into gender-neutral language. Of course, some will inevitably feel that our modernization has been too extensive, while others might have wished that we had made even greater emendations. We hope to have avoided both extremes, bearing in mind the needs of the readers for whom this anthology is intended. We are very grateful to the authors and translators named in the footnotes at the start of each selection for permission to reproduce their materials.1 We would also like to thank Karl Ameriks, Bill Davis, Daniel Garber, Marjorie Grene, Patricia Kitcher, Nelson Lande, Joseph Pitt, Tad Schmaltz, and Kenneth Winkler for their many helpful suggestions concerning what selections to include. Finally, we wish to thank Deborah Wilkes at Hackett Publishing Company, who suggested this project and saw it through to its completion two times over. Note to the Second Edition We have made numerous corrections to our anthology during the last decade. We still hope to have supplied most, if not all, our readers’ desired selections, and not to have cast off too many of their favorites. For this second edition, we have added a few more sources, which we think our readers will find useful. Here are the principal additions: Montaigne, Apology for Raymond Sebond, “The Senses Are Inadequate” Newton, Principia, “General Scholium,” and Optics, “Query 31” Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Parts 1–5 and 9–12 Reid, Inquiry into the Human Mind, Conclusion, and Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, “Of Judgment,” Chapter 2, Of Common Sense We are grateful to all the readers who sent in suggestions and corrections and hope that they will continue to do so. 1. For the primary texts from Descartes through Berkeley, with the exception of Malebranche, footnotes are always the editors’. With Hume and Kant, the age when the use of footnotes becomes common, all footnotes that the editors have inserted are in brackets. 1. DESCARTES’ MEDITATIONS AND ASSOCIATED TEXTS René Descartes was born in 1596 at La Haye, in Touraine, France. He became one of the central in...
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Outline: Philosophical Question on Descartes

Rene Descartes is a rationalist who is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy.

Standards to be Met

Several standards require to get met before Descartes affirms anything.
Descartes on the dreaming argument also notes that it is impossible to tell the difference
between dreaming and when in a waking state while one is dreaming.

What Does Descartes Believe?

Descartes started with setting a standard that our beliefs have to pass if they count as
genuine knowledge.


Descartes believes that it is difficult to distinguish between the truth and falsity of any

Why does Descartes claim that his standard of affirmation is warranted only if God exists?

Descartes has assured truth in the proposition that mathematical truths are certain.
Then is human beings can prove that God exists, then they can distinctly believe their

Do Descartes Arguments of God Meet his Standards of Affirmation?

Descartes's argument about the existence of God meets his standards of affirmation because
he starts by understanding the small things.


Indeed, Descartes does consider his standards when arguing about the existence of God.



Descartes, in his mediation, has indulged human beings in thinking and reevaluating the
knowledge that they possess.


Philosophical Question on Descartes

Students Name
Instructors Name
Course Title

Philosophical Question on Descartes
Rene Descartes is a rationalist who is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy.
Modern philosophy is founded in the modern era and is mostly associated with modernity. Several
assumptions are common to it that is used to distinguish it from the earlier form of philosophy.
The main aim of Descartes was to assist human beings in mastering and possessing nature and
seeing it from a different point of view. He has helped to offer the understanding of many things
like the world, among other areas. He has also had several meditations concerning the existence
of God, which will get discussed below.
Standards to be Met
Several standards require to get met before Descartes affirms anything. According to him,
before we start describing the nature of reality and its meaning, we must understand what they
mean when they say what existence is. It becomes pointless when we claim that something exists,
yet there are no true justifications to the existence of the item or object (Wretzel, 2010). Therefore,
Descartes claims that before we say that our beliefs are justified, they have to be based on a belief
that in itself cannot be doubted. A belief that cannot get doubted can offer a firm foundation where
all the other subsequent beliefs are grounded and known as true. It is possible that the beliefs we
think are the ultimate foundation for all we stand for are not the ultimate reality. Through
meditation, individuals can challenge the beliefs that have been held for so long, and self-critique
will take a real effort.
Descartes on the dreaming argument also notes that it is impossible to tell the difference
between dreaming and when in a waking state while one is dreaming. Usually, when in a dream
state, it feels like everything happening is so real until the moment when one wakes up.

Additionally, Descartes also claims that there are no conclusive indications that can get used to
telling the difference between sleep and waking life. Therefore, it is almost impossible to convince
him that even in waking life, he is not sleeping, and everything taking place results from the
subconscious mind. However, Descartes continues to claim that even if the objects present in our
waking life were imaginary, there is no way to confirm that there are still more simple or universal
concepts that are true and existent (Wretzel, 2010). For example, mathematics seems to be more
certain than astronomy because people are certain of the answers. Even if we are still dreaming in
a waking state, we cannot suspect the certainty of mathematical truths.
What Does Descartes Believe?
Descartes started with setting a standard that our beliefs have to pass if they count as
genuine knowledge. He additionally argued that what we believe in cannot be the basis for the
truth or confirmation of certainty. Descartes did not rest with his conclusion that he will only accept
propositions that satisfy his own requirement for affirmation. According to Descartes, to know
that's something exists, one has to know the various scenarios that are incompatible with the basis
of the knowledge being false, which is difficult for one to know (Wretzel, 2010). For example,
suppose an individual believes that there is a mango tree outside their window because they can
simply see the tree. Based on the first assumption, one must first confirm that they are not dreaming
and are already in a waking state to confirm that they indeed see a mango tree outside the window.
Therefore, seeing a tree outside the window cannot be the only basis of the individual’s knowledge
or truth.
Descartes believes that it is difficult to distinguish between the truth and falsity of any
scenario. If the individual cannot tell whether they are seeing a mango tree or are dreaming, then

as human beings, we cannot claim that we for sure know that something is a hundred percent truth.
Descartes is indeed in doubt of everything that he thinks he knows as he cannot for sure tell whether
it is certainly true. He also believes that it becomes conceived in mind every time he says he is
because he exists (Wretzel, 2010). Therefore, the existence of human beings comes from the fact
that they think, which cannot be distinguished from their attributes as beings. Therefore, human
beings are who they are because it is their nature to think. Descartes believes that the idea of self
is in our most innate idea, which is the idea of God. The philosopher believes that our awareness
of who we are is inborn.
Why does Descartes claim that his standard of affirmation is warranted only if God exists?
Descartes has assured truth in the proposition that mathematical truths are certain. The only
doubt that exists in mathematical truths is because of the Evil Demon possibility that is a system
existing to deceive humans. The p...

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