Meditations On First Philosophy René Descartes 1641 – NO PLAGIARISM
Meditations On First PhilosophyRené Descartes1641Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1996. This file is of the 1911edition of The Philosophical Works of Descartes (CambridgeUniversity Press), translated by Elizabeth S. Haldane.Prefatory Note To The Meditations.The first edition of the Meditations was published in Latin by MichaelSoly of Paris “at the Sign of the Phoenix” in 1641 cum Privilegio etApprobatione Doctorum. The Royal “privilege” was indeed given, butthe “approbation” seems to have been of a most indefinite kind. Thereason of the book being published in France and not in Holland, whereDescartes was living in a charming country house at Endegeest nearLeiden, was apparently his fear that the Dutch ministers might in someway lay hold of it. His friend, Pere Mersenne, took charge of itspublication in Paris and wrote to him about any difficulties thatoccurred in the course of its progress through the press. The secondedition was however published at Amsterdam in 1642 by Louis Elzevir,and this edition was accompanied by the now completed “Objectionsand Replies.”1 The edition from which the present translation is made isthe second just mentioned, and is that adopted by MM. Adam andTannery as the more correct, for reasons that they state in detail in thepreface to their edition. The work was translated into French by theDuc de Luynes in 1642 and Descartes considered the translation soexcellent that he had it published some years later. Clerselier, tocomplete matters, had the “Objections” also published in French withthe “Replies,” and this, like the other, was subject to Descartes’ revision1 Published separately.and correction. This revision renders the French edition speciallyvaluable. Where it seems desirable an alternative reading from theFrench is given in square brackets.—Elizabeth S. HaldaneTO THE MOST WISE AND ILLUSTRIOUS THEDEAN AND DOCTORS OF THE SACREDFACULTY OF THEOLOGY IN PARIS.The motive which induces me to present to you this Treatise is soexcellent, and, when you become acquainted with its design, I amconvinced that you will also have so excellent a motive for taking itunder your protection, that I feel that I cannot do better, in order torender it in some sort acceptable to you, than in a few words to statewhat I have set myself to do.I have always considered that the two questions respecting God andthe Soul were the chief of those that ought to be demonstrated byphilosophical rather than theological argument. For although it is quiteenough for us faithful ones to accept by means of faith the fact that thehuman soul does not perish with the body, and that God exists, itcertainly does not seem possible ever to persuade infidels of anyreligion, indeed, we may almost say, of any moral virtue, unless, tobegin with, we prove these two facts by means of the natural reason.And inasmuch as often in this life greater rewards are offered for vicethan for virtue, few people would prefer the right to the useful, werethey restrained neither by the fear of God nor the expectation of anotherlife; and although it is absolutely true that we must believe that there isa God, because we are so taught in the Holy Scriptures, and, on theother hand, that we must believe the Holy Scriptures because they comefrom God (the reason of this is, that, faith being a gift of God, He whogives the grace to cause us to believe other things can likewise give it tocause us to believe that He exists), we nevertheless could not place thisargument before infidels, who might accuse us of reasoning in a circle.And, in truth, I have noticed that you, along with all the theologians, didnot only affirm that the existence of God may be proved by the naturalreason, but also that it may be inferred from the Holy Scriptures, thatknowledge about Him is much clearer than that which we have of manycreated things, and, as a matter of fact, is so easy to acquire, that those1-1RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYwho have it not are culpable in their ignorance. This indeed appearsfrom the Wisdom of Solomon, chapter xiii., where it is said “How be itthey are not to be excused; for if their understanding was so great thatthey could discern the world and the creatures, why did they not ratherfind out the Lord thereof?” and in Romans, chapter i., it is said thatthey are “without excuse”; and again in the same place, by these words“that which may be known of God is manifest in them,” it seems asthrough we were shown that all that which can be known of God maybe made manifest by means which are not derived from anywhere butfrom ourselves, and from the simple consideration of the nature of ourminds. Hence I thought it not beside my purpose to inquire how this isso, and how God may be more easily and certainly known than thethings of the world.And as regards the soul, although many have considered that it isnot easy to know its nature, and some have even dared to say thathuman reasons have convinced us that it would perish with the body,and that faith alone could believe the contrary, nevertheless, inasmuchas the Lateran Council held under Leo X (in the eighth session)condemns these tenets, and as Leo expressly ordains Christianphilosophers to refute their arguments and to employ all their powers inmaking known the truth, I have ventured in this treatise to undertake thesame task.More than that, I am aware that the principal reason which causesmany impious persons not to desire to believe that there is a God, andthat the human soul is distinct from the body, is that they declare thathitherto no one has been able to demonstrate these two facts; andalthough I am not of their opinion but, on the contrary, hold that thegreater part of the reasons which have been brought forward concerningthese two questions by so many great men are, when they are rightlyunderstood, equal to so many demonstrations, and that it is almostimpossible to invent new ones, it is yet in my opinion the case thatnothing more useful can be accomplished in philosophy than once forall to seek with care for the best of these reasons, and to set them forthin so clear and exact a manner, that it will henceforth be evident toeverybody that they are veritable demonstrations. And, finally,inasmuch as it was desired that I should undertake this task by manywho were aware that I had cultivated a certain Method for theresolution of difficulties of every kind in the Sciences—a method whichit is true is not novel, since there is nothing more ancient than the truth,but of which they were aware that I had made use successfully enoughin other matters of difficulty—I have thought that it was my duty also tomake trial of it in the present matter.Now all that I could accomplish in the matter is contained in thisTreatise. Not that I have here drawn together all the different reasonswhich might be brought forward to serve as proofs of this subject: forthat never seemed to be necessary excepting when there was no onesingle proof that was certain. But I have treated the first and principalones in such a manner that I can venture to bring them forward as veryevident and very certain demonstrations. And more than that, I will saythat these proofs are such that I do not think that there is any way opento the human mind by which it can ever succeed in discovering better.For the importance of the subject, and the glory of God to which all thisrelates, constrain me to speak here somewhat more freely of myself thanis my habit. Nevertheless, whatever certainty and evidence I find in myreasons, I cannot persuade myself that all the world is capable ofunderstanding them. Still, just as in Geometry there are manydemonstrations that have been left to us by Archimedes, by Apollonius,by Pappus, and others, which are accepted by everyone as perfectlycertain and evident (because they clearly contain nothing which,considered by itself, is not very easy to understand, and as all throughthat which follows has an exact connection with, and dependence onthat which precedes), nevertheless, because they are somewhat lengthy,and demand a mind wholly devoted tot heir consideration, they are onlytaken in and understood by a very limited number of persons.Similarly, although I judge that those of which I here make use areequal to, or even surpass in certainty and evidence, the demonstrationsof Geometry, I yet apprehend that they cannot be adequately understoodby many, both because they are also a little lengthy and dependent theone on the other, and principally because they demand a mind whollyfree of prejudices, and one which can be easily detached from theaffairs of the senses. And, truth to say, there are not so many in theworld who are fitted for metaphysical speculations as there are for thoseof Geometry. And more than that; there is still this difference, that inGeometry, since each one is persuaded that nothing must be advancedof which there is not a certain demonstration, those who are not entirelyadepts more frequently err in approving what is false, in order to givethe impression that they understand it, than in refuting the true. But thecase is different in philosophy where everyone believes that all isproblematical, and few give themselves to the search after truth; and thegreater number, in their desire to acquire a reputation for boldness of1-22RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYthought, arrogantly combat the most important of truths2.That is why, whatever force there may be in my reasonings, seeingthey belong to philosophy, I cannot hope that they will have mucheffect on the minds of men, unless you extend to them your protection.But the estimation in which your Company is universally held is sogreat, and the name of SORBONNE carries with it so much authority, that,next to the Sacred Councils, never has such deference been paid to thejudgment of any Body, not only in what concerns the faith, but also inwhat regards human philosophy as well: everyone indeed believes thatit is not possible to discover elsewhere more perspicacity and solidity,or more integrity and wisdom in pronouncing judgment. For this reasonI have no doubt that if you deign to take the trouble in the first place ofcorrecting this work (for being conscious not only of my infirmity, butalso of my ignorance, I should not dare to state that it was free fromerrors), and then, after adding to it these things that are lacking to it,completing those which are imperfect, and yourselves taking the troubleto give a more ample explanation of those things which have need of it,or at least making me aware of the defects so that I may apply myself toremedy them;3 when this is done and when finally the reasonings bywhich I prove that there is a God, and that the human soul differs fromthe body, shall be carried to that point of perspicuity to which I am surethey can be carried in order that they may be esteemed as perfectlyexact demonstrations, if you deign to authorize your approbation and torender public testimony to their truth and certainty, I do not doubt, Isay, that henceforward all the errors and false opinions which have everexisted regarding these two questions will soon be effaced from theminds of men. For the truth itself will easily cause all men of mind andlearning to subscribe to your judgment; and your authority will causethe atheists, who are usually more arrogant than learned or judicious, torid themselves of their spirit of contradiction or lead them possiblythemselves to defend the reasonings which they find being received asdemonstrations by all persons of consideration, lest they appear not tounderstand them. And, finally, all others will easily yield to such amass of evidence, and there will be none who dares to doubt theexistence of God and the real and true distinction between the humansoul and the body. It is for you now in your singular wisdom to judgeof the importance of the establishment of such beliefs [you who see the2 The French version is followed here. 3 The French version is followed here.disorders produced by the doubt of them]4 . But it would not becomeme to say more in consideration of the cause of God and religion tothose who have always been the most worthy supports of the CatholicChurch.Preface to the Reader.I have already slightly touched on these two questions of God and thehuman soul in the Discourse on the Method of rightly conducting theReason and seeking truth in the Sciences, published in French in theyear 1637. Not that I had the design of treating these with anythoroughness, but only so to speak in passing, and in order to ascertainby the judgment of the readers how I should treat them later on. Forthese questions have always appeared to me to be of such importancethat I judged it suitable to speak of them more than once; and the roadwhich I follow in the explanation of them is so little trodden, and so farremoved from the ordinary path, that I did not judge it to be expedientto set it forth at length in French and in a Discourse which might beread by everyone, in case the feebler minds should believe that it waspermitted to them to attempt to follow the same path.But, having in this Discourse on Method begged all those who havefound in my writings somewhat deserving of censure to do me thefavour of acquainting me with the grounds of it, nothing worthy ofremark has been objected to in them beyond two matters: to these two Iwish here to reply in a few words before undertaking their moredetailed discussion.The first objection is that it does not follow from the fact that thehuman mind reflecting on itself does not perceive itself to be other thana thing that thinks, that its nature or its essence consists only in its beinga thing that thinks, in the sense that this word only excludes all otherthings which might also be supposed to pertain to the nature of the soul.To this objection I reply that it was not my intention in that place toexclude these in accordance with the order that looks to the truth of thematter (as to which I was not then dealing), but only in accordance withthe order of my thought [perception]; thus my meaning was that so faras I was aware, I knew nothing clearly as belonging to my essence,excepting that I was a thing that thinks, or a thing that has in itself the4 When it is thought desirable to insert additional readings from the Frenchversion this will be indicated by the use of square brackets.1-3RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYfaculty of thinking. But I shall show hereafter how from the fact that Iknow no other thing which pertains to my essence, it follows that thereis no other thing which really does belong to it.The second objection is that it does not follow from the fact that Ihave in myself the idea of something more perfect than I am, that thisidea is more perfect than I, and much less that what is represented bythis idea exists. But I reply that in this term idea there is heresomething equivocal, for it may either be taken materially, as an act ofmy understanding, and in this sense it cannot be said that it is moreperfect than I; or it may be taken objectively, as the thing which isrepresented by this act, which, although we do not suppose it to existoutside of my understanding, may, none the less, be more perfect than I,because of its essence. And in following out this Treatise I shall showmore fully how, from the sole fact that I have in myself the idea of athing more perfect than myself, it follows that this thing truly exists.In addition to these two objections I have also seen two fairlylengthy works on this subject, which, however, did not so much impugnmy reasonings as my conclusions, and this by arguments drawn fromthe ordinary atheistic sources. But, because such arguments cannotmake any impression on the minds of those who really understand myreasonings, and as the judgments of many are so feeble and irrationalthat they very often allow themselves to be persuaded by the opinionswhich they have first formed, however false and far removed fromreason they may be, rather than by a true and solid but subsequentlyreceived refutation of these opinions, I do not desire to reply here totheir criticisms in case of being first of all obliged to state them. I shallonly say in general that all that is said by the atheist against theexistence of God, always depends either on the fact that we ascribe toGod affections which are human, or that we attribute so much strengthand wisdom to our minds that we even have the presumption to desireto determine and understand that which God can and ought to do. Inthis way all that they allege will cause us no difficulty, provided onlywe remember that we must consider our minds as things which arefinite and limited, and God as a Being who is incomprehensible andinfinite.Now that I have once for all recognized and acknowledged theopinions of men, I at once begin to treat of God and the Human soul,and at the same time to treat of the whole of the First Philosophy,without however expecting any praise from the vulgar and without thehope that my book will have many readers. On the contrary, I shouldnever advise anyone to read it excepting those who desire to meditateseriously with me, and who can detach their minds from affairs ofsense, and deliver themselves entirely from every sort of prejudice. Iknow too well that such men exist in a very small number. But forthose who, without caring to comprehend the order and connections ofmy reasonings, form their criticisms on detached portions arbitrarilyselected, as is the custom with many, these, I say, will not obtain muchprofit from reading this Treatise. And although they perhaps in severalparts find occasion of cavilling, they can for all their pains make noobjection which is urgent or deserving of reply.And inasmuch as I make no promise to others to satisfy them atonce, and as I do not presume so much on my own powers as to believemyself capable of foreseeing all that can cause difficulty to anyone, Ishall first of all set forth in these Meditations the very considerations bywhich I persuade myself that I have reached a certain and evidentknowledge of the truth, in order to see if, by the same reasons whichpersuaded me, I can also persuade others. And, after that, I shall replyto the objections which have been made to me by persons of genius andlearning to whom I have sent my Meditations for examination, beforesubmitting them to the press. For they have made so many objectionsand these so different, that I venture to promise that it will be difficultfor anyone to bring to mind criticisms of any consequence which havenot been already touched upon. This is why I beg those who read theseMeditations to form no judgment upon them unless they have giventhemselves the trouble to read all the objections as well as the replieswhich I have made to them.5Synopsis of the Six Following Meditations.In the first Meditation I set forth the reasons for which we may,generally speaking, doubt about all things and especially about materialthings, at least so long as we have no other foundations for the sciencesthan those which we have hitherto possessed. But although the utilityof a Doubt which is so general does not at first appear, it is at the sametime very great, inasmuch as it delivers us from every kind of prejudice,and sets out for us a very simple way by which the mind may detach5 Between the Praefatio ad Lectorem and the Synopsis, the Paris Edition (1stEdition) interpolates an Index which is not found in the Amsterdam Edition(2nd Edition). Since Descartes did not reproduce it, he was doubtless notits author. Mersenne probably composed it himself, adjusting it to thepaging of the first Edition. (Note in Adam and Tannery’s Edition.)1-44RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYitself from the senses; and finally it makes it impossible for us ever todoubt those things which we have once discovered to be true.In the second Meditation, mind, which making use of the libertywhich pertains to it, takes for granted that all those things of whoseexistence it has the least doubt, are non-existent, recognizes that it ishowever absolutely impossible that it does not itself exist. This point islikewise of the greatest moment, inasmuch as by this means adistinction is easily drawn between the things which pertain to mind—that is to say to the intellectual nature—and those which pertain tobody.But because it may be that some expect from me in this place astatement of the reasons establishing the immortality of the soul, I feelthat I should here make known to them that having aimed at writingnothing in all this Treatise of which I do not possess very exactdemonstrations, I am obliged to follow a similar order to that made useof by the geometers, which is to begin by putting forward as premisesall those things upon which the proposition that we seek depends,before coming to any conclusion regarding it. Now the first andprincipal matter which is requisite for thoroughly understanding theimmortality of the soul is to form the clearest possible conception of it,and one which will be entirely distinct from all the conceptions whichwe may have of body; and in this Meditation this has been done. Inaddition to this it is requisite that we may be assured that all the thingswhich we conceive clearly and distinctly are true in the very way inwhich we think them; and this could not be proved previously to theFourth Mediation. Further we must have a distinct conception ofcorporeal nature, which is given partly in this Second, and partly in theFifth and Sixth Meditations. And finally we should conclude from allthis, that those things which we conceive clearly and distinctly as beingdiverse substances, as we regard mind and body to be, are reallysubstances essentially distinct one from the other; and this is theconclusion of the Sixth Meditation. This is further confirmed in thissame Meditation by the fact that we cannot conceive of body exceptingin so far as it is divisible, while the mind cannot be conceived ofexcepting as indivisible. For we are not able to conceive of the half of amind as we can do of the smallest of all bodies; so that we see that notonly are their natures different but even in some respects contrary toone another. I have not however dealt further with this matter in thistreatise, both because what I have said is sufficient to show clearlyenough that the extinction of the mind does not follow from thecorruption of the body, and also to give men the hope of another lifeafter death, as also because the premises from which the immortality ofthe soul may be deduced depend on an elucidation of a complete systemof Physics. This would mean to establish in the first place that allsubstances generally—that is to say all things which cannot existwithout being created by God—are in their nature incorruptible, andthat they can never cease to exist unless God, in denying to them hisconcurrence, reduce them to nought; and secondly that body, regardedgenerally, is a substance, which is the reason why it also cannot perish,but that the human body, inasmuch as it differs from other bodies, iscomposed only of a certain configuration of members and of othersimilar accidents, while the human mind is not similarly composed ofany accidents, but is a pure substance. For although all the accidents ofmind be changed, although, for instance, it think certain things, willothers, perceive others, etc., despite all this it does not emerge fromthese changes another mind: the human body on the other handbecomes a different thing from the sole fact that the figure or form ofany of its portions is found to be changed. From this it follows that thehuman body may indeed easily enough perish, but the mind [or soul ofman (I make no distinction between them)] is owing to its natureimmortal.In the third Meditation it seems to me that I have explained atsufficient length the principal argument of which I make use in order toprove the existence of God. But none the less, because I did not wish inthat place to make use of any comparisons derived from corporealthings, so as to withdraw as much as I could the minds of readers fromthe senses, there may perhaps have remained many obscurities which,however, will, I hope, be entirely removed by the Replies which I havemade to the Objections which have been set before me. Amongstothers there is, for example, this one, “How the idea in us of a beingsupremely perfect possesses so much objective reality [that is to sayparticipates by representation in so many degrees of being andperfection] that it necessarily proceeds from a cause which is absolutelyperfect.” This is illustrated in these Replies by the comparison of avery perfect machine, the idea of which is found in the mind of someworkman. For as the objective contrivance of this idea must have somecause, i.e. either the science of the workman or that of some other fromwhom he has received the idea, it is similarly impossible that the idea ofGod which is in us should not have God himself as its cause.In the fourth Meditation it is shown that all these things which wevery clearly and distinctly perceive are true, and at the same time it isexplained in what the nature of error or falsity consists. This must of1-5RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYnecessity be known both for the confirmation of the preceding truthsand for the better comprehension of those that follow. (But it mustmeanwhile be remarked that I do not in any way there treat of sin–thatis to say, of the error which is committed in the pursuit of good andevil, but only of that which arises in the deciding between the true andthe false. And I do not intend to speak of matters pertaining to the Faithor the conduct of life, but only of those which concern speculativetruths, and which may be known by the sole aid of the light of nature.)In the fifth Meditation corporeal nature generally is explained, andin addition to this the existence of God is demonstrated by a new proofin which there may possibly be certain difficulties also, but the solutionof these will be seen in the Replies to the Objections. And further Ishow in what sense it is true to say that the certainty of geometricaldemonstrations is itself dependent on the knowledge of God.Finally in the Sixth I distinguish the action of the understanding6from that of the imagination;7 the marks by which this distinction ismade are described. I here show that the mind of man is really distinctfrom the body, and at the same time that the two are so closely joinedtogether that they form, so to speak, a single thing. All the errors whichproceed from the senses are then surveyed, while the means of avoidingthem are demonstrated, and finally all the reasons from which we maydeduce the existence of material things are set forth. Not that I judgethem to be very useful in establishing that which they prove, to wit, thatthere is in truth a world, that men possess bodies, and other such thingswhich never have been doubted by anyone of sense; but because inconsidering these closely we come to see that they are neither so strongnor so evident as those arguments which lead us to the knowledge ofour mind and of God; so that these last must be the most certain andmost evident facts which can fall within the cognizance of the humanmind. And this is the whole matter that I have tried to prove in theseMeditations, for which reason I here omit to speak of many otherquestions which I dealt incidentally in this discussion.6 intellectio.7 imaginatio.MEDITATIONS ON THE FIRST PHILOSOPHYIN WHICH THE EXISTENCE OF GODAND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN MINDAND BODY ARE DEMONSTRATED.8Meditation I. Of the things which may be brought within the sphereof the doubtful.It is now some years since I detected how many were the falsebeliefs that I had from my earliest youth admitted as true, and howdoubtful was everything I had since constructed on this basis; and fromthat time I was convinced that I must once for all seriously undertake torid myself of all the opinions which I had formerly accepted, andcommence to build anew from the foundation, if I wanted to establishany firm and permanent structure in the sciences. But as this enterpriseappeared to be a very great one, I waited until I had attained an age somature that I could not hope that at any later date I should be betterfitted to execute my design. This reason caused me to delay so longthat I should feel that I was doing wrong were I to occupy indeliberation the time that yet remains to me for action. To-day, then,since very opportunely for the plan I have in view I have delivered mymind from every care [and am happily agitated by no passions] andsince I have procured for myself an assured leisure in a peaceableretirement, I shall at last seriously and freely address myself to thegeneral upheaval of all my former opinions.Now for this object it is not necessary that I should show that all ofthese are false—I shall perhaps never arrive at this end. But inasmuchas reason already persuades me that I ought no less carefully towithhold my assent from matters which are not entirely certain andindubitable than from those which appear to me manifestly to be false,if I am able to find in each one some reason to doubt, this will suffice tojustify my rejecting the whole. And for that end it will not be requisitethat I should examine each in particular, which would be an endlessundertaking; for owing to the fact that the destruction of the foundations8 In place of this long title at the head of the page the first Edition hadimmediately after the Synopsis, and on the same page 7, simply “FirstMeditation.” (Adam’s Edition.)1-66RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYof necessity brings with it the downfall of the rest of the edifice, I shallonly in the first place attack those principles upon which all my formeropinions rested.All that up to the present time I have accepted as most true andcertain I have learned either from the senses or through the senses; butit is sometimes proved to me that these senses are deceptive, and it iswiser not to trust entirely to anything by which we have once beendeceived.But it may be that although the senses sometimes deceive usconcerning things which are hardly perceptible, or very far away, thereare yet many others to be met with as to which we cannot reasonablyhave any doubt, although we recognize them by their means. Forexample, there is the fact that I am here, seated by the fire, attired in adressing gown, having this paper in my hands and other similar matters.And how could I deny that these hands and this body are mine, were itnot perhaps that I compare myself to certain persons, devoid of sense,whose cerebella are so troubled and clouded by the violent vapours ofblack bile, that they constantly assure us that they think they are kingswhen they are really quite poor, or that they are clothed in purple whenthey are really without covering, or who imagine that they have anearthenware head or are nothing but pumpkins or are made of glass.But they are mad, and I should not be any the less insane were I tofollow examples so extravagant.At the same time I must remember that I am a man, and thatconsequently I am in the habit of sleeping, and in my dreamsrepresenting to myself the same things or sometimes even less probablethings, than do those who are insane in their waking moments. Howoften has it happened to me that in the night I dreamt that I foundmyself in this particular place, that I was dressed and seated near thefire, whilst in reality I was lying undressed in bed! At this moment itdoes indeed seem to me that it is with eyes awake that I am looking atthis paper; that this head which I move is not asleep, that it isdeliberately and of set purpose that I extend my hand and perceive it;what happens in sleep does not appear so clear nor so distinct as doesall this. But in thinking over this I remind myself that on manyoccasions I have in sleep been deceived by similar illusions, and indwelling carefully on this reflection I see so manifestly that there are nocertain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulnessfrom sleep that I am lost in astonishment. And my astonishment is suchthat it is almost capable of persuading me that I now dream.Now let us assume that we are asleep and that all these particulars,e.g. that we open our eyes, shake our head, extend our hands, and so on,are but false delusions; and let us reflect that possibly neither our handsnor our whole body are such as they appear to us to be. At the sametime we must at least confess that the things which are represented to usin sleep are like painted representations which can only have beenformed as the counterparts of something real and true, and that in thisway those general things at least, i.e. eyes, a head, hands, and a wholebody, are not imaginary things, but things really existent. For, as amatter of fact, painters, even when they study with the greatest skill torepresent sirens and satyrs by forms the most strange and extraordinary,cannot give them natures which are entirely new, but merely make acertain medley of the members of different animals; or if theirimagination is extravagant enough to invent something so novel thatnothing similar has ever before been seen, and that then their workrepresents a thing purely fictitious and absolutely false, it is certain allthe same that the colours of which this is composed are necessarilyreal. And for the same reason, although these general things, to wit, [abody], eyes, a head, hands, and such like, may be imaginary, we arebound at the same time to confess that there are at least some otherobjects yet more simple and more universal, which are real and true;and of these just in the same way as with certain real colours, all theseimages of things which dwell in our thoughts, whether true and real orfalse and fantastic, are formed.To such a class of things pertains corporeal nature in general, andits extension, the figure of extended things, their quantity or magnitudeand number, as also the place in which they are, the time whichmeasures their duration, and so on.That is possibly why our reasoning is not unjust when we concludefrom this that Physics, Astronomy, Medicine and all other scienceswhich have as their end the consideration of composite things, are verydubious and uncertain; but that Arithmetic, Geometry and othersciences of that kind which only treat of things that are very simple andvery general, without taking great trouble to ascertain whether they areactually existent or not, contain some measure of certainty and anelement of the indubitable. For whether I am awake or asleep, two andthree together always form five, and the square can never have morethan four sides, and it does not seem possible that truths so clear andapparent can be suspected of any falsity [or uncertainty].Nevertheless I have long had fixed in my mind the belief that anall-powerful God existed by whom I have been created such as I am.But how do I know that He has not brought it to pass that there is no1-7RENE DESCARTES MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHYearth, no heaven, no extended body, no magnitude, no place, and thatnevertheless [I possess the perceptions of all these things and that] theyseem to me to exist just exactly as I now see them? And, besides, as Isometimes imagine that others deceive themselves in the things whichthey think they know best, how do I know that I am not deceived everytime that I add two and three, or count the sides of a square, or judge ofthings yet simpler, if anything simpler can be imagined? But possiblyGod has not desired that I should be thus deceived, for He is said to besupremely good. If, however, it is contrary to His goodness to havemade me such that I constantly deceive myself, it would also appear tobe contrary to His goodness to permit me to be sometimes deceived,and nevertheless I cannot doubt that He does permit this.There may indeed be those who would prefer to deny the existenceof a God so powerful, rather than believe that all other things areuncertain. But let us not oppose them for the present, and grant that allthat is here said of a God is a fable; nevertheless in whatever way theysuppose that I have arrived at the state of being that I have reached—whether they attribute it to fate or to accident, or make out that it is by acontinual succession of antecedents, or by some other method—since toerr and deceive oneself is a defect, it is clear that the greater will be theprobability of my being so imperfect as to deceive myself ever, as is theAuthor to whom they assign my origin the less powerful. To thesereasons I have certainly nothing to reply, but at the end I feelconstrained to confess that there is nothing in all that I formerlybelieved to be true, of which I cannot in some measure doubt, and thatnot merely through want of thought or through levity, but for reasonswhich are very powerful and maturely considered; so that henceforth Iought not the less carefully to refrain from giving credence to theseopinions than to that which is manifestly false, if I desire to arrive atany certainty [in the sciences].But it is not sufficient to have made these remarks, we must also becareful to keep them in mind. For these ancient and commonly heldopinions still revert frequently to my mind, long and familiar customhaving given them the right to occupy my mind against my inclinationand rendered them almost masters of my belief; nor will I ever lose thehabit of deferring to them or of placing my confidence in them, so longas I consider them as they really are, i.e. opinions in some measuredoubtful, as I have just shown, and at the same time highly probable, sothat there is much more reason to believe in than to deny them. That iswhy I consider that I shall not be acting amiss, if, taking of set purposea contrary belief, I allow myself to be deceived, and for a certain timepretend that all these opinions are entirely false and imaginary, until atlast, having thus balanced my former prejudices with my latter [so thatthey cannot divert my opinions more to one side than to the other], myjudgment will no longer be dominated by bad usage or turned awayfrom the right knowledge of the truth. For I am assured that there canbe neither peril nor error in this course, and that I cannot at presentyield too much to distrust, since I am not considering the question ofaction, but only of knowledge.I shall then suppose, not that God who is supremely good and thefountain of truth, but some evil genius not less powerful than deceitful,has employed his whole energies in deceiving me; I shall consider thatthe heavens, the earth, colours, figures, sound, and all other externalthings are nought but the illusions and dreams of which this genius hasavailed himself in order to lay traps for my credulity; I shall considermyself as having no hands, no eyes, no flesh, no blood, nor any senses,yet falsely believing myself to possess all these things; I shall remainobstinately attached to this idea, and if by this means it is not in mypower to arrive at the knowledge of any truth, I may at least do what isin my power [i.e. suspend my judgment], and with firm purpose avoidgiving credence to any false thing, or being imposed upon by this archdeceiver, however powerful and deceptive he may be. But this task is alaborious one, and insensibly a certain lassitude leads me into thecourse of my ordinary life. And just as a captive who in sleep enjoys animaginary liberty, when he begins to suspect that his liberty is but adream, fears to awaken, and conspires with these agreeable illusionsthat the deception may be prolonged, so insensibly of my own accord Ifall back into my former opinions, and I dread awakening from thisslumber, lest the laborious wakefulness which would follow thetranquillity of this repose should have to be spent not in daylight, but inthe excessive darkness of the difficulties which have just beendiscussed.Meditation II Of the Nature of the Human Mind; and that it is moreeasily known than the Body.The Meditation of yesterday filled my mind with so many doubtsthat it is no longer in my power to forget them. And yet I do not see inwhat manner I can resolve them; and, just as if I had all of a suddenfallen into very deep water, I am so disconcerted that I can neither make
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