Descartes’ Meditations (Digested)

Continuing what, improbably, could turn out to be a series, in which philosophical classics are reduced to their elements as a service to students and scholars.

Descartes’ Meditations


Realised that I’ve never examined the foundations of my beliefs and so I could be wrong about everything. To be honest, I don’t seriously believe I am wrong about anything, but I thought it might be fun to prove it. So, I asked myself, how might I be really, really wrong? Only if something totally far-fetched has happened, such as that I’m actually dreaming, mad or deceived by an evil demon. Still, that’s technically possible so I went to bed feeling progress had been made.


Woke up and realised one thing was certain after all: I am, I exist. (Note to self: catchier slogan needed.) Got carried away and convinced myself I was therefore non-physical and indivisible. Another productive day!


Having my own existence as the only certainty is proving to be rather limiting. Need to find some reason to think other things exist too. A benevolent God would do the job, but can’t come up with proof for his existence. Borrow argument from Aquinas instead. Hope no one notices.


I’m not exactly sure I remember what I’ve been doing all day. Probably no one else will either.


Looking back, Aquinas’s God argument seems a bit lame. Try to think of another. Fail. Steal one more proof from Aquinas instead.


Really need to wrap this thing up today. The hypothesis that God’s existence makes everything trustworthy seems a bit hard to swallow since he seems to let us make so many mistakes. Conclude that he must be doing the best he can. Also, decide that Monday’s doubt that I could be dreaming is silly. Of course I’m not! Dreams are incoherent whereas my arguments make perfect sense.

So, since I exist, God exists, and he wouldn’t trick us, it seems safe to conclude that all is more or less as it appears to be. What a relief!


[with thanks to johnt]
Phew, I deserve a break after all that! Packed bags for holiday with the
royals in Sweden. Hope the Queen doesn’t like to get up too early.

This piece was first published at Talking Philosophy and is republished here by permission.

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