Stage 3 (Journeyman): Meditations on First Philosophy, chapter 2

Meditation 2: Concerning the human mind; That the mind is more known than the body.

  1. The Meditation of yesterday has filled my mind with so many doubts which I now cannot forget, nor see any way to solve. I feel just as if I had suddenly fallen into deep waters, and struggle to either plant my feet on the bottom or resurface. But I will try to persevere(1) on the same path on which I had entered yesterday. By casting aside all that admits the slightest doubt, I will continue on this track until I find something that is certain, or in the worst case, discover that nothing is certain at all.
  2. Then, what is left to be true if all the things I see are false, is that all the things that my fallacious(2) mind has shown me never existed and I possess no body, figure, motion and place? Perhaps there is factually nothing at all.
  3. But is there not a God, or some being, who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind? But why should there be such a being , for it may be I myself that is capable of producing them? Am I then nothing? I have already denied having senses and a body. Yet, am I so reliant(3) on the body and the senses that without these I cannot exist? But I have been persuaded that there is nothing in the world, that there is no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies. Therefore, am I persuaded that I do not exist? It cannot be, I for sure exist, since I am But there is some kind of being, who, with his ingenuity(4) and cunning, is constantly deceiving me. I then doubtlessly exist, since I am deceived. But no matter what he may do, I will still hold on to the belief that I am at least something. So that, it must be undeniable that the conception that I exist is true every time it appears in my mind.
  4. But I have not been able to determine what I am, even though I know that I exist. Hence, in the next place, I must be careful so as not to mistakenly take other objects in place of myself, and thus go astray(5) from this knowledge that I found the most certain and evident of all. For this reason, I will now start from scratch on what I formerly thought myself to be, before I even entered on these present reflections
  5. But then, what did I previously think I was? I thought that I was a man. But what is a man? I would not say a rational animal, because then we will have to define “animal”, and encounter(6) a lot of more difficult questions. But for this question of my own being, I would prefer to attend to the thoughts which arose in my mind, and were inspired my own nature. Originally, I thought that I had a countenance(7), hands, arms and all the components(8) that are found in a corpse, which I will now call the body. It further occurred to me that I was born, raised, fed, that I walked, perceived, and thought, and all those actions I imputed(9) to the soul. But what the soul itself is, I considered to be something ethereal(10) and subtle, like wind, or flame.
  6. But, what can I say myself to be now, since there is supposedly an extremely powerful and malicious(11) being, whose intentions are directed toward deceiving me? Can I now be sure that I possess any of the body’s intrinsic(12) attributes(13)? After very careful considerations, I find none of them that can be properly said to belong to myself. Let us now pass, then , to the attributes of the soul. First, we have the powers of nutrition and walking, but if I really do not have a body, then I am not capable of either walking or being nourished. The next one is perception, but without the body, perception does not seem to be such a possible thing. Besides, I had realized that not everything I perceived in dreams was perceived likewise in reality. Thinking is another attribute of the soul, which I discovered properly belongs to myself. This is inseparable to me, and it is true that I exist as often as I think, and will stop when I cease to think. I now admit nothing that is not necessarily true. I am therefore, a thinking thing.
  7. But am I anything besides? I will try to push my imagination in order to see if I am still something more than just a thinking thing. It is clear to me that I am not a build-up from members called the human body, nor am I a thin and penetrating(14) air spread through all these members. But those things, which I disbelieve because I do not know about, are not too different from myself whom I know. This is a point I do not determine, and do not now argue on. I can consider things that are known to me: I am aware that I exist, and will now ask the questions of what and who I am. It is certain that my existence does not depend on the things that are unknown to me nor the creations of my imagination. Moreover, the word “invent” points to what is wrong with relying on my imagination in this matter: if I used imagination to show that I was something or other, that would just be an invention, just story-telling; for imagining is simply contemplating(15) the shape or image of a bodily thing. I know that everything relating to the nature of the body – including imagination – could be mere dreams; so it would be silly for me to say “I will use my imagination to get a clearer understanding of what I am”. If my mind is to get a clear understanding of its own nature, it had better not look to the imagination for it.

+ GLOSSARY

  1. persevere(v): continue in spite of hardships and obstacles
  2. fallacious(adj): false
  3. reliant (adj):dependent
  4. ingenuity(n): cleverness
  5. astray (adv): away from the correct path or direction
  6. encounter(n.) a meeting (especially one that is unplanned); a meeting of enemies, battle; (v.) to meet or come upon
  7. countenance (n): Facial expression or face
  8. component (n): A part or element of a larger whole.
  9. impute(v): to say, often unfairly, that someone is responsible for something bad or that they have bad intentions
  10. ethereal (adj): light, airy, delicate; highly refined; suggesting what is heavenly (rather than earthbound)
  11. malicious (adj): Intended to hurt or harm
  12. intrinsic(adj.) : belonging to someone or something by its very nature, essential, inherent; originating in a bodily organ or part
  13. attribute (n.) a quality or characteristic belonging to or associated with someone or something; (v.) to assign to, credit with; to regard as caused by or resulting from
  14. penetrating(Adj): entering into, going through, or piercing
  15. contemplating(v): looking thoughtfully for a long time
    thinking about something deeply

2 thoughts on “Stage 3 (Journeyman): Meditations on First Philosophy, chapter 2

  1. It’s so true that “I’m a thinking thing.” I wonder what will happen if our bodies sleep for a thousand years, or time stops, but the mind still working? Without the “true” interaction between bodies that are bound by Time, are we just going to dream our own dream, disconnected from others?

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