Meditations I and II

Reading Questions for 1/21

For Thursday, 1/21, read the first two Meditations with the following questions in mind:

  1. What, according to Meditation I, can be called into doubt?
  2. How does the Meditator call into question beliefs about particular existing things that were acquired through the senses?
  3. How does the Meditator call into question beliefs about the general natures of things and properties like size, shape, and number?
  4. What prompts the Meditator’s turn to willful self-deception?
  5. How does the Meditator reach the conclusion that “I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind”?
  6. What considerations lead to answering the question “what am I?” with the claim “A thing that thinks”?
  7. What leads to the conclusion that the mind is better known than the body?

It may take a couple of readings (or more) to get both the general picture and the details. We will focus in class on the claims made and the argumentative structure of the text. In preparation for next Tuesday’s class, I will ask you to do an activity that may provide some additional insight into the spirit of the work and what might be required of us to interpret it charitably (details to follow).

Feel free to suggest initial answers and to pose further questions of the text in the comments section below.

 

3 thoughts on “Meditations I and II

  1. Woo! First comment ever for this semester! Now with that out of the way, I do have a question about the reading which is also a criticism. It is as followed:

    The Meditator asks us to propose that we are merely dreaming, but what we see must have a foundation among the waking reality. This is proof of all creatures, objects, features, etc. because for us to see this in our dream reality we must first know among the waking reality. However, I question this and find flaws to this theory. First, how do we know that this dream reality immediately follows the waking reality? Second, how do we all share similar perceptions of the reality if we are dreaming? So, if we still continue with the idea that we are all dreaming then how do we know how far down the rabbit hole we really are? For we could merely be a dream within a dream within a dream and all that we know is just creations of our subconscious minds. In dreams the mind is mostly convinced of the dream reality and rarely calls it into question. When it does call into question of it and doubts the reality presented then lucid dreaming occurs. Lucid dreaming is, in a general sense, where we take control of the dream and have complete control of the dream reality with the only bounds being the mind itself. So how does the Meditator know that we are not in a lucid dream bounded by some unknown force which is within a dream within yet another dream? That all we see and know is but an illusion built upon illusions and so forth whose surreality and truth to the true reality is unknown. A fantastical reality that we created that is unrecognizable and indistinguishable from the true reality. It is to be noted that that through dreams and through life we will so easily accept the reality that we are presented, so how is this not another case? Moving along to the second question, we rarely, if ever, share a dream with others. Thus, if we all see and experience similar perceptions of the reality presented then we can not all be dreaming. However, beings in dreams can share perceptions of the reality and also have differing perceptions of the reality. So, if we were all part of a dream of a single being then that would explain the shared perceptions, yet we still do not know how far down the rabbit hole we really are. I know that the Meditator proposes in the second meditation to assume that nothing we know is true, that all is deception and also to assume that we are perpetually dreaming. I just find the idea to assume we are dreaming to find the foundations of our reasoning to be a bit flimsy and either better explained or replaced with some other method or assumption.

    Thank you very much for your time and energy and I hope you have a wonderful day!

  2. Thanks for getting us started Taliesin. I’d say you are right to question the proposal that “we are merely dreaming, but what we see must have a foundation [in] waking reality”. Like many of the other suggestions in the first Meditation, the suggestion that even if I am dreaming, still I must have gotten the materials out of which I construct my dream from real objects that are like them in some respects is one that gets considered in order to be taken up for questioning. The Meditator appears to reject it, so you might not actually be disagreeing as much as it may appear that you are.

    Let me ask you a set of questions in response to the thoughts you shared: Why are there so many uses of ‘we’? Is the Meditator actually proposing that we are dreaming? Is the Meditator concerned, first and foremost, with what we think we know and what we think we experience?

    If I am thinking in terms of the first person plural, aren’t I already assuming the existence of a plurality of things that are like me in relevant ways (I.e., in perceiving, dreaming, etc.)? Isn’t that assumption itself one that I am capable of doubting (at least for the purposes of the exercise)?

  3. Thank you for the quick reply and you’re welcome. Yes, I read that the objects in dreams must be based off of real objects, but I was thinking about the surreality of dreams and how distortion can happen within those dreams because of the surreal nature of dreams. Since he wouldn’t know how far of a dream he was in so his dream objects could be based off of countless distortions of the original object until the dream object is uncomparable to the real object. However, I do now see that the object would have to share even the most minute in similarities and he can also not know how close he is to the waking life as much or more than for how far away he is. I did see that he did reject the dream view later in his mediations along with the rejection of near everything so as to get to the foundation of knowledge. I will however read more closely of the text to further see from my first initial reading. I used “we” because I know that he was dreaming and I thought that we were supposed to follow along with this even if it is just half-heartedly. Following this, I felt that since he proposed that he was dreaming then we too must also propose so to get to where he is going. However, he is not directly concerned with our knowledge and experiences, but he did propose the rejections that others might have. So he was not concerned with us, but more so to make sure his argument to have as little disproval as possible. Yes, thinking in that way would lead to assumptions that would be very easy to doubt and would be harder to prove existence and counter-productive to what he is trying to do. Thank you very much for answering my questions and for better helping me understand the text. I will go back and reread the text with this in mind.

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