PHL220: Descartes's Meditation VI, and the British Empiricists
Descartes's Meditations VI
- Do material things exist independent of my mind? Yes:
there are at least mathematical objects.
- I often use imagination to think of matter (here
imagination includes the idea of the faculty of having
images, not just the ability to create fictions)
- Images given in imagination are not clear and
distinct: I can imagine a chiliagon, but I know that
is not clear and distinct (the image is vague and
like my image of a 999 sided figure)
- I can understand a pentagon
- Understanding is the mind looking at mental contents.
- Imagination is the mind looking at images of sense.
- I also sense things.
- I have a body
- I sense my body's states
- I sense external objects and their features
- But only that I am a thinking thing is essential to what I
am. I have a distinct idea of my body, so it is not the same as
- I cannot understand myself without my mental faculties, but
I can understand myself without my body
- My sensations are not under my control: they come from something
independent of me (my body)
- The body is divisible, the mind is not
- My mind is not immediately affect by the body, but thoughts
- We can intercede in a motion of the body, but not in a progress
The British Empiricists, background and a look ahead
- Ontological Dualism
- An answer to skepticism
- British Empiricism is a philosophical movement
that dominated British philosophy during the 18th Century.
Major figures were Locke, Berkeley, and Hume.
- Locke (1632-1704).
- Influenced by and admired Descartes (largely
for his reaction to Scholasticism)
- Principle work was Essay concerning Human
- Argued that humans start life as a tabula
rasa, and that learning is the source of our ideas
- He rejected any claim that we have innate
- Drew the primary/secondary qualities distinction.
- Berkeley (1685-1753).
- Principle work is A Treatise concerning Human
- Berkeley is an empiricist and an
- Hume (1711-1776).